Need for Speed: The Run - A People Chase

Ever gone on a spontaneous road trip with your friends? You all suddenly decide that you should absolutely take a trip to Vegas for the evening, and you can totally come back the next day. You all put on suits, pile into the car ... and three hours later, with everyone sleeping in the car, you remember it's actually a five hour drive. The moment's been lost.

That's the problem Brian Lindley and his team are facing with EA's race across the country in Need for Speed: The Run. "If you think about actually trying to drive across the country," says Lindley, "it might get a little monotonous, even when you're racing."

To combat that issue, Lindley and the Black Box folks have created a new "Battle" race mode, one of a few different ways the team is hoping to vary the pace as protagonist Jack makes The Run.
%Gallery-135165% Battle mode isn't too innovative in and of itself. It's basically a series of one-on-one pass races across the same map. The level I played was in the middle of what looked like the farmlands of Kansan, and pitted me (in my choice of car) against a series of three opponents. A clock of around thirty seconds was always running, and the goal of the mode is to be in front of your opponent when the clock runs out. After that, you'll get another opponent to chase down with another clock ticking.

"These battles," says Lindley, "will sort of add some intensity to the guys you'd normally be racing under regular race conditions. They're going to fight you a little bit harder, you have to dodge traffic and make a little bit more use of the environment. It's really just a way to keep the game pace feeling fresh, and give it that variety as you're playing through, so it doesn't just feel like another race."

It works, and well -- while Need for Speed: The Run's driving doesn't feel quite as smooth or polished as in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (to be fair, it's still being worked on), the mode does add a new twist to just racing against a full lineup. Only some levels of the game will be Battle modes, of course. Some will be more traditional races, and there will be other mechanics revealed later that will mix up the pace, including the out-of-car sequences revealed early on.

All of the modes cleverly fit in among the bigger "storyline" of Jack's cross country race as well. Each opponent you race in the Kansas map, for instance, is placed around 160th or 194th, showing your progress as you conquer a couple of hundred competitors and try to cross the finish line first in New York.

Black Box has also given some of those competitors names and faces, and not just any faces -- in true condescending Black Box style, the company has added Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models Irina Shayk and Chrissy Teigen as two of the racers Jack is up against. Lindley says the ladies got the full in-game treatment, with face scans and full motion performances ("where they put on the funny suits with balls on them") in the game's cutscenes.

More importantly, he says, putting the models as characters in the game is yet another way Black Box is trying to keep the races interesting outside of just burning rubber. "With the previous Need for Speeds that Black Box has made," says Lindley, "we had all these cool, fun, sort of kitchy kind of cutscenes, which in the flavor of the moment were really neat. But to be honest, the story was kind of disconnected from what was going on with the racing." We'll see other rivals like the supermodels too. Some will be friendly toward Jack, and others ... not so much. Lindley declined to say just yet if any of them would also be celebrities.

Black Box hopes those characters, plus the variety of the races and how they're paced, will help keep Need for Speed: The Run's road trip as interesting as possible, unlike that late-night Vegas journey you and your friends tried to do on a whim. "I think with The Run," Lindley says, "we feel like we have a better opportunity to tell a decent narrative than we have with any other Need for Speed."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.