Author: Jonny Poole

“Heavy Rain”: Flood of inspiration or creative drizzle?

As a kind of rebellion against the glut of uninspired spin-offs and sequels so prevalent in the gaming industry, I’ve come to live my life by a certain code. Stark in its simplicity, the code states that innovation and risks in gaming must be supported. Period. The end. Sometimes this is a bitter pill to swallow, as innovation and experimentation seldom lead to stellar gameplay experiences, but I’d rather reward something edgy than contribute to the annual Madden roster update craze. Dedicated support in favor of the admittedly mediocre may seem strange, but my hope is that such support will lead to the refinement and improvement of a great idea, thus making it a great reality. Enter “Heavy Rain.” As more and more details began to trickle out, “Heavy Rain” seemed like a disenfranchised gamer’s dream come true.  Unconventional story centered around a dangerous and meticulous serial murderer called the Origami Killer? Check. Multiple dialogue paths and branching story lines that guaranteed a different playthrough every time?  Check. Gameplay heavily dependent on voice-acting cues and quicktime events? Check and mate! Soon the fateful day arrived and I waited with bated breath as “Heavy Rain” loaded in my PS3.  Almost giddy with excitement, my nerd-o-meter went off the scale as the loading screen informed me that I should take a piece of pre-packaged paper out of the instruction manual and...

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Ruining your life for Mass Effect 2 is worth it: Why you owe it to yourself to play one of the greatest video games ever made

If you’ve been gaming for any amount of time you’ve definitely been exposed to a fair amount of hype and hyperbole that never actually ended up materializing into the end all be all that was originally promised.  Whether that lie was the illusion of choice, morality or freedom that exists in current gaming narratives or some other pretentiously-delivered and ultimately underwhelming undertaking is irrelevant.  We were deceived. However, much like the archetypal battered spouse we return to video games time and again, convinced that the lies were tough love and sure in our knowledge that this time, this one game will make everything okay.  Lucky for us, Mass Effect 2 is that game and, yes, everything is now perfectly okay. Taking a huge cue from professional reviewers and rabid fans alike, developer BioWare examined, analyzed and tweaked almost every single aspect of the first Mass Effect and the result is. . .well, it’s beautiful. Gone are the cumbersome inventory menus, annoying combat issues, frustrating planet-exploring Mako controls and repetitive side quests.  In their place arrive varied and exciting side quests, a total lack of anything resembling an inventory, fast-paced engaging combat and a horrifically repetitive and frustrating planet-exploration component.  Oh well, if 2 out of 3 ain’t bad then 3 out of 4 is certainly acceptable. As far as the narrative goes, ME2 follows the further adventures of Commander...

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Combining the best of the old with the best of the new

It’s very probable that anyone reading this article has at some point in their life played a Super Mario game. The tale of the portly Italian plumber and his never-ending quest to save the princess of a fungal kingdom from a marauding dragon-turtle and his army of flying turtles and fire-spitting piranha plants is … well, it’s weird. But it’s also a part of our cultural heritage. Playing a Mario game is the equivalent of watching a Spielberg movie or listening to a Beatles song and the newest offering, New Super Mario Bros. WII, is like listening to “Hey Jude” and watching Raiders of the Lost Ark all rolled into one. Yes, it’s just that damn good. While most recent Mario games have either involved the third dimension or revolved around diverse sporting events, NSMBWII returns the series to its side-scrolling 2D roots for the first time on a home console since Yoshi’s Island in 1995. The end result is that NSMBWII plays and feels like a sequel to Super Mario World, which is in no way a bad thing. This time around, Princess Peach is abducted by Bowser Jr. and the rest of the Koopa Kids during a birthday party and subsequently stowed aboard an airship. Mario and the gang give chase, of course, following the airship through eight wonderfully varied worlds until they finally arrive at Bowser’s...

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Combining the best of the old with the best of the new

It’s very probable that anyone reading this article has at some point in their life played a Super Mario game. The tale of the portly Italian plumber and his never-ending quest to save the princess of a fungal kingdom from a marauding dragon-turtle and his army of flying turtles and fire-spitting piranha plants is … well, it’s weird. But it’s also a part of our cultural heritage. Playing a Mario game is the equivalent of watching a Spielberg movie or listening to a Beatles song and the newest offering, Super Mario Bros. WII, is like listening to “Hey Jude” and watching Raiders of the Lost Ark all rolled into one. Yes, it’s just that damn good. While most recent Mario games have either involved the third dimension or revolved around diverse sporting events, NSMBWII returns the series to its side-scrolling 2D roots for the first time on a home console since Yoshi’s Island in 1995. The end result is that NSMBWII plays and feels like a sequel to Super Mario World, which is in no way a bad thing. This time around, Princess Peach is abducted by Bowser Jr. and the rest of the Koopa Kids during a birthday party and subsequently stowed aboard an airship. Mario and the gang give chase, of course, following the airship through eight wonderfully varied worlds until they finally arrive at Bowser’s enormously...

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Modern Warfare 2: raising the bar for first-person shooters

Call of Duty 2: Modern Warfare 2 is a stunning accomplishment. Infinity Ward’s sophomore entry in the Modern Warfare franchise is a mosaic of intense action, expert pacing and a complex narrative with huge stakes. Taking place five years after the original, Modern Warfare 2 is a quest that spans the globe in the never-ending fight against international terrorism. For the uninitiated, Call of Duty games tell their story through the eyes of more than one character. During the course of the adventure, you’ll play as an Army Ranger, a Task Force 141 commando and a deep-cover CIA operative. Not only does this allow for a lot of globe-trotting without the inconvenience of constant air travel, but it also lets events in diverse time zones to occur simultaneously. This variety of locales provides an exhilarating sense of pacing and no two segments feel the same. While one level may have you battling through the streets of an all-but-abandoned city in Afghanistan, the next may have you running and gunning through the favelas of Rio de Janeiro or repelling an invasion force in the suburbs of Virginia. Aside from this sense of worldwide scope, the weaponry in Modern Warfare 2 is also a step up from the original. Raining Predator drones down on unsuspecting enemies is one hell of a good time and the thermal scope is a great addition...

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