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Feared and hated (but mostly hated) by 3/5ths of Earth’s population, Rus has written for EA, Ubisoft, Square Enix, EGM, GamePro, and IGN, plus a few non-gaming companies such as Shutterfly. In his spare time, he enjoys being hunted like a circus creature by pitchfork-toting fans of his editorial columns.

Location:Bay Area, CA

stories by Rus McLaughlin

Classic games don’t always hold up

So there I was, playing the newly downloadable Jet Set Radio — the classic cell-shaded skatepunk adventure — on my PlayStation 3 and  absolutely hating it. That's quite an unfamiliar sensation to me. When the original disc-bound version released on the Dreamcast back in 2000, I loved every last morsel of it. The design, the popping colors, the sound, the challenges … all awesomeness defined.   Now? The controls respond like I've submerged in extra-chunky mud. The camera feels deliberately designed to make me hate all life on Earth. A lot of the avatars look like somebody recycled code from an 8-bit version of Boom Blox. And I really want to destroy the guy who thought this thing was ready for prime time, because I've played pre-alpha indie games with zero budgets that handled better than this trash.   But here's the thing: Minus some anti-aliasing, it's the exact same game I played 12 years ago.   My new experience with Jet Set Radio makes me question my original experience back in 2000. I'm even a bit wary about pulling out other cherished favorites like 2005's surreal and superlative platformer Psychonauts for fear a new reality might crush my fond memories. I have to wonder … do all those classic video games truly deserve such reverence? Were we wearing rose-tinted glasses for the last few decades? Or have we just grown too much as gamers?

10 Steam Greenlight games to up-vote

I'm a big fan of the indie game scene, and I do my best to support it when possible. It's where you see a lot of the exciting stuff happen. The majors shy away from risk. Indies take as many as possible, because that's the best way to get noticed. But while a lot of indie devs can create something truly special, few can actually explain their games very well.

Xbox Live needs more political coverage, not less

Life’s pretty dull for California in an election year. Our 55 electoral votes don’t get any bluer, so we’re spared the constant bombardment of political ads from both official and Super PAC sources. On the other hand, presidential hopefuls only ever show up here for $5,000-a-plate fundraisers. We miss out on all the hands-on politicking, and we never get a chance to voice an opinion directly to the candidates.

Every game needs a “Girlfriend Mode”

The gaming industry lives in a curious place right now. It’s male dominated — sometimes to a smugly elitist degree — and hypersensitive to its own undercurrent of sexism. So when John Hemingway, lead designer on Borderlands 2, told Eurogamer that the sequel to Gearbox Software’s surprise 2009 hit would include an easier-to-play character featuring, "for the lack of a better term, the girlfriend skill tree,” he essentially charged face-first into a buzzsaw of controversy.

No more in-game collectibles!

So there I am, running like hell across a bridge as a dark, malevolent force devours it not far behind me, when I spot another stray page of Alan Wake’s manuscript. I’d run across them fairly regularly, so it didn’t really come as a shock. Unless, of course, you count the sharpish twinge of annoyance that this stupid game expected me to pause and scoop up a piece of paper — and possibly stop and read it as well — while certain, soul-rending death roared closer.

5 very memorable video game deaths

Life in a video game is cheap. Odds are you bite it on a fairly regular basis just bopping through the campaign. Your character explodes in a shower of meaty parts or he simply ragdolls, letting out a manly, yet shrill scream. But then the game resets, you’re up again, and everything’s back to normal. Certain death averted, however many tries it takes.

Revisiting Halo 3: ODST

Halo 3: ODST stands as the red-headed stepchild of the Halo franchise, and let’s be honest, that’s not totally undeserved. It’s the short one. The side-story. The one where you don’t play as a Spartan super-solder. It’s got a screwy narrative structure and the previous game’s multiplayer, itself exiled to an extra disc like a cheap afterthought. Everything about ODST feels like a mere warm-up for a real Halo game (specifically, 2010’s Halo: Reach).

Leaderboards are worthless

Hey, I’m a fairly competitive guy. And when I cranked up the new psychedelic not-a-shooter Dyad, I only wanted something closer to the last 20 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey than the first 20 minutes of the famously awful Space Giraffe. Instead, I got rapid-fire positive reinforcement: my rankings on the Dyad leaderboards.

