Let's discuss Avengers: Infinity War -- a movie BOUND to make you feel so good!

October 4, 2013

Re: RE: Beyond: Two Souls

After trying out the demo (and seeing it played before me in full at least once) I can say with some confidence that out of the one Quantic Dream game I’ve played, this is the best of them all.  Or…technically a slice of the one Quantic Dream game I’ve played.

Yep.  This is gonna be one of those posts.  

But on the plus side...hey, three colons in the title.

You know, I think I can see why gaming companies are reluctant to put out demos these days.  Not just because of expenses, but by putting a piece of the game out into the wolves’ den, they’re ensuring that anyone with a passing interest in the game -- or anyone who’s on the fence, like me -- gets to see exactly what they’re in for before they make the purchase.  That’s a damning move in some cases; it’s a show of confidence that can utterly backfire, and no doubt strip a company of more than a few sales.  Sometimes a demo works for the better (the Metal Gear Rising demo killed it).  Other times…

You know, it really says a lot about a man's priorities when the first thing he shows you is an extreme close up of Ellen Page's face as she stares blankly at you and occasionally pants.  Because that's how you know you're in for a good time.

I want to say right off the bat that Beyond: Two Souls isn’t the worst thing ever.  In fact, everything that I’m about to say in this post could just be me over-analyzing things -- looking for cracks and faults when there are none, and then trying to widen them with my bare hands.  Maybe I’m just subconsciously trying to hate on the game, Quantic Dream, and David Cage.  Maybe I’m doing too much projecting, and not seeing the game for what it is, but what it isn’t…and walking away with a different perspective because of it.

On the other hand, I don’t think I’m completely wrong about the way I feel here.  I know it’s impossible to make a full claim on the game’s quality without playing the full game; even if that’s the case, the demo hasn’t done anything to win me over.  If anything, I’m even more worried than I was before.  I think that Two Souls has potential, make no mistake, and it can offer up some good stuff.  But as it stands, the game will either be pretty good or unbelievably flawed.  Once more, it’s a case of Quantic being not quite there yet.  They’re getting closer, yes, but they’re not quite there yet…and it shows.  Repeatedly.

It’s hard to get a bead on the full plot, but from what I can gather it goes something like this: Ellen Page Shadowcat Jodie is a young woman who’s tethered to some kind of spirit, Aiden, who interacts with and causes chaos in the world on her behalf.  That doesn’t go over too well with the non-tethered people of the world (i.e. everyone else), so she’s now on the run from those that would hunt her and want to…uh…do something with her, I guess.  Probably experiment on her, but killing her is likely high on the priority list.  So Jodie is on the run, and it’s up to the player to guide her to safety and freedom, all the while -- according to the trailer and details strewn about -- seeing sequences of her life interspersed throughout.

This is one of the things I’m worried about.  From what I can gather, the story plays out in a non-linear fashion, and players are bound to see key events in Jodie’s life in whatever order the devs want.  That’s a format that could work, but it’s one that could go awry just as quickly.  I’m immediately reminded of movies like Man of Steel and Cloud Atlas where sequences are shuffled about, and even now I have a hard time understanding what the point was of playing a quick game of 52-pick up with said sequences.  (Especially in Man of Steel’s case, considering that one flashback created a time paradox.)  I’m especially concerned with how those sequences are going to be strung together in the context of the game; Jodie in the demo is probably at her oldest and in the midst of the most excitement, so does that mean the action is going to have quieter moments cut in?  Is the action going to get front-loaded or saved for later?  How and when and why is Jodie’s horse-riding supposed to fit in to the story’s context?  All questions that the devs probably have answered, but I’m hoping that said answer is satisfying.  That’s the ticket.  Prove your case, guys.  Give me a reason to care.  It's not that hard.

But let’s focus on the demo.  If you haven’t tried it out, you get to see two main sections of the game.  The first is a tutorial that lets you play as young Jodie, going through an experiment that’ll get you familiar with the character(s) and what they’re all about.  The action-heavy second section -- chained to the first via a quick training session/fight tutorial -- features present-day Jodie on a train, and the police are on her tail.  As far as I can tell, Two Souls is more or less one of those “choose your own adventure” books, where you input an on-screen command ad have an event play out.  And as far as I can tell, since there’s nothing quite resembling a “Game Over” in this game, your actions move you onto different pages and different routes, toward…well, I’ll get to that.

