The Backlog: In the Eye of the Storm
How's everybody? Are we all still here?
There's no way around it: We're all a little light in the pocketbooks, and October's only just arrived. None of us were prepared for some of the year's biggest hits to hit us in a deluge throughout August and September, but with games like Batman: Arkham Asylum, The Beatles: Rock Band and Halo 3: ODST hitting shelves before the fourth quarter of the year, it's hard to hold fast with one's spending -- even with surefire hits like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Brütal Legend arriving just next week.
To prepare for the next volley of big-name releases, the Silicon Sasquatch team has been busy wrapping up some recent blockbusters.
A lot of games found their way into my PC and Xbox 360's disc drives this week, but let me highlight which one left a lasting impression on me: Halo 3: ODST.
I'll be the first to confess that I've purchased every console iteration of the series, from Halo: Combat Evolved to Halo Wars. This type of customer devotion doesn't stem from blind fanboy love or "Xbot" ignorance; honestly, when it comes down to it I think Halo is solidly decent at best, boring and uninspired at worst. I more or less have purchased the various games to play with friends online, and to not miss out on the experience. So why would I purchase ODST when the other games have generally made me say "lol meh" more times than a thread on NeoGAF? Two words: price point.
I procured a copy for around $44 dollars through Amazon, as was mentioned in last week's backlog. This particular entry price forced me to give the series another shot, and while the cheapness certainly eased the process of reaching for my credit card, I never expected to like the game more than "kinda." But even four chapters in, this is the best Halo-branded title I've ever played.
It might look the same and feel the same, but the tone and story are much more humanized than the faceless, stalwart Master Chief's adventures ever were. The ODSTs are soldiers you can care about thanks to wonderful voice acting and animations. Halo 3: ODST may be born of the Halo pedigree, but it's an overall smarter experience that stands apart from the shadow of its big brother. If this is the direction the series takes in lieu of a direct sequel, Bungie deserves a hefty pat on the over shield.
So I finally rented The Beatles: Rock Band. I know it seems like forever since it was released, but it was just a month — the gaming industry just moves quickly, and things become passé within a week.
The rental was completely worth it. I blitzed through the story mode in just under four hours — I wanted that "Day Tripper" achievement and dammit, I got it — but it was an absolutely amazing experience from start to finish. Without encroaching too much on what a review of the game would be (check back next week! -- Ed.), I think it was the most complete guitar/band game I've played so far, with excellent note charts, songs, and aesthetic throughout. I'm going to own this game, and it's just a matter of "when," not "if."
Otherwise I've continued to put time in on EA Sports' two football video games, NCAA Football 10 and Madden NFL 10. I've noticed a difference between defense in the two; namely, that in NCAA it's just a nice suggestion, but in Madden it can be truly effective. Playing with an average to mediocre defense in NCAA is a battle of futility — many times, especially with strong offensive teams, you're just trying to slow the opponent down instead of truly stop them. I get that same sensation playing against the CPU as well.
Compared to Madden, though, it's almost 100% different. Defense in Madden is worth playing — and it seems somehow fairer than defenses in NCAA. Sure, the CPU might go into banzai EA Sports rubber-band mode and decide you are just NOT winning a game in both titles, but in Madden it feels like your defense at least has the chance to do that, too. Not to mention that, much like in the real NFL, there's a much higher chance of forcing a punt than in college football.
I've also been inspired by Eat-Sleep-Game.com's RebelFM Game Club, which is currently focusing on Half-Life 2 and its two extra episodes. I've started Half-Life 2 before but never completed it, never mind the episodes, and I'm getting the trigger finger itch again...so I might have to sit down with my copy of The Orange Box soon and give it another go.
Call it devotion, obsession or foolishness, but I'm planning on picking up two brand-new games next Tuesday: Brütal Legend and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. That means I've only got three more days to tie up any loose ends with the games I've picked up over the last few months, because games like Borderlands, Modern Warfare 2 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii are just a few weeks away.
I wrapped up a few games this week:
- Red Faction: Guerilla's single-player expansion, Demons of the Badlands: If this summer's taught me anything, it's that any excuse to demolish buildings on Mars is a worthwhile reason. Unfortunately, Demons' biggest fault is its pricing: $10 for a measly two hours of more of the same.
- Ghostbusters: The Video Game -- I know it's weird, but I only just saw Ghostbusters for the first time this summer. Even without sharing in the rest of my generation's adoration for the movies, I found there was plenty to love in this carefully crafted videogame adaptation. Despite only lasting four or five hours, it's well worth the price of a rental.
- Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts -- Don't be fooled by the game's vehicle-driven gameplay: This is Rare at its finest. Focusing on its trademark wry humor and a very well-designed vehicle construction system, Nuts and Bolts is one of the most criminally overlooked hits on the Xbox 360.