I've already gone on record with my thoughts concerning Frostbite 2, but I'll recap: it's nice. Damn nice. The Run benefits from DICE's powerful new engine, but I'm not convinced the finished product is as quite stunning as last year's Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. It tries to make up that lost ground by brandishing a bit of cinematic flair, which certainly helps. Some of The Run's best moments come as a result of the situation spiraling out of control; a sprint through a twisted Colorado mountain pass brings you into several close encounters with a deadly series of avalanches, and a later race through a Midwestern valley springs a violent thunderstorm upon you. It's really thrilling.
Other parts fail to impress. First, the loading screens. Whether you're loading a new event or resetting to a previous checkpoint, be prepared to wait a long time. The eponymous Run doesn't last long at all, but it sure feels like the combined amount of time in loading screens is dangerously close to the combined amount of time spent behind the wheel. Character models are as vanilla as the personalities that supposedly inhabit them; Jack is the blandest-looking hero since inFAMOUS's Cole MacGrath, and his chesty redheaded friend Sam is clearly only there to be chesty and redheaded.
Need for Speed: The Run's licensed soundtrack isn't the best I've heard in a racing game, but it gets the job done well enough. Songs tend to follow themes; whether that theme revolves around your current location or a rival you're trying to pass, it usually feels right. Musically, Lykke Li's overtly sexual "Get Some" is the perfect accompaniment to a flirtatious Bond-esque show-off race, and the lyrics (oddly enough) also work. Put all of this against the roaring of powerful vehicles that sound like feral wild animals, and you've got a (mostly) great-sounding game.
And now the downside of the audio. The voice acting is phoned-in and ultimately inconsequential, which is surprising, considering the talent on hand. It's like they told Sean Faris "Say this and sound totally determined and badass," let him go with that for a half-hour recording session, and called it a wrap. And don't ask why, but it's completely and perversely ironic that Christina Hendricks (Mad Men's Joan Holloway) voices Sam.