Saturday, October 12, 2013

Beyond Two Souls Review

I'll be the first to admit it...I liked 'Heavy Rain'. Was the PS3 exclusive perfect in everyway? Of course not. It was however a huge step in story telling and motion capture in gaming in the early days of the PlayStation 3. In spite of the mundane tasks and some of the bad acting (especially at the beginning) I liked the premise and how things played out based on your decisions in the game, and I thought to myself that whatever David Cage comes up with next is going to even better.

I was wrong.

When the announcement was mad that Cage and his Quantic Dreams game company was producing a game starring Ellen Page (Juno, Inception) I was pretty stoked about having a game like Heavy Rain but with better actors. Then it was revealed that Willem Dafoe was also in it...awesome! As long as they didn't go and make the same mistakes as before then this could be a game of the year contender.

They made a lot of the same mistakes.

Let's just get into the design of the game so I can state my case. One of the issues with the previous games by Cage was performing monotonous tasks that we all do on a everyday basis; opening a refrigerator, shaving, opening a door, etc. What made it bad was the use of the analog stick and the way you had to move it that sometimes made it annoying. To their credit, while there were still things to do in the game like opening a door it wasn't as bad to control doing so like in 'Heavy Rain'. To my point though, why even have to do it at all? Most of this occurs during the terrible downtime that the game has when the character is a child or teenager and you have to go through the motions to move on with the game. Some of it served a purpose but a lot of it seemed to be put in their just to give the player something to do. Then there is the pacing of the game in general.

The game is set up on a sort of timeline between each chapter, but goes back and forth between being a child, to an adult, to being on the run, to being part of the CIA and so on. This is not a bad thing, but after looking at the timeline chapters it occurred to me that some of these chapters could have easily been put together into one, so instead of one small part it could be a bigger part of the story. I understand why the choice was made to do this, to let the player be surprised by the events that occurred early in the time line but not see it until later in the game for a 'surprise' or 'shock effect'. Once again not a bad thing, but it also seemed to be broken up to split up the gameplay elements as well.

 In one chapter you are walking around with your overly protective soul, 'Aiden" and you use him to create super natural occurrences like items moving or breaking, another is you are in a combat situation with an overly easy combat system that allows you to be undetected as long as you keep the 'X' button pressed, then there is the quick time events and hand to hand combat sections...ugh...the hand to hand...which I was not good at because of my urge to just react and not see what the main character was doing (if the is moving downwards, then to use the stick and point it downwards). Simple enough, but I was terrible at it for some reason...which really didn't matter since it seemed impossible to die!

That's right. There seemed to be no consequence to be had when you did not do certain tasks during the combat.  You know why? Because your over protective soul that is attached to you just comes swooping in to save the day. This is no doubt a choice to keep you engaged in the story more, which is what Quantic Dreams does, but it begs the question... can this really be considered a game?  When you make choices there are repercussions in a game that can lead to a 'game over' screen or losing the level and having to restart, but not in 'Beyond: Two Souls'. That's a debate that will be had I am sure.

Which also leads me to believe that this game doesn't really know what it wants to be. Is it a science fiction, horror, third person shooter, stealth...I am not sure how to define it because it had all of these elements included in it. Maybe I'll just call it an interactive movie, because I think David Cage would like that.

Graphically it just about the same their previous game but with some cool science fiction effects for the plot line that was created. The character models didn't seem to different which I found to be a little disappointing as I found they paid more attention to Page's features than Dafoe's or anyone else's overall. Don't get me wrong, you can tell that it is clearly Willem Dafoe, but the age lines and pores were not in great detail like with Ellen Page, but that may have been a space issue on the disc for all I know.

Speaking of Ellen Page...great in it as well as the rest of the cast. Nothing bad to say about anyone or anything. However, is it a requirement for the actress to take off her clothes in these games? I think I can count the number of times Ellen Page takes a shower and changes her clothes on both of my hands. This also is one of those unnecessary tasks you are made to do like shaking the controller to dry your body off with a towel (the dinner chapter was mind numbingly bad and awkward).

The plot was great overall and I found the parts where she is on the run more humbling than anything else that had to do with the plotline, which outlined the good in humanity and what her 'gift' can do. There was no real heart before those scenes occurred by Page, but the Dafoe character and his assistant had that part down as the Page character grew up and they regarded her as a daughter like figure.

I didn't hate "Beyond Two Souls". As the game went on I just played it for the plotline and performance and had no real liking to the gameplay, if that's what you would call it. I probably won't play it again to see the other endings (26 total I think). I got what I wanted out of it and was content with it. I would not suggest buying it unless you are a completionist and just have to get that platinum trophy on your PSN account. Spend the four bucks and a Redbox and play it for two days, in which you can probably beat in less time and get a good story and performance at the very least.

Oh. David Cage. If like making movies so much, maybe you should just be a film director. I am not sure what you are trying to prove with your games but I just don't think you upped the bar any like you did with 'Heavy Rain'. There is always the PS4 though.

Beyond Two Souls: 3 out of 5 stars

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