Need for Speed: The Run — Going hands-on with Challenge Series

need for speed the run buried alive trailer gameplay

EA Black Box’s Need for Speed: The Run is only a few weeks away, with the release set for November 15. So imagine my surprise last week when I hit up Electronic Arts‘ seasonal preview day in New York City last week and saw a new portion of the game being demoed.

The focus of the new content is The Run‘s Challenge Series, which offers up a set of more than 70 standalone events that unlock in packs progressively as you advance through the story-driven main game’s 10 stages. These are very bite-sized medal-based events; the two I got to see were both checkpoint races which involved passing through a series of gates, with the end goal being to post a solid time.

It should be noted that the mode’s “Challenge” moniker should not be taken lightly; in both modes I sampled, there was flat-out not enough time to move from checkpoint to checkpoint without making full use of your nitro. Even a small mistake or two was enough to ruin any chances of advancing. Like classic arcade racers, if the timer runs down to zero for the checkpoint you’re working on, a retry from the previous checkpoint is triggered. You have five of these retries to work with.

need for speed the run going hands on with challenge series nfs chaseIn addition to the basic focus on successfully making it through each checkpoint, there’s also the constant battle to best your overall challenge time. This mode is linked with EA’s Autolog, which manifests in the game as a “SpeedWall” showing you times to beat that have been posted by fellow NFS players on your friends list. You actually get real-time update mid-challenge on how you’re faring against the next highest person on the SpeedWall’s time; a constantly updating readout on the right side of the screen shows you how far ahead or behind (in green and red text, respectively) the target time you are.

The mode as a whole is built around unlocks. Each completed stage in The Run‘s story mode unlocks a pack of challenges for you to choose from, all based on the various environments you sped through in the main game. Completing a given challenge nets you some new rides, which can then be used to post better times in those same challenges as well as others. The idea is that the more time you put into Challenge Series, the more effective you can potentially be. Some of your friends’ times will be impossible to top with the stock car you’re given to use for a particular challenge; that’s why the unlocks are key.

What’s more, progressing through The Run‘s story gives you access to a variety of abilities. Things like nitrous boost, drafting and cop-buster (bust up the cops!) only open up as you get through more and more of the story. These tools can then also be used in the Challenge Series. All of which means, the ones posting the best times will be those who play through the full game and put time into earning some of the mode-specific car unlocks.

The first of the two Challenges I sampled, set in rural America, was a simple checkpoint-based affair. Make it through a series of gates before the timer runs out and hopefully post a good overall time at the end of it. Letting the timer run down or straying too far off the winds you back to the last checkpoint and knocks one off of your available retries. The traffic patterns are completely random, so the whole event is much more about pure skill than memorization.

need for speed the run going hands on with challenge series nfsThe second challenge map, in Death Valley, throws an added wrinkle into the mix. It’s still a checkpoint-based time trial, only now there are cops in pursuit the whole time. The already-difficult task of hitting each gate before the clock runs out is made significantly harder when you’ve got one or more cars behind you, knocking you about and trying to send you spinning off the road. Take down a police car and you’re rewarded with a slow-mo cutscene of its demise, but it seems like your best bet, generally speaking, is to try to keep as clear from your pursuers as you can get.

There you have it for Need for Speed: The Run‘s Challenge Series. The Autolog integration and range of unlocks present some nice long-term play possibilities, especially since success in the mode really boils down to pure skill. EA will be releasing various themed packs based on previous NFS games — Carbon, Underground and Hot Pursuit — as pre-order bonuses, though you can probably expect a DLC offering of those and others further down the line. On its own though, Challenge Series feels like a worthwhile addition to an already features-packed game. With less than a month to go before The Run hits stores, we’ll all find out soon enough.

Product Review

Huawei’s monster Mate 20 X makes the Galaxy Note 9 look small

The Huawei Mate 20 X has a 7.2-inch screen, but is surprisingly manageable to hold, yet still a little too big to carry around. Huawei’s pushing the phone’s ability as a mobile gaming handheld, challenging the Nintendo Switch.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.

These are the best Xbox One games out right now

More than four years into its lifespan, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Product Review

Kill a Nazi while skiing in ’Battlefield V: War Stories’

World War II is hardly a unique setting for a shooter, but Battlefield V’s War Stories has managed to liven it up. Our preview left us eager to see more of the new Battlefield’s single-player story.

‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ adds Black Market system to dress up your soldier

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 added the Black Market system to PS4 today, giving players new ways to unlock and acquire additional customization items, such as outfits for Specialists.

In 2018, the rivalry between AMD and Intel has become more interesting than ever

When it comes to selecting a CPU for your PC, there's no shortage of chips for you to choose from. With Ryzen, Threadripper, and Core i9 CPUs though, the AMD vs. Intel argument is muddier than ever.

The best video games to gift this holiday season, from ‘Spider-Man’ to ‘Hitman 2’

The holidays are quickly approaching and you might be looking for ideas on what to get your favorite gamer. Here are the best games you can buy for your gaming loved ones this holiday season.

Have problems with your Xbox One? We have the solutions

The Xbox One has evolved over the years, but so have its problems. Thankfully, we have solutions for some of the console's most enduring problems, whether you're experiencing issues with connectivity or your discs.

Gaming on a laptop has never been better. These are your best options

Gaming desktops are powerful, but they tie you down to your desk. For those of us who prefer a more mobile experience, here are the best gaming laptops on the market, ranging from budget machines to maxed-out, wallet-emptying PCs.

Choose your weapon wisely -- these are the best keyboards for gaming on your PC

Your PC isn't complete without one of the best gaming keyboards on the planet. We have a list spanning full-sized models to compact versions from Razer, Cooler Master, Corsair, Logitech G, and more.

Why are game studios run like sweat shops? The human toll of ‘crunch time’

After the revelation of 100-hour work weeks in Red Dead Redemption 2’s development, we spoke with a number of developers about what it’s like to work in crunch culture in the game industry.