Recently I was lucky enough to not only play the latest Need for Speed game, but was also treated to a real-life NFS experience at the Las Vegas Raceway.
A custom-built Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Super Snake features on the cover of Need for Speed: The Run, due for release in November, and publishers EA wanted to show off just how powerful these vehicles are in real life.
The NFS Super Snake is designed specifically for the game and features its logo, unique stitching, a complete track suspension setup and a cat back exhaust. It packs 750 horsepower and can go from 0-60Mph in 4.1 seconds. Further custom features include a fibreglass ram-air hood, a carbon fibre front splitter and skirts and six-piston Baer brakes.
I can assure you, they're very impressive machines indeed.
On the morning of September 27, 2011, I was driven around the motor speedway at the Las Vegas Raceway in a Super Snake in a series of hot laps before being taken through a race simulation against two other Shelbys.
Our drivers were all highly professional. I have to admit I was a little nervous getting into the insanely fast vehicle, but was put at ease when my driver assured me that he tested them on this very track almost every day. That experience became apparent as we sped about at breakneck speed and slid sideways around corners with the car never feeling even remotely out of control.
In the race simulation, I got to experience the exhilaration of passing competitors at a speed of around 110Mph (180Kph). The top speed of the Shelbys is much faster than that, but of course they had to keep it safe. Still, it was an amazing thrill that gave me a decent understanding of why race drivers become so addicted to the sport.
To be honest, I had originally wondered why a Shelby adorned the front of The Run, rather than say a Lamborghini, Ferrari or Porsche, for example. After seeing the American performance cars in action in Las Vegas it makes total sense. Not only do they perform at the highest levels on the track, they also have a super high level of visual coolness. Plus these ones are called ‘Super Snakes’ – how cool is that?
Long considered the pinnacle of the Mustang line, the Shelby Super Snake combines raw power and muscle to achieve heights unmatched by most American-made cars. And it makes sense to have an all-American vehicle on the front of a game that celebrates the country for the first time quite like this one does.
Need for Speed: The Run is the 18th instalment in EA’s long-running racing game franchise and in it players can race across the United States, from San Francisco to New York, in the titular race. Players take control of Jack, a bloke who owes some nefarious types a whole lot of money and is competing in The Run for its prize of US$25 million while evading cops and criminals. The Run is inspired by races like the infamous Cannonball Run, which was unofficially run four times in the 1970s prior to the Reynolds film based on it.
The Run takes advantage of the powerful Frostbite 2 engine, the very same power that is making Battlefield 3 look so ridiculously beautiful. It’s not being harnessed simply to make the game look amazing, though. All sorts of wonderful destruction goes down, all on a huge scale.
My favourite of the three levels I got to play on was definitely ‘Buried Alive’. This took place in the mountains of Colorado and had Jack battling an Audi R8 – and an avalanche. Cannons are fired into the mountain as you race along the road, causing large amounts of ice and rock to come tumbling down in front of you. If you make a mistake or drive too slow, you get buried alive.
It’s an intense level and the avalanche danger really ramps up the heart-pounding feel of it all. It’s over-the-top and maybe a little silly, but it is so much fun. The boulders falling onto the track caused several game-losing collisions which were frustrating, but great in making me determined to get past them next time.
I also played a level in a farming area Nebraska. This was beautifully scenic in an entirely different way to the alpine stage. Automated water sprinklers fed expansive fields of grass which were dotted with piles of hay. Farming tractors and trucks lumbered along the roads as I weaved in between them, trying to avoid a high-speed crash.
Refilling your nitrous by driving in the oncoming lane then using that nitrous to boost past your opponents and stay in front of them was the main feature of this level. This magically refilling NOS mechanic turns the realism factor way down, but the fun factor way up.
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