The first time I saw Two Souls, I did so as an observer.  My brother played through the demo first, while a buddy and I watched and tossed out suggestions.  In a way, it was an experiment -- a way to see just what Two Souls could do that made it so different from other games.  And what my brother found, almost inevitably, was how much dicking around he could do with his ghost buddy.  Which is to say, quite a bit. 

The experiment section starts out with the player using Aiden to float into another room and spy on a woman’s hand to see what card she has.  That part is simple enough, and gets you used to controlling Aiden (in a way, it’s kind of like moving around a plane or helicopter in GTA).  Once you get past the card segment, the scientists on hand want Jodie to get Aiden to knock some stuff around as a test of his power.  That’s how you learn how to interact with Aiden, accomplished by moving holding a trigger button and moving the sticks.  But of course, the game knows players well, and lets them knock over more than just the blocks on the table; I watched as my bro gleefully sent the table flying, busted the cameras, and cracked the glass, each time chanting “More!  More!  More!”  Unsurprisingly, the scientists freaked out and cut the experiment short, forcing them to rush in and consul an emotionless Jodie.  Jodie responds with a monotone “It will never be over”, and so ends the segment.

Remember all this for later.  We’re going to come back to it.

The middle part of the demo is a tutorial section for how to fight with Jodie.  It’s interesting that they decided to go with a stick-based combat system, wherein you use the right stick to perform attacks instead of hitting a face button.  (The last time I saw that was in the Too Human demo, and…well, that didn’t exactly sell me on the game back then.)  The camera during this sequence tends to pivot to a 2D angle to ensure that there’s no confusion about what direction you should be pressing.  So if the game wants you to do a kick with the left leg, the camera will put Jodie at such an angle where it’s obvious you want to move the right stick to the left.  Likewise, if you want to duck an incoming attack, the camera will go behind Jodie’s back -- kind of like Punch-Out -- and you just have to hit down without any muss or fuss.  It works, and while the tutorial is done in a controlled environment with explanations of what you’re going to do beforehand, later sections (for the most part) work as well.  Granted it all feels like a QTE, but you could say that about the majority of the game.  I’m not willing to call it a deal-breaker just yet.  I’m on the fence, but let’s just see how the rest of this post goes before my over-analyzing leads to hate…as is the standard for me.

In any case, the second part of the demo puts a sleeping Jodie on a train, and shortly thereafter she has to find a way to escape from the authorities doing a “routine check”.  Prior to their emergence, my brother spent most of the train ride screwing around with Aiden, knocking a book out of a woman’s hand and harassing other sleeping passengers.  When it came time for the police to emerge, he woke Jodie up and sent her running through the train cars -- not exactly the stealthiest approach, and as expected it led to a chase scene.  His Jodie (who I’m going to start calling Brody for a point of comparison later) stumbled her way through the train until ultimately deciding to climb atop it.  Unfortunately, the police followed her, and Brody had to fight them off before leaping into the forest -- something she pulled off thanks to Aiden’s shielding power. 

It’s around this point where both my brother and I ran into a major problem the full game could have.  Brody lands in the forest and has to deal with police choppers bearing down on her, so she decides to venture in.  Problem is, the forest section (for the player more than the character, I’d bet) is EXTREMELY dark.  It was pretty much impossible for either of us to see where we were supposed to go, leading to us stumbling around helplessly.  That wouldn’t have been so bad if it was the only issue, but it’s an issue that’s compounded by making the chase into a QTE sequence.  Remember what I said about the camera during fight sequences?  Well, it’s true enough that the camera is pulled behind Jodie so that theoretically all you have to do is push up or down on the stick to dodge tree branches. 

The thing is, the forest section is so dark that you can’t accurately predict whether you have to push up or down with real consistency.  So if you’re anything like the two of us, you’re going to be picking bark out of your teeth and shins for a while.  I can understand if the intent was to make certain QTEs impossible for effect -- a way to make the forest seem harsher, and to highlight Jodie’s desperation -- but that isn’t exactly a fun sequence to go through.  Nor is the intent clear when it’s masked by player frustration.  I wasn’t thinking “Oh man, I’m in trouble of the cops get me.”  I was thinking “What the hell?!  I didn’t even know what direction to -- ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!”  I’m concerned that this won’t be the only QTE where the proper inputs are unclear; if that’s the case, it’s going to make for even more frustration in the full game.       