Permadeath: Wave of the future!

Friends, I'm afraid modern video-game design philosophy has painted itself into a corner where it's now virtually impossible for players to lose. So long as you adjust the difficulty down to your skill level and apply some persistence, you'll eventually win every time…guaranteed. That effectively separates video games from every other category of game in existence.

5 reasons I choose Halo over Call of Duty

Time for some real talk. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare marks a high point (one of several) in the first-person shooter genre. The precision of design, its near-flawless flow, and the specificity of each individual encounter gets me every single time I throw it on. Oh yes, five years later, I still run my favorite Modern Warfare levels when I get the itch.

5 more multiplayer modes you absolutely must play

So after playing a bit of the ol' Halo 4 multiplayer (and initially hating it) at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo game industry trade show, I got bit by the Halo bug. I came home, threw in Halo: Reach, cued up the Team Objectives list, and suddenly remembered why I stopped doing that very thing in the first place. Everybody wants to play Capture the Flag modes, and I mean every time.

3D gaming is dead (and good riddance)

Think of the Electronic Entertainment Expo as a bellweather. Every major player in the industry rolls out their top-line products and sets the tone for the next 12 months, for better or worse. The constant bombardment of information gets so intense that sometimes, we're too busy concentrating on all the new stimuli to notice what's missing.

A tale of three E3 parties

If you’ve never been to the Electronic Entertainment Expo — or even if you have — there’s a lot going on that you don’t see. The entire gaming industry converges in this one place at this one time, and when the L.A. Convention Center kicks us out every night, we tend to reconvene elsewhere. Generally somewhere with alcohol and food and alcohol.

4 surprises we want to see at E3

T-minus seven days to the big show…the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the biggest video game trade show in America, arguably the world. Trust me when I say most of our schedules are already locked down for the entire week, with behind-closed-door meetings, after-hours parties, and two-hour windows for sleep meticulously planned out.

Sony can’t get the experience right

If you’ve read my editorials for a while, you might’ve noticed a recurring theme around the topic of experience. Sure, framerates and features make nice bullet points, but seriously, don’t waste my time with that crap. What’s it like when you put it all together in one (hopefully) cohesive whole? How do I feel before, during, and after I play the game?

The $99 Xbox 360 is not for you

Now that Duke Nukem Forever finally released, one major urban myth remains in the industry: the $100 gaming console. People dream of it. It’s a nice dream to have, like Star Trek transporters that beam you from Cleveland to Monaco for the weekend (or forever) and inkjet printers that don’t die within two years. But outside of a last-generation PlayStation 2, nobody ever nailed that formula.

Retire the space marine

I’ve finally re-committed to Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The four or five times I played the first eight hours (on a preview disc, months before release) held me for a long time. Frankly, the idea of clearing all that trouble again just to reach the rest of the game didn’t exactly thrill me, but here’s what brought me back: lead character Adam Jensen.

Are games better with Kinect?

I’m thinking about getting a Kinect. Can’t say the temptation’s hit me before now, but I have felt a bit sedentary lately. An exercise sim that gets me off the couch and makes me pop a sweat carries a certain appeal, and that’s part of Kinect’s problem. I don’t need or want a gaming peripheral in order to play games. Certainly, few developers have stepped up to convince me otherwise.

5 tricks to make gamers play nice together

I call it the Asshole Rule, and if you’ve ever played a team multiplayer or online co-op game, you’ve been subjected to it. You’re all there, you’re supposed to work together to bury the opposition, and things just don’t work out that way. One guy runs off alone to Rambo that sucker the moment he spawns in. Odds are the rest of your “team” of lone wolves immediately follows suit.

7 ways to build a better end-boss

So, I just killed the hell out of God and then, for good measure, aced the living spirit of planet Earth. And I have to say, it really wasn't all that tough. I actually had more trouble (spoiler!) defeating Asura’s Wrath — literally, the Asura character himself when he completely wigged out and had to be stopped at all costs — than any enemy I fought while playing as Asura.