Need For Speed: The Run Xbox 360

Introduction
I rather ashamedly completely forgot to post this! This review was finished in August, my apologies.

Review

NEED FOR SPEED: THE RUN
a “newbie” racing game player tries the newest addition to the “NFS” franchise

There are three very important things that you need to know about me before reading this review. The first, that I know nothing whatsoever about cars. The second, that I have played very few racing games, and completed none. The third, that this is my first playthrough of any Need For Speed game. These three things are rather important because they are the basis for my review.

Is Need For Speed: The Run suitable for a “newbie” racing gamer? Or is it designed only for the more established fan of the genre? Read on to find out…

– – – –

Racing games are not usually to my taste, but I was recommend this particular addition to the “NFS” franchise by the media, fans and friends, so I made a point of renting it to see whether it would, indeed, be the racing game that would bring me into the fold.

It was not.

– – – –

The first thing that I noticed about this game is that I enjoyed the concept a great deal. On first observation, the idea of racing from one end of the country to the other through various terrains, fighting through hundreds of other racers to win is a very intriguing, exciting one.

The plot, as well, seems to really addition to this excitement, with cut scenes that have the main character literally racing for his life, because the mob, who he owes a tidy fortune, want him dead. This gives reason for a challenging addition to the gameplay wherein there are races that feature cars, and even helicopters, that possess gun power to slow you down, or, ultimately, knock you out of the race for good, and “interactive cut scenes” that really pick up the pace.

All of this is well and good, were it not for the fact that, rather than being one really long race with “checkpoints”, this game is instead a collection of dozens of races that require you to pass a certain number of racers to reach a certain overall race position, to “make up time” (which is essentially a “Time Trial” mode), or to defeat Boss racers one-on-one. They really missed a trick here, as I am certain that one really long race would have made the game stand out from the crowd. As-is, however, it just seems like a cheap gimmick that ultimately fails to work, because, once the game is over, you are left saying to yourself “was that it?”, with a rather unfinished plot and a game that seems all too short.

– – – –

The second thing that I notice, which makes me wonder whether this was in fact a “rushed release”, is that the Cut Scenes, and even during gameplay itself, the graphics are very pixelated. I felt many times as though I were playing a game on my Playstation 1 rather than my “Next Generation” Xbox 360 console. Considering the funding that the Need For Speed franchise possesses, this was a huge disappointment. It felt lazy.

Cut Scenes not “skippable”, including the rather lengthy one at the very start of the game, so, if you plan on playing through the game more than once, be prepared for that irritation. You should also be prepared for the fact that, should your wireless controller run out of battery in the middle of a race, the game will not pause, which, from my experience, is a major cause of crashing and general race failures.

Another major “gripe” is that the “Auto Log”, a part of gameplay included in all the newest Need For Speed games, no matter how I tried to fix it, and even a full month after its release, failed to work for me, or my friends who also played. The Leaderboards were inconsistent, sometimes Friends failed to even appear on them at all, and there were tasks that, once completed, failed to actually be marked as so…

– – – –

This game may be full of faults, but, if you are someone who enjoys competitive play, it does have one saving grace, and that is its online multiplayer. I was not able to play online for long, but the few games that I did play I found to be quite exciting and varied.

It has its faults, of course. No online multiplayer is perfect. The first game that I played, I was put into the race on the final lap, in last place! I am not sure why they included the option to enter mid-race, as to me it seems to be irritating and pointless. Another problem is how easy it is to be thrown from the track by other players. From what I hear, most racing games have a system in place to ease the gameplay, but here, you have to be prepared for the brutal nature of the system, it takes no prisoners.

Those factors aside, there are many different modes, or “Playlists” to explore, including team ones, and with the end of each match there is a “Bonus Wheel” to be spun which can reward you with new cars, bonus Experience Points, or even certain Achievements, so there is plenty of variety and fun to be had for the competitive player, but only online, as there is no split-screen offline multiplayer.