Thankfully, the forest section doesn’t last for TOO long, and shortly after comes…a motorcycle chase.  Again, problems arise here; the QTEs get dropped here in exchange for full control, but actually driving the motorcycle is an exercise in frustration.  Steering feels sloppy and imprecise, to the point where both my brother and I rode along the rails at several points.  The drive is mercifully brief, though, in the sense that Brody gets the chance to barrel through a police blockade via Aiden’s shield.  After that, Brody makes it to a town and engages in a sort of “last stand” against a slew of SWAT gunmen, snipers, and a circling chopper.  While she hides, Aiden goes to work wrecking any aggressors, flipping cars, possessing snipers, and turning gunmen against one another.  At one point, bringing down the chopper in a fiery blast becomes less of a possibility and more of a requirement by the game.  Brody hides away in a building while the chaos rages, but once Aiden cleans up the streets she emerges to give a warning to the sole survivor.  Something along the lines of “Tell them to stay the fuck away from me, because next time I’ll kill everyone.” 

Remember this for later, too.

If nothing else, the demo manages to prove that in terms of the “goofiness” that plagued Heavy Rain and ESPECIALLY Indigo Prophecy, Two Souls is a bit more balanced and palpable.  Obviously there’s still time for anything -- or everything -- to go wrong, but as a story I have a bit more confidence in this title over the others.  Still, there are a lot of questions that need answering, and not just the context of what Aiden is or why Jodie is on the run.  Those other games have their groan-worthy elements, but from what I can gather Quantic Dream put a huge emphasis on something that’s strangely missing from the demo: conversations.  The only real discussions going on in the demo are between kid Jodie and the scientists, and even then it’s a one-sided “yes” or “less-enthusiastic yes” affair. 

The dialogue options and choices could be what decide what warrants another playthrough, or even a purchase of the game.  That’s especially the case considering that good dialogue contributes to (if not constructs) good characters…and the presence of anyone besides Jodie, Aiden, and I guess Willem Dafoe’s character isn’t just understated in the demo, but in my memory of anything related to news of the game.  Who are the people that made Jodie who she is?  Who would set her down a path where murder is the only option?  Who is she going to run towards in a time of crisis, or make a desperate call to?  I’m more interested in that than trolling the populace with ghost powers.  And I would hope that Cage feels the same way, given what he’s said before on the subject of video game violence…and then very nearly contradicts with the demo of his latest work. 

But the reason I’m so incredibly worried about how the final game will come it is because I don’t feel like I’ve been satisfied.  Again, that’s likely because I’m not getting the story beats I want (and how can you from just a demo?), but I have a hunch that it goes further than that.  I have a feeling that the game can’t satisfy me -- because at its core, it’s fundamentally broken.  It's very nearly dead on arrival.

I compared the game to a choose-your-own-adventure story earlier, and in some ways I think that comparison holds truer than just calling it an interactive movie (where you just hit on-screen prompts to start the suddenly-paused movie again).  So let’s imagine what it would be like if Two Souls was a straight-up book you could hold in your hands.  Imagine what it would be like if you knew there were different outcomes, but in order to get to them you’re not fully told what to do.  That’s not so bad, except when it comes time to choose which page you want to go to, you’re not told what action you’re going to take.  And even if you choose the action you want (by chance), it leads right back to an option you’ve already seen.  

And if you want to go on a certain route, you just have to stare at a page for long enough…which is to say, you have no idea when you’re allowed to progress to a different event, so you just end up turning the page anyway even if not turning the page will give you the action you want.  And because you’re concerning yourself with getting the outcome you want -- haphazard as it may be -- you end up engaging less with the story at large.  And worst of all, when all’s said and done and you just go with the story’s flow, the ultimate outcome isn’t just one you’ve seen before, but one that stands in stark contrast to everything you’ve done up to that point.

That’s this demo.  And if my guess is right, that’s this game.  You have no choice.

Remember how in my brother’s playthrough of the demo, he made Aiden destroy everything in the experimentation room?  So much so that it caused a mass panic in the facility?  I didn’t do any of that.  I chose the cards -- and got them all accurately, unlike my trolling bro -- and moved the blocks.  And I only moved two other things -- a water bottle and some papers -- solely because the guys overseeing the experiment said “move more stuff”.  And then I stopped.  I switched back to Jodie, putting Aiden away and watching the screen as Little Ellen Page stared blankly ahead.  

