Need for Speed: The Run Screenshot

I never play racing games.

There are a number of reasons for this, but part is that I'm not very interested in cars in general, and I'm even less interested in playing a game that makes me repeat sections over and over and over in an effort to get my performance exactly right.

I'm no stranger to putting out effort in games, but there's something particularly unpleasant about trying to shave off fractions of a second while dealing with AI that rubberbands at will, or frustrating myself trying to find the right line through an evil turn while watching computer-controlled cars sail through effortlessly. Damn you, SkyNet!

Anyway, my point is that I don't play racing games. Or, at least I didn't, until today. I got my hands on a copy of Need for Speed: The Run. Since it was sitting right in front of me and I had heard that it integrated some out-of-car sections, I figured it wouldn't hurt to give it a spin. It's been getting a lot of bad word-of-mouth, but to be honest, I thought it was kind of interesting… I can't speak with any authority since I am as green as green can be when it comes to the racing genre, but the concept of having an actual character in a race across the country was unorthodox.

In terms of gameplay, I found it to be more difficult than I would have liked, although I freely admit that I am absolutely terrible at racing. Apart from that, there were a few segments where the main character is out of the car and does a few QTE cinematics. They're very brief, but I appreciated them, and the developer's efforts in trying to incorporate even small elements of humanity.

Although I didn't finish the game (had to send it out to another reviewer) my time with The Run left me with the impression that although this particular game may not be the title to capture the attention of a player like me who's most interested in story and character, I think there is definitely room for the racing genre to open itself up to more cross-genre hybrids—after all, cars can't do much without people behind the wheel, and I'd have to imagine that there are at least a few people out there like me who would be more interested in driving if there were more to it than just driving.

A racing/RPG title, anyone?

Batman: Arkham City Screenshot

In other gaming news, I'm trying to play the last few things that I need to check out before starting my end-of-the-year wrapup. I've got most of my top ten squared away, although the exact order of the games isn't quite concrete. However, the final two biggies that needed some time were Batman: Arkham City and Skyrim.

I started Batman a couple of days ago, and I've got to be honest—despite being a huge fan of Arkham Asylum, Arkham City left me pretty cold. I didn't spend very much time with it, but everything just felt wrong to me. A bigger emphasis on the large group combat, more gadgets and tools to mess around with, and an open world that didn't seem to add very much to the overall experience… it just wasn't clicking with me and I put it on my shelf, unfinished. Maybe I'll get back to it later on, maybe not.

After that, I moved on to Skyrim and was able to put about three hours into it before I had to take care of real-life stuff.

I realize that three hours is probably about .00027 of the total Skyrim experience, but in that time I think I got a pretty good handle on it (in general) and it's been a much more pleasant and engaging than Batman was. I don't really have much to say on it so far other than the fact that it seems like a streamlined Oblivion+Improvements, but I am looking forward to logging some more hours.

My good friend @MrDurandPierre just had a piece go up over at Eurogamer, and I think it's a pretty interesting read. Titled "Failure is not an option", see what he's got to say about games that don't actually deal with consequences.

As an added bonus, if you listened to the last GameCritics podcast, I think there are a few related themes between this piece and the discussion on the pod about Uncharted 3 and how it deals with "you've just got one chance" situations.

Finally, if you read this blog with regularity or if you caught my official review, you know that I'm a big, big, big fan of Dead Island.

I've heard that there are at least two pieces of DLC coming, but only one of them has any hard details. Titled Bloodbath Arena, this is the add-on that was included as a bonus for buying a new copy… I know there was some confusion since it wasn't actually ready for download at the time the game was released, but according to a recent press release from everyone's favorite PR rep @Chupacaubrey, it should be ready to go on November 22.

Here's a little excerpt, verbatim from that release:

So what is this Bloodbath Arena, you say? It's a pack of four arenas that can be played either alone (srsly?) or in up to 4 player co-op with waves and waves of zombies hunting you down for their next meal. 😀 On top of that, all the XP points, items and gold that are gathered while playing in Bloodbath Arena can be carried back over into the main game campaign. Oh, and of course for ultimate zombie killing bragging rights, there will be leaderboards with Bloodbath as well, so that you can be like me and go around talking shit about how you are THE best Dead Island player in the universe and then check the leaderboard and get a massive gunshot right to the temple when one of your friends has a score that you have NO idea how the fuck he got it but you and your ego are tremendously irritated about it regardless.

So I know you can't wait for this! Bloodbath Arena will be released on November 22 – next week! – and will be available as a free download with the token included for those who preordered the Special Edition from GameStop or for $9.99/800MSP to folks who didn't preorder the Special Edition.

… And there you have it, straight from the source.

Brad Gallaway
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