– – – –

Another thing that saves this game is its “Challenge” mode. As you race through the Campaign, you unlock new areas and new challenges to play through in this mode, which rewards you with cars and Experience Points that will help you in the Campaign, as well as Leaderboards and “Autolog Recommends” additions that allow for lots of replayability that is non-existent in the Campaign itself.

I did, however, find the Challenge mode to be inconsistent in its difficulty. With the Campaign, you have different Difficulties to play through, whereas with the Challenge mode, every challenge must be taken as-is. For an inexperienced player such as myself, this was a real problem for some of the races and Time Trials (etc). A prime example of this was that one of the earliest challenges is one that requires the use of some of the fastest cars in the game, whereas in the Campaign I had only been racing rather slowly at the point where I had unlocked that Challenge, so I found myself constantly crashing and “spinning out” or off of the track from shear lack of experience. Surely the Challenge mode should only challenge me with races appropriate for what I have learned in the Campaign? Apparently they assumed that this game is only going to be played by gamers who are not new to “NFS”, or indeed racing games.

This games inclusion of “Rewind”, where you can travel back to the last Checkpoint if you have made any mistakes, however, counters this and makes it very open to someone who is not as good at racing games, or even for the more experienced player.

– – – –

When comparing notes with a gamer that is more versed in racing games, and indeed the Need For Speed franchise itself, I found that, alas, he was just as disappointed as I. He, too, found it a chore to complete. He did not enjoy the online multiplayer at all, rather interestingly, in comparative to my liking that the most. It is clearly a matter of personal preference.

So, overall, alas, it would appear that this is a game that I cannot recommend for someone who is new to racing games, nor who is a fan of them. It had so much potential, but it was clearly rushed and ill thought-out so that the end product is, in all honesty, a chore to complete, has an anti-climactic ending full of plot holes, and will, ultimately, fade into memory very quickly, rather than being a game that should have stood out from the crowd.
There are clearly far better racing games out there, and though I did enjoy this one at first, by the time I was finished with it, I could not send it back in the post fast enough.

Not recommended.

Feedback
It is important that I receive feedback from my readers. I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me. Posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.

Thank you.

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February is a busy month!

Making up for a long absence… 

After much drought with my journalism and photography due to ill health, I have started anew in 2013, and I am flinging myself straight into the deep end, with a busy schedule of events to attend and report on, potential photography “gigs”, and a long list of articles, interviews and reviews to write up.

My New Year’s Resolution seems to be right on schedule, with the past few weeks being more productive than the past few months of work.

First on the list is spending the next couple of days typing up the interviews from Euro Gamer 2012, a long overdue task that I hope will be well worth the wait. I had the pleasure of speaking with Special Effect! about their charity who work to make computer games accessible to everyone, even those with mental and/or physical disabilities, and two young gentleman who were part of the team who’s original game won Virgin Media’s 100 Day Challenge.

This weekend is GEEK (Game Expo East Kent) 2013, a games-dedicated convention held throughout Margate, which I shall be reporting on and photographing. I hope to bring you updates at the end of each day.

The weekend after is The Sci-Fi Weekender, a residential convention held in Wales which will require a thirteen hour coach ride to travel to and cost a tidy fortune and a lot of organising to get tickets for, but will be well worth the effort. There is a very prestigious list of Guests, Talks, film showings, and even a party DJed by none other than Craig Charles, aka Lister of Red Dwarf! It will be a big task to report on, but I welcome the challenge and I hope I can share my experiences with you as-and-when they happen.

There are also plenty of artistic photographs almost ready to share with you, a couple of potential unpaid photography “gigs”, and my website, though it has been offline for several weeks now, looks as though it might (fingers crossed!) finally be fixed (“within 48 hours”).

So… A busy month indeed! I hope it will compensate for my lengthy absence and get me back on track.

Keep watching this space.

Challenge. Accepted.

Quote

“Nothing worth anything in life is ever easy”

This is something that I often say to people, and it defines the very principle by which I live my life. Life is the most worthwhile thing in the world, and is therefore the most difficult.