Guess what happened?  The scene played out EXACTLY as if I continued to wreck the other room.  I might have freaked out the woman in there, sure, but I didn’t do anything to make her break into hysterics.  And I certainly didn’t do enough to trigger the blare of a percussion-heavy “this is a tense scene now” music track.  I just sat there as Jodie, quietly, not moving, while everyone else around her freaked out.  And the experiment finished just as my brother’s had -- with Willem Dafoe seizing Jodie in a hug and assuring her it’s over. 

It was at that point where I asked myself two questions.  One: if Option A leads to Outcome A, and Option B ALSO leads to Outcome A, then why exactly is there a choice to begin with if all I’m changing are variables and not the overall progression of the story?  Two: if this is what happens in the demo -- and presumably, at or near the start of the game -- then how many more betrayals of my expectations am I in for in the full game?  And even now, I’m still waiting for an answer.  Come on, brain, step it up.

But the problems don’t end there.  I saw my brother’s playthrough of the demo to the very end -- an end that included at least a dozen people dead, and tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of collateral damage.  That was something I wanted to avoid, not just because of my Paragon streak in Mass Effect, and not just to see a different ending, but merely because I didn’t want to kill anymore than necessary.  If anything, I wanted to give a pacifist run a shot; if video games wouldn’t tone down the violence, then I’d have to by taking control of the narrative as Two Souls suggested I could.  Putting the game on a leash, so to speak.

It didn’t pan out.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the game is trying very hard to railroad you into certain scenes and outcomes; I can’t shake the sense that what I’m doing doesn’t matter, because what I do leads to something I don’t want.  I know that’s kind of the thing with CYOA books, but here it’s aggressively forcing you down a single road -- the narrative’s road -- and the most you can do is throw stuff out the window.  Example: at the start of the train sequence, Jodie is asleep when the police step onto the train.  In my bro’s playthrough, he used Aiden to wake up Jodie and try to run, prompting a chase sequence through the train.  I wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t run.  I’d heard something about a police station in discussions about the game, and I seem to recall a presentation at E3 featuring a police station (and the much-touted Ellen Page sitting silently without showing a shred of emotion while an officer talked at her.  Brilliant allocation of funding, guys).  If that police station sequence is in the demo, I have no idea how to reach it, because I just ended up triggering the chase sequence on accident.

I’m serious.  I had no idea I would end up triggering the chase, because there’s no indication of what exactly a prompt will entail.  I woke up Jodie with Aiden, but instead of sending her on the run, I left her in her seat.  The two police officers came at me and asked for ID, so I thought I’d try to do the calm and rational thing even if it landed Jodie in trouble (because resisting arrest invites even more trouble, I believe).  She pulled down her backpack, and a couple of prompts appeared onscreen.  “Okay, I said to myself, “So I guess I just need to reach into her bag to pull out an ID.”  It looked as if she might have kept it in a side pocket, so I hit right on the stick -- and she walloped the nearest guy with her backpack and made a run for it, triggering the chase.  “What?  No!  I didn’t want her to do that!  I want a do-over!”

So I did do it over.  I went to the main menu and started the sequence again, only this time I hit left on the stick.  And that just led to her smacking an officer anyway.  So I did it over again, and this time I left Jodie asleep.  The only thing that woke her up was the cop now standing over her, and she pulled down her bag just like before.  Only this time, I didn’t press anything.  I just sat there and watched.  And when I did, it led to Jodie getting cuffed because she matched the police description.  So basically, you can “succeed” in this game by doing nothing.  Just by setting the controller down and watching, you can get outcomes that are 100% preferable to anything else.  Gameplay!

…Except there’s no indication of when you should wait for something to happen, and when you HAVE to press something.  This led to several hi-larious sequences where I stared at the screen for minutes at a time, wondering if something would happen or if I’d have to press a button and kill someone.  And indeed, killing someone is almost always the way out of a mess, if not the only way.  It really is disturbing how much the game contributes to the whole “video games = violence” mindset without any shred of restraint; the mere presence of Aiden (and the story that plays out regardless of your actions) funnels the player toward the most violent option. 

The demo assumes that you’re going to destroy everything in the experiment, moves straight into a tutorial on fighting, pushes you toward a fight on a train against cops who really should know better, gives Jodie the chance to whack dogs in the face with a stick -- because that’ll go over well with PETA -- and climaxes with a small town rocked by what’s ostensibly a flaming crater.  And after all of that, Jodie gives a warning that very nearly comes off as the sort of line you’d hear from an action movie.  A bad action movie.  If the demo had offered proof of conversations to offset the action (or violence), then it would have made for a more exciting showing.  Or should I say, a more confident showing; if the full game has plenty of these conversations, but they were pulled from the demo just to show off more action-based gameplay, and the gameplay itself feels like it needs a 48-point asterisk beside its name, then Quantic Dream needed to prove their worth in a way no other game could.  And it didn’t.

