The Average Gamer

NFS’s Drew Hahn Talks Driving Vs On-foot, Explosions, Autolog And iPhone Apps

Need For Speed The Run - LogoAt E3 2011 I talked with Drew Hahn, community manager for the Need for Speed games to ask him about the balance between the driving / on-foot sections in Need For Speed: The Run and the Autolog system which has become such a big feature of the Need For Speed franchise. Has the addition of the on-foot sections really turned this game into a racing-themed Grand Theft Auto?

What balance is there between the driving and on-foot sections?

Drew Hahn: NFS: The Run is at heart a racing game as the whole on-foot out of the car sections make up less than 10% of the game. The purpose of having on-foot in the game is because we really wanted to keep you in the action while telling you a story at the same time. With past games like NFS: Most Wanted and NFS: Carbon you’d race, you’d race and race and all of a sudden the movie would come up and you’d put down your controller.

With this one we still wanted to tell you a story but keep the controller in your hands and keep you in the action, which is why were are doing the out of car sections. It really makes up less than 10% of the game. You are in the car for the vast majority of the game.

Need For Speed The Run - Cop Car

Eeek, it's the Cops. Run away!

Do the on foot sections only occur in certain races?

DH: It’s any time you want to push the story forward and witness another key feature within the story. You’re Jack who is trying to get from San Francisco to New York at all costs. He’s a desperate man in desperate times. In this one your Mustang gets totalled and you really need to get another car so you run and steal another car. In other situations, there’s going to be other reasons throughout the race, for example in New York where you’re going to have to get out of your car. We haven’t gone into too much detail yet but we’ve got some really cool moments lined up throughout the race.

Is there a new version of Autolog in the game?

DH: We aren’t going this is “Autolog 1” and “Autolog 2” etc. In this one you are still going to have comparisons, recommendations and the galleries. The whole point of the race is you’re going to be in sections where you’re not only racing the AI in the other cars and the environment. What Autolog does is that it allows you to race friends.

On a much bigger scale you might find yourself coming into Chicago in the main game and 6 minutes behind one of your friends, in which case you can go back and try to make up that time. So that’s one thing that Autolog is going to be doing. There’s a whole bunch of other cool features that we haven’t talked about right now, so stay tuned for more information.

What about people without loads of friends online? How is the game going to work for them?

DH: It will still be the cross-country race. It’s still gonna be a grand story that you’re going to have to get through. Autolog is not essential to the game but it really enhances the gameplay experience when you do have friends and you take full advantage of Autolog.

What game engine are you using?

DH: The engine is actually Frostbite 2 the same engine as Battlefield 3, which gives us a lot of advantages over what we used before. Its got amazing rendering, superb audio and full destruction of the world as you can see here in this [E3 2011] demo. Cars can be really heavily damaged to the point where they are totalled and see as the helicopter is shooting at you, You see pillars explode, roads getting torn up and cars exploding. There’s going to be some really big epic moments with environmental destruction that’s really going to change the way that you’re going to have get through your races. You can look forward to that.

Need For Speed The Run - Helicopter and Mustang

Police in helicopters. Rats.

The engine will also help us hit a quality bar that we’ve never really been able to hit before because of the nature of the engine it’s really easy to develop and iterate features. For example, say that we have a game mode that we want to check out and put it in the game and see if it’s fun. Before with our old tools and engine it would take a while to get the game mode in and fully tested out and we wouldn’t have that much time left to say “oh this is kinda fun but if we did this, this and this is it would be way better”. Whereas with this [Frostbite 2 engine] it allows us to quickly put in a new piece of functionality, quickly test it and then quickly iterate on it and make sure that the game is going to hit as highest quality that it can and that it’s going to be as fun and amazing as it can possibly be.

Will there be an iPhone app for the game like the NFS: Hot Pursuit one?

DH: The game itself is going to be available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii and the 3DS. It’s also going to be available on iPhone, iPod, iPad and in terms of the Autolog app; the existing app will be updated for this. We aren’t going say what exactly what we are going to do but it will be updated.

Thanks for your time.

I had mixed feelings about NFS: The Run after playing the E3 demo. Whilst it was filled with roads bustling with cars and street furniture, I wasn’t overly impressed by the sluggish car handling or the numerous in-race “events”. Everything was a too scripted and too predicable. After a single play-through you knew what events would happen throughout the race; when the police helicopter would attack, which cars to avoid and so on. I was expecting more of a dynamic driving experience which can be found in the recent NFS games like Hot Pursuit and Shift 2 Unleashed.

I hope that my reservations about the game are simply the by-product of EA’s desire to show off the power of the Frostbite 2 engine and race-changing events to the action-hungry E3 crowd. I’m still very keen to see what the rest of the game is like to play. If it’s less scripted with more dynamic racing then NFS: The Run could be one hell of a road trip across America. Here’s hoping…

Need for Speed: The Run is due for release on the 18th Nov 2011 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii and 3DS.