As I have posted about recently in my article about New Year’s Resolutions, I have suffered many personal issues this past year that have really pushed me from my path of becoming a professional journalist and photographer. Because, life is not easy.

Barney Stinson quote, How I Met Your Mother

“When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead. True story” – Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother

I have made it very clear to myself, my friends, my family, and my readers, that this year I have every intention of finding a balance between my personal and professional life, and earning money from my photography and journalism.

It is not going to be easy, at times it will be darned hard, but it is going to be really worthwhile. So, as Barney Stinson of the How I Met Your Mother television series has said many, many times…

“Challenge Accepted!”

I am breaking down my target into short-term, more achievable goals

  • Advertise my services
  • Gain 200 Likes on my FaceBook Page
  • Update website to have price list, references, etc, to encourage potential paid work
  • Send selection of works from photography and journalistic Portfolios to magazines and newspapers for consideration of publication
  • Brainstorm ideas and write enough “short and sweet” articles to set up the Blog to publish one every week for two months. This will develop my ability to write shorter articles and within a time limit.
  • Type up the interviews from Euro Gamer Expo 2012 and publish them
  • etc, etc, etc – more targets on the way soon!

I shall be posting updates on my progress, which you can follow in my Personal Progress Blog category, Subscribe to my updates with the ‘Stay Informed’ button on my starting page, ‘Follow’ me on my Twitter, or ‘Like’ my Fan Page on FaceBook.

If you have any comments or suggestions to help my in my task, I encourage you to Comment or Message me.

Image credit: Offset-Zero of deviantART

Lots of big changes

So, it has been a month since my last update, and though I apologise for this drought in my Blog Entries, I have good reason – I have been very busy!

First and foremost, I now have a website. Do please visit it here where you can browse my Photograph Portfolio, read about my work, and even book me (currently no charge) for a shoot or an event.

Secondly, I have been planning my trip to this year’s Euro Gamer Expo, a huge convention held at Earl’s Court in the centre of London celebrating computer games. I am taking my camera and my dictation machine, the result of which is that I plan to report on the event on this very Blog at the end of each day. So, if you are interested in computer games news, or you are considering attending the event and want to know if it is worth it, “stay tuned”.

Thirdly, I have several exciting photoshoots that I have been planning, but I am keeping my ideas top secret 😉

So, in the coming weeks, expect this Blog to be very, very fruitful, but in the meanwhile, my most sincere apologies for the wait.

Keeping Up Appearances

Introduction
It has been a couple of months since I published my last article, and a month since my last post, but I fell rather ill, and I apologise for that. I am still ill, but decided “enough is enough” and that I could not go another day without writing, and here is the result. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please feel free to provide feedback. Constructive critique is of course encouraged. Thank you.

Article

KEEPING UP APPEARANCES
why having a brilliantly successful television program is no excuse for poor production value

– – – –

I am disappointed. Genuinely disappointed by the fact that I can be watching a “kick ass” science fiction or fantasy show, perhaps a “Dramedy”, whatever it is that I am in the mood for at the time, and yet no matter what the studio, what the genre, or what the program is, as it grows, its budget increases, not, it would seem, so that it can be a better program overal, but so that there can be one or two amazing episodes, and the rest can be relatively standard. It seems that, the more popular the show is, the more it suffers from this affliction.

– – – –

Some of the most popular science fiction television programs ever produced have each had their fair share of “fillersodes”, “clipisodes”, and otherwise poor production value.

Doctor Who was once a program about travelling the universe, and in today’s “Nu Who” you will be lucky to even leave earth more than once or twice a season. Apparently the aliens would rather come to us. Sure, we have these amazing, big budget series openers and finales, but is it worth it if we have to live through episodes which are an insult to our intelligence, such as ‘Love & Monsters’, featuring a Blue Peter competition winning alien who “absorbed” people, full of toilet humour and having practically no screen time for The Doctor?

