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The Year’s Most Cinematic Games

The Year’s Most Cinematic Games (photo)

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src=””>Throughout 2009, the intersection of video games and films has been a seething hot spot, both culturally and for business. And though this marriage is fraught with plenty of potential hazards — best seen in the unkillable and still usually awful game-to-film adaptation — there’s no denying that’s plenty of room for both mediums to share and grow.

Games tend to be more successful when they focus on their essentials, and films usually thrive when they don’t try to hard to duplicate their interactive competitors, but there are no hard-and-fast rules for this developing relationship. And there’s no reason to believe that, as films and games continue along semi-parallel tracks, they won’t become even better at synthesizing their unique elements.

And new developments are already taking place. 2009 was a banner year for games that delivered movie-like experiences by blending user-operated mayhem with filmic set-pieces, storytelling and structures. You can definitely make the argument that games would be better off refining their own mechanics instead of emulate the silver screen. But when done properly, games — buoyed by ever more sophisticated aesthetics, technology and voice and writing work — have an unparalleled ability to place players in control of adventures normally reserved for the multiplex. Here are my picks for the seven standout titles of 2009 that did just that.

12172009_uncharted2_4.jpg1. “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves”

The “Indiana Jones” sequel that “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” could only dream of being, “Uncharted 2” drops player into the midst of a treasure-hunting quest full of showstopping sequences that practically demand a movie adaptation. From an opening in which you have to make dashing hero Nathan Drake climb up a train dangling off a mountain cliff, to a Jeep-hopping gunfight with pursuing enemies, to battles with airborne helicopters and hectic clashes with armed baddies in jungles, city streets and ancient ruins, this PS3 exclusive doggedly delivers a movie-ish experience and, amazingly, actually succeeds without sacrificing its own gameplay. It helps that it has both a great script and matching voice work. “Uncharted 2” rocks not only because of its Spielbergian tale of globe-hopping derring-do, but because of its strong, varied action that’s seamlessly integrated into its thrill-ride narrative.

12172009_redfaction1.jpg2. “Red Faction: Guerrilla”

The third entry in the “Red Faction” series is built around a decidedly action-movie brand of blowing stuff up. From the intro’s trailer-ready narration to the stylized camerawork that accompanies the game’s most extravagant set pieces, “Guerrilla” is coated in a big-screen sheen. Unfortunately, these flourishes are mostly just superficial trappings meant to enhance a story — told, for the first time in the franchise, from the third- rather than first-person perspective, and amidst an open-sandbox environment — that revolves around detonating as many structures and enemies as possible. But while the game’s plot and character work may leave a bit to be desired, the implementation of its cinematically presented core gameplay — making things go boom and crash via a variety of awesome weaponry — is exhilarating.

12182009_GhostbustersGame.jpg3. “Ghostbusters: The Game”

It’s easy to use a license to make a subpar game, as proven by innumerable tie-in titles. But to take a beloved celluloid property and create an original adventure that’s faithful to its predecessors? That’s nearly unheard of, which is what makes “Ghostbusters: The Game” — a virtual sequel to 1989’s “Ghostbusters 2” — such a welcome surprise. No new design ground is broken by this third-person title, but between proton-pack gameplay that feels just right, character models and locales that actually accurately resemble their real-world counterparts, and voice work from the original iconic cast, Atari’s game (developed by Terminal Reality) lived up to its potential about as well as anyone could reasonably hope. More diverse levels might have made it a classic, but “Ghostbusters: The Game” is still a new benchmark for film-licensed games.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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