The Backlog: Utilitarian edition

Do not be afraid by the stark plainness of this post. Refuse to cower at the wall of text following this introduction. Most of all, please understand that this boring backlog article is in such a state for good reason. A BEACH TRIP!

That's right: Nick, Doug and myself are travelling to the Oregon coast this weekend, and we don't have time for such crazy frivolities as "graphics" and "pleasant visual design." But don't presume our adventure is only for the pursuit of wacky fun and wild games (and drinking); No, we will be working on our book. There's a lot to do to for that project, because publishin' ain't easy, as Big Daddy Hearst once said.

Doug:

I've been waiting for my copy of F1 2010 — apparently in Codemasters' world, the release date turned into a shipping date. Who knew. I've been reading impressions on the PC version, which came via Steam this week, and I'm hoping it's going to turn out the way I want it to. I don't know how many F1 or racing game fans we have reading the site, but I've been a car guy forever; I want to write a review up because, depending on how it turns out, this may be something interesting to general gamers looking for a little speed.

So I've been taking in more demos. The demo for NBA Elite 11 finally dropped a week after its rival, 2K11, did; the results are a bit mixed. I've read about the game throughout its development, and one thing I noticed is that they have been working very hard to change the game engine and control scheme; it meant EA Vancouver only recently focused on tuning the five-on-five gameplay. It shows; while the game's control tutorial nails the feeling of shooting in the gym, things get messier when you play the demo's Lakers vs. Celtics matchup. While I put some of my difficulties in the full match down to the learning curve, it's hard to tell where that ends and a poor game begins. I don't want to get down on it too early, but I don't think it'll be a day-and-date purchase for me, even with NBA Jam.

With all the attention and suggestions made regarding Mass Effect 2's Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, I've been getting back into one of 2010's best games. Thankfully, I have an early Shepard save to go through; as well, I played the game on my terrible old tube TV, and HD gives me a good reason to spend more time. It's amazing how good this game still is, from graphics and presentation to story. I haven't nearly gotten to the Shadow Broker content, but I'm really looking forward to tackling that soon.

Lastly, two addictions continue: Dragon Quest IX and PES 2010. Somebody send help.

Aaron:

This week I accomplished many things in a few excellent demos: I guided the Greek nation through a golden age toward economic prosperity in the demo for Sid Meier's Civilization V; I shot down rival mobsters blocking my escape from a building aflame in the demo for Mafia II; I held the line against innumerable Zerg in a stunning defensive strategy in the trial for StarCraft II; and I, as an apish brute of a man, escaped from a doomed slave ship flying high above the ancient overgrown ruins of New York City in the demo for Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. That I played each demo two or even three times over was a pleasant surprise.

I did play full titles as well, particularly Halo: Reach and 3D Dot Game Heroes, but I had the most varied (and most fun) time with limited previews of games I originally was not as eager to purchase. And let's all be honest: nothing gets you quite as excited for the end product like a solid -- and incessantly enjoyable -- demo.

It looks like I'll be making some unexpected purchases in the near future -- my wallet be damned.

Nick:

Parents: Please talk to your kids about Sid Meier's Civilization V.

Every school had those few kids who just seemed a little distant, whose bloodshot eyes glazed over at the mere mention of diplomatic strategy and military prowess. They were the ones hanging out behind the schoolyard, swapping jokes about historical anachronisms and some potent substance they referred to as "Civ." They were the children my parents tried to warn me about. After all, Civ addicts kept odd hours, had trouble holding down jobs and maintaining social lives.

I was friends with a few of them, sure, but I never took them up on their offers to partake in a single round of the turn-based strategy game. At least, that was the case until recently, when developer Firaxis released Civilization Revolution for iOS devices, making it the ultimate gateway drug. I bit, and I loved what I saw. But those games only lasted a couple hours at most; surely there was no harm in partaking in the real deal?

Right, no harm at all in spending eight consecutive hours playing a single game — and not even finishing it. My evening disappeared into early morning, and I was still feverishly monitoring my military production, just moments away from finally unleashing my first nuclear weapon. Somehow, a third of a day of my waking life disappeared, and I didn't even notice.

As someone who had almost no experience with the series outside of its pared-down iPhone version, Civ V hooked me easily and in no time at all. Newcomers would probably do well to just skip Revolution and go straight to this latest release because it's just as easy to get into. And let's be honest — you're really just interested in the most potent substance you can get your hands on.

It's an incredible value for $50, but when you factor in a $30,000-per-month strategy-game rehabilitation facility, things start to even out a bit.