Stargate: SG1 has a seemedly ongoing joke where every season features a “clipisode”, an episode where the plot demands that clips from this and prior seasons be shown. It should be noted that Power Rangers does this very same thing. The plot is usually a good cover up for the need for clips, but is it really necessary?

Star Trek is another example. Pointless low budget episodes are abound, especially in experimental prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise.

Even the modern Battlestar Galactica, hailed by critics and fans as “perfect” suffered setbacks with episodes such as their Fight Club-style filler, ‘Unfinished Business’ where the characters face off in a boxing ring. It really upset the overal pace, although to be fair it did fill a lot of gaps in character development and the finale was clearly better for it.

– – – –

Low budget “fillersodes” filling the gap before the series finale are not always bad things, however. One fan told me “If done right they can bring something new to the table”. The best example that comes to mind is that Doctor Who also featured two episodes in the Tenth Doctor’s fourth series – ‘Midnight’ and ‘Turn Left’ – which were brilliant, edge-of-your-seat, yet clearly budgeted episodes.

So, why can all of these “fillersodes” not be “done right”? Or why not cut out these big budget, some may even say over-the-top finales and openers entirely, so that every episode can be just as good as the next? I understand all too well how visually breathtaking these can be and how, to be quite honest, I do look forward to them, but is it truly worth it if I have to sit through such rubbish in the process?

Really, do we need The Doctor encountering witches? Do we need the SG1 team sitting through a meeting – yes, an entire episode was dedicated to a meeting – discussing episodes that we have already seen? Do we need the scripted toilet humour, the poorly designed monsters, the fillers and the clips, even if it means having the so-called “epic” episodes?..

Some fans say yes, stating that it “give[s] them something crazy to do” with their big budgets, some say no, that it is “pure money saving and a waste of space”. It is clearly a matter of personal preference.

– – – –

I for one, though, feel as though this is a disease spreading across our television screens. Earlier seasons of most programs do not suffer it. They may not have these amazing, big budget finales or openers, but they do have good overal production value. Not one episode suffers from cheap jokes or poor effects or characters mysteriously disappearing because the budget meant they could not afford the actor for the entirety of the season.

And yet, as these “good overal” programs grow, so does their budget, and, in turn, the affliction hits them like the common cold, and I find myself weaping for their loss.

Merlin, for instance, was never a brilliant program, but it has always been quite enjoyable and I considered no particular episode to be “bad” as such. But, as the seasons went on, the budget rose, and I found that there were a lot of tightly budgeted episodes with practically no magic – and therefore no special effects – involved, so that they could do their big budget finales. I even turned off an episode ten minutes in that involved a creature causing general havok around the castle, because of its appalling use of toilet humour, how it belittled our beloved characters, and how downright insulting the plot was to my intelligence. And yet suddenly, come the season finale, it became clear why they suffered their viewers such an episode.

– – – –

Science fiction and fantasy television are not the only genres to suffer this. Even common household names such as Eastenders have their big-budget episodes with their car crashes, murders and weddings, which is (apparently) great viewing, but the fault here is the fact that many of the other episodes are drull, lacking in any of the drama that soap operas are renouned for because all of the budgeting for the talented writers, the “guest appearances”, the special effects, etc, went towards one or two episodes instead of being spread throughout all of them.

No channel, no genre, seems safe from this contagion.

– – – –

I understand that every program has a budget and that budget must be calculated with relation to what the writing entails – the people hired to work with each episode, the pay-grade of the stars, etc – but a loss of quality means a loss of viewers, it really is that simple, so why can the studios and channels not realise this and spread the budget evenly instead of wasting it? It feels as though they are a person with the funding for an entire wardrobe who decides they are going to “splash out” on one particular, more expensive item, and the rest of the wardrobe will suffer for that budget cut.

