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Need for Speed road test

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This time last year, Need For Speed was a spluttering franchise running on fumes. It was suffering from confusion about what kind of driving experience the series delivered. Street racing like in NFS: Undercover? The touring car simulation seen in NFS: Shift?

Then came Hot Pursuit. Stripped back to the basics — cops versus racers — it was an instant success, invigorating the franchise to the tune of 8.5 million copies sold.

The obvious move for EA with the follow-up, taglined The Run, would be to stick to this purer game-plan, shove in the odd extra car and race mode then retire on the profits.

Instead, it’s making the most ambitious Need For Speed yet. And, somehow, it’s paid off.

Based on a coast-to-coast race in the US — rather than somewhere less impressively huge, such as the Isle Of Wight — our exclusive experience began, as the game does, in San Francisco. From there we were given two hours to get as far east as possible. The destination is New York. We didn’t even get close.

The race works like this — you start all the way back in 200th position, and by the time you reach Las Vegas, four stages later, you need to have gained 50 places or it’s game over. It’s not just other racers you have to deal with — there is heavy traffic in the cities, and by the time you get to the desert, the cops have wised up and are looking to shut the race down by (suitably dramatic pause) any means necessary.

Autolog, Hot Pursuit’s innovative and addictive online leaderboard feature, has also been improved. You now get live on-screen comparisons with your friends’ best times so you know exactly how far you are behind your rivals. Or ahead of, if we’re being optimistic.

What’s more, the new 3D graphics engine that was built for Battlefield 3 is being used to power the game’s flawless cars (which include the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S and the Pagani Huayra as exclusives) and breathtaking scenery. Although, at these speeds, you’re advised to keep your eyes on the road.

Need For Speed: The Run is released on 18 November on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360

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