Posted by: Mick on 2011-11-22 14:29:57
This pre-Christmas season is being called the best for video games in recent memory. Certainly, a quick look at Metacritic reveals a myriad of well received title in the past few weeks. My interests lie mostly in the racing genre, which was graced with Forza 4. Unfortunately, I don't own an XBox and refuse to spend cash for a second gaming console.
The next most anticipated racer of this season was Need for Speed: The Run. I've had mixed reactions with the recent NFS titles. I enjoyed Shift as a hold-over until Gran Turismo. Hot Pursuit was among the most enjoyable arcade racers I've ever played. However, I was disappointed with Shift 2; the handling models were awkward, if not broken, and the online multiplayer was severely flawed. That said, I was looking at The Run as a successor to Hot Pursuit and was planning on picking a copy up on launch day.
My concerns about The Run began during E3 when news started spreading the the game would include quick time events (cut-scenes where you're expected to continue pressing buttons) and that the game would be built around a story. I love narrative as much as anybody, but when I boot up a racing game all I want to do is drive fast cars. Stories beyond working your way up to a championship always seem to fall short. My concerns were allayed, briefly, after playing the demo. I was bit frustrated by what I felt was excessive understeer in the Lamborghini, but was very impressed by the cinematic and incredibly fun mountain race. After playing the demo, my intent to buy remained firm.
Then the review started coming in. Consistent themes included a very short single player game and a clunky handling model with little difference between cars. Suddenly, instead of Hot Pursuit I was thinking back to Shift 2 and trying to drive its bricks on ice. The key thought that kept me was was simple: If the single player is so short, most of the game's value will need to come from the multiplayer. How likely is this game's multiplayer going to be better than Hot Pursuit's (which I poured too much money into for all the add-ons)? The answer for anyone who's played Hot Pursuit is pretty clear, it can't even come close. My message to EA: focus on the gameplay, always on the gameplay. Shift 2's racer cameos and helmet cam were neat, but it failed because you didn't address the physics problems. The Run looks neat, and the set-pieces exceptional, but it doesn't matter if the gameplay isn't there. So, standing in front of the PS3 game display, I reached out, and past The Run.
So, who got my gaming dollars? Bethesda. I've been into pen and pencil RPGs for a long time, but I never really got into the computer games. One of the first I ever tried was the Daggerfall demo. I wandered around a town for a while, completely confused. I've tried a few more over the years, Dungeon Siege and Dragon Age notable among them (I exclude JRPGs here as they're a completely different beast, which I have no interest in). Historically, I've always lost interest in the games as the excitment of the introduction fades and it begins to feel like a grind. So, I was never as excited about Skyrim as many others were. However, the more I heard about a streamlined skill system that didn't punish you for sub-optimal choices and the endless accolades pouring in, I was swayed. I picked it up on the trip to the store intended for The Run and popped it in the moment I returned. I'm very pleased with my choice. I will admit that there have been moments where I've been wandering around a town, completely confused, but those are short lived. The gameplay is satisfying and I rarely feel as if I've gotten in over my head, or that I'm grinding away for the sake of mechanics. Finally, I'm feeling myself sucked into the story, which is what an RPG is supposed to be all about. So, if you're one of the few people left hesitating about Skyrim, I recommend you jump on in.