Why not follow by good example? Time Team, a popular, long-running Channel 4 documentary about hunting for history in people’s back gardens, decided to do some “Specials” in amungst the standard episodes in bigger places, such as the Cantenbury dig, which took them months, not days, to complete. Once the popularity of these Specials grew, the normal, lower budget episodes seemed sub-par, so they were cut completely. Now the program places its entire budget into big projects, and the viewing figures are far higher, because it is obvious that consistent quality sells better to the public. They decided to spread their budget over a few really brilliant episodes instead of dozens of “okay” episodes followed by one big-budget special, and it really, really works.

– – – –

In conclusion, enjoyable though these big-budget episodes may be, I feel as though the overal quality is far more important, and I am not alone. The general concensus amung fans, reflected in the viewing figures and internet chatter all show that the public are more inclined to stay with a program that is consistent with its quality than “tune-in” to one that will waste a large percentage of its budget purely for the visual spectacle of one or two episodes, and try to cheat them into watching poor production value for the rest of the series.

We, the viewing public, are not unintelligent. We know what we enjoy, and with the wide variety of programs available to us every day, do these studios and channels really want to take the chance of losing viewers for the poor quality episodes simply to increase figures for the ones that have the budget? With the advancement of “streaming” technology and all the different channels available it is so easy to lose us and never get us back.

Perhaps the industry aught to think about concentrating on overal quality if they want to keep those viewing figures, and in turn the money, rolling in.

Special Thanks
Many thanks to all of the people that provided me with their opinions and facts for this particular article. It is greatly appreciated.

Feedback
It is important that I receive feedback from my readers. I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me. Posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.

Thank you.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

I have articles that are almost ready to shown to the world. But with the possibilities as to what exactly I want to do with the aforementioned articles, I was overcome with fear and doubt as to whether, if I spoke with the local newspapers, with journalistic websites, etc, I would be laughed at, ridiculed… rejected…

And yet something occurred to me. I had heard tell of many of my idols, my inspirations, having that same fear, but “stepping up” and pushing through it. I have decided that I too will push onward and upward, no matter how lost hope feels. I will make those calls, send those emails, and yes, I may be rejected, but “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again”…

You know all the great writers. Authors, playwrights, poets, screenwriters, journalists… Many household names have suffered the same setbacks that we, the unpublished, have. They too received their fair share of rejection, and today I share some of these rejections with you, as a reminder that perseverance really does “pay off”. I, too, and those of you also seeking to join the ranks of professional writers, can overcome adversity and share our words with the world if we truly put our minds and our hearts to the task.

The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.

Some fifteen publishers rejected the timeless, true accounts of The Diary Of Ann Frank.

We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.

Stephen King received dozens of rejection letters for his first book, Carrie. Clearly they feared his controversial, dark imagination…

It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.

One publisher regarding George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.

Said the San Francisco Examiner of one of Rudyard Kipling’s (The Jungle Book, Just So Stories) short stories.

There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.

Said one publisher of the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Sylvia Plath.

Steven Spielberg was rejected from film schools twice before he was finally accepted and went on to become one of the biggest names in Hollywood. Tim Burton was hired but then shortly thereafter fired by Walt Disney Studios for his writing being “too dark” for children but he has since written and directed dozens of popular children’s films. Some sources suggest that Jack London (White Fang, Call Of The Wild) had his short stories rejected hundreds of times. Even Shakespeare was insulted and rejected by his more educated fellow playwrights in his early years.

Even J.K.Rowling, one of the best selling children’s authors of all time, who famously penned he best selling book series ever published, Harry Potter was rejected frequently, before the (then) small publisher Bloomsbury finally said “yes” after the child of one of their Editors practically begged him to, and thank goodness she did.

Remember, the next time that you are feeling life’s rejections of your creativity, that there is always always hope.

Further Reading

  • A detailed article here on Examiner.com with quotes and figures of author rejections, where I found several of my examples.
  • Fellow Blogger Benny Hsu discusses many examples of Famous People Who Found Success Despite Failures with some really inspirational quotes.
  • Read about examples of 50 Famously Successful People Who Failed At First
  • Joyce Spizer has compiled a book entitled Rejections of the Written Famous