The Backlog: Staring Into the Abyss edition

Halo 3: ODST has taken its hold on the Silicon Sasquatch staff.
Halo 3: ODST has taken its hold on the Silicon Sasquatch staff.

Hoo boy. Time flies when you're having fu...errr, no...more like time flies when you've got real life creeping in. Creeping in just like the clouds do now that it's officially fall in the Pacific Northwest and the last gasps of summer have gone. Fall also means we're seeing the beginning of the fall gaming season, and that means a deluge of new titles.

We've all been busy this week — and fortunately that's included time for some gaming. Nick's been busy with family commitments but has already acquired quite the backlog of games; Aaron's been playing host for a friend, which entails plenty of rocking out; and Doug has been able to put some time into a few games while staring down the beginning of grad school.

So enough of that waffle; here's what we've been playing.

This is epic, and $5.
This is epic, and $5.

Aaron:

What's happening to me? For the third week in a row I've spent a lot of time with Rock Band 2. I blame my most recent affair on the arrival of a dear old friend from Germany. He's visiting for a month and has gone Rock Band crazy -- I'm thinking about taking him to a doctor.

Truly though, it's been a boring week for diversified gaming choices. I went to a party that included copious amounts of The Beatles: Rock Band. I also tried my hand at Halo 3: ODST's Firefight mode, and came away incredibly surprised at how non-Horde mode it felt. Will I buy it? That's a good question.

However, I do know what I'm one button click away from purchasing: the 2006, Diablo-like PC title Titan Quest and its expansion, Immortal Throne, for the low, low price of $5. Call me crazy (which I undoubtedly am), but I've always wanted to give the game a shot, and the entry price is too good to pass up. Thanks, Direct2Drive.

Captain Reynolds would never use a scope.
Captain Reynolds would never use a scope.

Nick:

It's not even Rocktober yet and I've already been inundated with a stack of games to play. Sitting on my shelf, in no particular order: Katamari ForeverLEGO Star Wars: The Complete SagaTales of Monkey Islandand Too Human -- all games I've barely scratched the surface on. But I've got a good reason for that!

I've officially been caught up in that old familiar animal urge to hop online and bash stoned high-schoolers over the head thanks to Halo 3: ODST. The game has received a lot of flack for not being a "full" Halo game, but considering that it features the most exciting and best-paced campaign of any game in the series, coupled with the most exhilarating multiplayer mode the series has ever played host to -- Firefight -- there's no doubt in my mind that this game is up to Bungie's standards of excellence.

Perhaps the most exciting game I'm playing is Rock Band 2. The long-awaited patch finally hit Xbox 360 copies yesterday, including fixes for velocity sensitivity for Ion drum kits, wireless microphone support, the ability to sort your songs by how many stars you've earned -- or whether you've even played the song at all.

Admittedly, these are probably minor fixes to all but the most dedicated. However, the real bonus is that Rock Band Network's audition mode went live, meaning songs can be transferred for testing! I'm a member of the current closed beta, and the process behind revising songs is both laborious and fascinating. I can't wait to start authoring a few of my own.

Get your motor running.
Get your motor running.

Doug:

Having my Xbox 360 back has been really refreshing. Being without a next-gen system of my own for a month made me feel very, very disconnected from what was happening in the world of gaming; at the least, I've been able to sample demos that have come out recently along with some of the titles of late summer.

Along with the obligatory NCAA Football 10 time, I've been able to get some time in on the other football video game, Madden NFL 10. Despite being the same sport, small detail changes — more detailed animations and graphics, rule differences between the NFL and college football, and also artificial intelligence programming — mark a big difference between the two games. Madden at once feels slower and more arcade-y; the passing game relies more on pocket presence than NCAA, and the offense in general relies much more on ball control than in NCAA. It's definitely a different animal; I'll have more thoughts and details as I put more time into my online dynasty.

Demos are still going strong for me, too. The PES 2010 demo is engrossing, and the Forza Motorsport 3 demo dropped this week as well. As a big real-life auto racing and racing video game fan, I've been looking forward to Forza 3...and it delivers.

The graphics are of course prettier than its predecessor, but it's the gameplay that really matters — and that shines. A problem with Forza 2 was that cars on street tires, tuned or stock, felt way too slippery; in tuning cars for series with a performance index limit, I would take weight reduction and better tires every time over raw horsepower because the stock tires were that bad. The grip level has increased already for Forza 3.

I can't comment on some of the added features, like auto-braking, because I'm a racing game vet and only use ABS. I can say, though, that the "rewind" feature — which brings you back a couple of seconds to avoid wrecks or silly mistakes, and is available seemingly at all times — is absolutely wonderful. A problem with Forza 2 (and, honestly, many racing sims) is that idiotic opponent AI would cause messes for you in single-player races that would require a restart; this eliminates that problem single-handedly.

And with my new-found preciousssss -- er, iPhone, I've been playing a couple of games on the cheap: FlightControl and Peggle. It's safe to say that I'm pretty well hooked to Peggle now too, even though I feel like I'm way behind the curve discovering that one. Still fun, though.