By M. Fayaad Islam
Bioware is on a roll. They managed to blow audiences away with the epic and amazing 'Mass Effect' in 2008, and then with the dark epic fantasy 'Dragon Age: Origins' just recently in 2009, both of which have won their respective game of the year titles, critics thought that their masterpieces couldn't get any better. However, with the intent of eliminating their detractors with the release in Mass Effect 2 on the 26th January, 2010, they managed to surpass their target of mass applause and reach the point of committing a full genocide, by taking away the breath of all gamers. Systems Alliance's Commander Shepherd returns in the new 'Mass Effect' sequel, taking humanity to new frontiers, as well as saving the galaxy from ever impending doom again.
The gravest mistake an irresponsible gamer can ever make would be to play 'Mass Effect 2' before its preceding series 'Mass Effect'. As fans considered the first to be awesome, and the second even better than the first, a simple glimpse of the second part may dissolve your enthusiasm to play the starter of the series. The story gap is just too immense and it might be extraordinarily difficult for those who have skipped the first part to be completely involved in Shepherd's life, and completely reap the full entertainment that may be attained from the game.
The gameplay in general is a significant upgrade from the first game. The new larger and better Normandy, along with its prettier looking crew sucks you right into the story. It offers a complete feeling, with an even more manual yet entertaining freedom to move about the Milky Way, in your very own space frigate. The gameplay, like that of the first game, is fashioned in a way so that it amazes all types of gamers, and not just psi-phi lovers. Equipped with your own avatar, or custom created re-embodiment of Commander Shepherd, you get to choose how you play and eventually change the course of the game to your own liking (though, you'd best be prepared for some unexpected surprises). Another interesting new addition to Mass Effect 2 is that at key moments during in-game cinametics, you can decide to act and alter the course of the dialogue.
However, like the beautiful luminous Moon has its dark side, so does Mass Effect 2. As resources are needed to upgrade key components of the player's arsenal of space age equipment, the only prominent way to obtain these resources is via space mining. You must fly the Normandy to orbital positions above planets and mine them using space probe. This procedure is audaciously cumbersome on one's patience, as one must slowly scan over the planet inch by inch while checking for anomalies on the scanner. This can really get on your nerves after a while.
There's really no point in talking about the graphical aspects in games these days. It's a given fact that from a company as big as Bioware, with its production/development capabilities, you can hardly expect anything substandard. Regardless, it has to be said that Mass Effect DOES stand out even among the new generation of games, and with a soundtrack perfectly suited for a space opera of epic proportions it's perfect for back-seat gaming.
This sequel truly does the series justice and in fact raises the bar to a higher level not only with its magnificently constructed story line but practically all its other aspects. Incorporating cutting-edge graphics and highly intuitive and fun gameplay as some of its auxiliary traits, Mass Effect places itself on the top shelf along with other brilliant sequels, and it's clear that in the years to come, the Mass Effect saga will be identifiable as one of the best in gaming history. As had been mentioned before. Bioware is TRULY proverbial God.
February and March in Movies
By The Anarchist Kitten
January of 2010 saw a variety in releases: there was Mel Gibson's return to the big screen with Edge of Darkness, light-hearted romantic comedy When in Rome starring Kristen Bell, another surprisingly decent Dwayne The Rock Johnson comedy, Tooth Fairy and a new Jackie Chan movie called The Spy Next Door. The month's been moderately good in movies, and now we look ahead at the year, till the beginning of summer of 2010, and discuss what great releases await us.
Dear John: Hollywood has done it again. Another Nicholas Sparks book turned into a goldmine, this time starring Channing Tatum in the lead role. The plot almost seems like a re-imagining of The Notebook. Dear John is the story of John Tyree, a young soldier, and Savannah Curtis, an ambitious college student he falls in love with during their time off. Over the next seven years, the couple is separated by John's increasingly dangerous missions. They manage to stay in touch by sending a continuous stream of letters. This movie will be a heart-warmer, this Valentine's day.
Shutter Island: this chiller stars Hollywood giants Leo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. Directed by Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island is the story of two U.S. marshals who are summoned to a remote and barren island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a murderer from the island's fortress-like hospital for the criminally insane.
The Crazies: this remake tells the story of Ogden Marsh, a picture-perfect American town with happy, law-abiding citizens. But one night, one of them comes to a baseball game with a loaded shotgun ready to kill. Another man burns down his own house after locking his wife and young son in a closet inside. Within days, mere anarchy has been loosed upon the town; people who days ago lived quiet, unremarkable lives have now become depraved, blood-thirsty killers, hiding in the darkness with guns and knives. The town's sheriff tries to make sense of what's happening as the horrific, nonsensical violence escalates.
Alice In Wonderland: arguably this year's most anticipated film, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland starring Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter among others will be released early March. Based on the classic children's tale from Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland needs no synopsis; it will be shot using 3D and performance capture technology similar to that used for the movie Beowulf.
Season of the Witch: is this simply another Nicolas Cage money ploy? Either way, Nick Cage movies never fail to deliver entertainment, and this shouldn't be an exception. The story revolves around a group of knights in 14th century France who must transport a woman accused of witchcraft to a mountain abbey, where the monks will seek to understand and destroy her powers, believed to be the source of the Black Plague.
The Last Song: Another Nicholas Sparks book turned into a movie. Yes, that's right, the second this year. This one, starring child celebrity Miley Cyrus and Greg Kinnear is called The Last Song and is set in a small Southern beach town where an estranged father gets a chance to spend the summer with his reluctant teenaged daughter who'd rather be home in New York. He tries to reconnect with her through the only thing they have in common- music.
There you have it readers. In due time, the releases awaiting us for the rest of year will also be discussed. And there certainly are plenty- Prince of Persia, Iron Man 2 and a remake of Nightmare on Elm Street is only the tip of the iceberg. Happy viewing!