The basic rule is drive fast and furious, and most of all, don't get caught.
Smuggler's Run puts you in the shoes of an aspiring smuggler who must move contraband across the border while avoiding rival gangs, rough terrain, and the fuzz. All of this translates into more vehicular mayhem than a Blues Brothers marathon, as the basic rule is drive fast and furious, and most of all, don't get caught.
The game sports five modes of play. The primary mode is the smuggler's mission mode, where a semblance of a plot guides you through a series of missions that collectively represent objectives from all the other game modes. The crooks and smugglers mode pits you against a whole slew of other smugglers in an every-man-for-himself competition to deliver the loot to the checkpoint. The loot grab mode puts you in one of two rival gangs of smugglers who are working to deliver the most contraband to their particular drop-off. In both of these modes you can steal the contraband from the carrier by smashing into his vehicle, which makes for fast-paced action. The checkpoint race mode eliminates the contraband altogether and simply has you racing opponents through a series of checkpoints, and the joyriding mode eliminates all the distractions and lets you take a leisurely drive through any of the game's three massive maps.
The smuggler's mission mode is where most of the single-player game takes place. In it you assume the role of a rookie smuggler who has to prove himself and take his smuggling operation to the top of the underworld ranks. The fairly weak plotline is explained and your mission objectives are spelled out for you in a quick narrative before each mission. The missions themselves range from the basic smuggling operation that involves moving the contraband from point A to point B, to customized versions of the checkpoint race and the loot grab modes, to completely original objectives like destroying a series of radar towers.
In most of the game modes, the main enemy is the clock, and the secondary enemies are the legions of police out to stop you. Most of the game takes place off the street, and the terrain is appropriately rugged. Your vehicle will take damage not only from collisions with other vehicles and objects but also from bouncing over particularly rough terrain. When your damage meter runs out, your engine stalls, and if a police vehicle touches you while you're stalled, you'll be placed under arrest. If no police are around, you might manage to restart your engine after a few moments and be on your way. However, since this game has an insane amount of unremitting police vehicles after you at any given moment, actually recovering from a stalled engine is pretty rare. The AI controlling the police is absolutely relentless - the cop will you chase you everywhere. Most of the time the police cars are significantly faster than yours, forcing you to check your real-time map frequently so you can use the terrain to your advantage. Because the police vehicles are so much faster, they often launch over hills and slopes and catch some tremendous air that more often than not results in a spectacular car crash. The secret behind Smuggler's Run is correctly judging the terrain. While the game does let you slightly correct your pitch while in midair, if you want to be a better player, you will not only have to pick the best route through each level, but you will also have to carefully navigate the game's many hills and dips. A large arrow points you in the general direction of your particular mission objective, but it serves as little more than a general indicator of the basic direction you want to go and doesn't take into account obstacles like gigantic mountains or huge lakes.