The Backlog: Resignation edition

My Fellow Earthicans:

Good evening.

This is the 68th time I have spoken to you from this laptop, where so many decisions have been made that shaped the history of this Blog. Each time I have done so to discuss with you some matter that I believe affected the blogosphere's interest.

In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the Blog. Throughout the long and difficult period of struggling through Mass Effect 2, I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to overlook BioWare's overzealous streamlining, to stop viewing the game as a RPG, and to make every possible effort to complete the sequel to the game I loved so much.

In the past few days, however, it has become evident to me that Mass Effect 2 is, in fact, the brilliant, evolutionary sequel everyone has been raving about. And with that in mind, I come before you to admit that I made a grievous and inexcusable error in judgment.

Therefore, I shall resign to having been "completely, totally, 100% dead wrong" about Mass Effect 2 effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Thayer will be sworn in as "Guy Who Was Totally Right All Along Even Though Nick Won't Admit It" at that hour in this office.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go flirt with Miranda some more. Don't judge.

Aaron

Don't be surprised that Mass Effect 2 is once again dominating our Backlog this week. I'll even bet that next week's entry will highlight Shepard's sophomore exploits for a third time. I'm not sure where Nick and Doug are in the game, but I happened to finish it this past weekend. Mass Effect 2 was, in words taken at random from my thesaurus under the entry for "fantastic," the cat's meow.

After nearly two days of playtime logged with the double-disc beast, I still stand by my initial awe-filled impressions. Buy this game, rent this game, borrow this game; whatever it takes to play it, please do so. And no, BioWare didn’t hook me up to its Kubrick-inspired brainwashing machine yet -- it didn't have to. But if there’s one aspect about Mass Effect 2 I would criticize, it’s that the Insanity difficulty level is absolutely unfair. I'm going on record right now: I hate Insanity. But, as hypocritical is it is, I'm determined to finish it anyway.

Okay. Let's switch gears and gab about the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 multiplayer demo (on Xbox 360). Or rather, I'll type and you read.

The Battlefield franchise sits near the top of my list of all-time favorite videogame series, placed comfortably among peers such as Zelda, Mario, Suikoden and Prince of Persia. I love Battlefield. I do! So after a few years of feeling let down by the post-Battlefield 2 offerings from DICE and EA (Battlefield 1943 being the one exception), I'm happy to welcome Bad Company 2 into my home where it will receive the insomniac-driven, retina-burning devotion it needs over many, many late nights. Although I'll be purchasing the Windows version, I've been having a blast -- literally and metaphorically -- with the demo on Xbox Live. All the classic variations of DICE's so-called "Battlefield Moments" are there. For example: Today I launched an RPG at a tank, which never made it to its target because an unlucky pair of enemies on an ATV happened to launch from a dilapidated roof at the wrong time, thus intercepting my grenade with their faces. That unpredictable "anything can and will happen" atmosphere is the reason I continue to play each new iteration of the formula. In short: Battlefield Bad Company 2's multiplayer is fun, fast and feels more like Battlefield 2 than I ever expected another Battlefield game could. It’s a pleasant surprise, especially when comparing it to Bad Company 1.

Also, the final season of Lost premiered this week. I don't know what's going on (which is normal, I suppose), but I certainly didn't expect/want an alternate reality storyline. And Sayid? Come on.

Doug

Oh lordy. After not getting the chance to pick up Mass Effect 2 until late last week, I took most of the day last Sunday to power through almost half of the game.

God. Damn.

We're going to have a review up soon from Aaron, but I'm incredibly impressed with and engrossed in this game. For somebody who invested a lot into the first game, it's paying off in spades; for somebody looking for more granularity and nuance in writing in video games, it's also paying off.

I'm more frustrated with the iPhone/iPod Touch game I've been trying to play this week, Rock Band. I think it's safe to say that Silicon Sasquatch has a large stamp of approval reserved for all of the Rock Band games (and really most anything Harmonix has done), but this mobile version of RB has left me a little cold. It's executed incredibly well — it makes all the right Rock Band sounds, keeps the menus and aesthetics, and has a great selection of music that's also in the console editions. The gameplay, similar to other iPhone mobile games like Tap Tap Revolution, is also a really well-executed adaptation for a handheld version of Rock Band.

The problem might be with me because I'm trying to sneak in a game or two when time allows during class breaks or while waiting. It seems more like a game that should be played on the bus or train, when you can dig in for five or ten minutes. Popping in for a quick minute or two of gaming is a lot easier with something like Doodle Jump.

Also, I'm blaming Nick for my nascent Facebook Bejeweled Blitz addiction. That game is pretty good.

Nick

I've finally warmed up to Mass Effect 2 and, in doing so, found inner peace.

It was difficult being so dissatisfied with a sequel to one of my favorite games ever -- and a sequel that has received almost universal adoration from fans and critics alike. I adored the first game's merging of a Gears of War-style tactical shooter with modest elements of traditional role-playing games. Of course there were a number of flaws, such as the tedious exploration of mostly empty planets and cumbersome inventory system, but I was even more distressed to see so many of the first game's systems either redesigned extensively or eschewed altogether.

But I stuck with it, and I began to realize just how much thought went into rebuilding Mass Effect into a newer, sleeker, and more accessible game. As a result, the combat is fiercer and more tactical in nature. Most importantly to me, the character development and conversation aspects have been dramatically improved. As I approach the game's final act, my investment in and appreciation for each of my crew members has developed to a level I'd only previously seen in one other role-playing game -- Dragon Age: Origins, which by no coincidence is also a BioWare production.

If I'd gone into Mass Effect 2 with open expectations I would have immediately been floored. Instead, I tried to play it like the first game, and I was promptly stonewalled by the new systems in place. If only BioWare had included a warning to veterans of the series to forget everything they knew about Mass Effect before diving into the sequel. But at this point it doesn't matter -- I'm having the time of my life scouring the galaxy, and I couldn't be happier. BioWare has done something incredible in releasing two top-flight games that represent two extremes of the role-playing game spectrum within mere months of each other, and they deserve nothing but the highest praise for it.