…Well, this is growing increasingly negative.  Let’s move on to a different topic.

It’s worth noting that for the most part, getting a traditional Game Over is very hard, if not impossible, in Two Souls…or the demo, at least.  That’s a byproduct of the devs’ design, not just my experience; I think that the idea was to create a game where even if you mess up, you can still progress -- albeit on a different “route” with different circumstances and different placement.  So if you screw up badly enough, Ellie will get captured by the police.  In most other games, that would be cause for a Game Over.  In this game, it just means that you gain access to a new event; if you clear it, you’re on your way. In my experience, I got caught three times (first as a test, second on accident, third on purpose).  The first: getting taken into custody on the train.  The second: getting caught in the forest after failing to climb fast enough.  The third: stopping the motorcycle in the middle of the road because I didn’t feel like driving that shit any longer than I had to.  So the first capture leads to Jodie being held prisoner on the train, the second in a cop car, and the third in a SWAT truck.

Aaaaaaaaaaand of course, here’s where another potential problem arises.  Apparently it IS possible for Jodie to die in the game, but in the demo at least it’s impossible to truly fail in a conventional sense.  There’s a lack of a failure state by design, but it almost works to the game’s detriment.  If there’s no perceived sense of danger, it minimizes the reward.  If there’s no threat of failure, and I can succeed no matter what I do, then it makes the success -- the very need to earn that success -- significantly weaker.  But it gets worse.  I can get out of any situation because I have Aiden; I have a phenomenally unfair advantage in the demo that makes Jodie nigh invincible (quite literally, considering his shield power). 

If Jodie is ever in a jam, all I have to do is switch to Aiden, mess with the environment, and things will be all better.  I can use him to possess a guard and unlock the door Jodie’s trapped behind, and if Jodie’s surrounded by SWAT gunners Aiden actually has THREE options: make a gunner shoot the others, make the driver crash up, or -- if you somehow fail either of those, or just don’t do them because now there’s a window of time for your actions -- send Aiden outside to blow the tires.  It doesn’t make for a compelling game, or a compelling story, when the deck is stacked high enough to support the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  The only time there’s ever a sense of vulnerability is when the game inexplicably refuses to let you control Aiden (which is often), but in exchange you’re using QTEs to do whatever it is the game demands, and those are hardly rewarding AND makes you untouchable if you’re 100% on-point. 

I don’t feel like I’m getting the context I need from the demo, and it’s enough to make me worry that I wouldn’t get it in the full game.  But I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and assume that there is.  Let’s pretend that everything I want -- and you want -- will be explained in the full title.  In the context of this demo, why is killing the primary option?  I don’t know who Jodie is or what she’s been through besides the experiment and training in a gym.  I can deal with her trying to escape, but why am I being railroaded into murder?  

If Jodie is so desperate and/or resolute that killing is her primary goal, then aren’t the police and SWAT teams justified in trying to capture her?  Why am I supposed to sympathize with someone who chokes an officer to death with her handcuffs (which may very well be the only way to escape from the second capture)?  Is this supposed to be a bit of subversion?  Am I actually playing as the villain?  I sure as shit hope that’s the case, because a tragic backstory isn’t enough to justify the murder of people just trying to do what they think is right, and it shouldn’t be enough.

But again, it seems like that’s what all roads are leading to.  I’ve seen it firsthand.  In the worst-case scenario, Jodie leaves dozens dead.  In my scenario, Jodie kills one dude, and has the opportunity to kill several more (and would have if I hadn’t messed up my inputs) through command of Aiden. And that leads into the biggest, most infuriating, throw-up-my-hands moments in a while.  See, if Jodie gets taken into the SWAT truck, one of the gunners says that he tranquilized Jodie heavily.  

That doesn’t stop her from communicating normally with Aiden, though, and -- as I said -- she has the option of having one guard shoot another, making the driver crash up, or blowing out the tires.  I messed up the first two and figured that it’d mean I’d head to the police station, but Jodie chimed in and told me/Aiden to go after the tires.  So I did.  And inevitably, it made the truck crash and presumably leave most of the passengers dead.  Except Jodie, obviously, because as you know armor and helmets don’t account for anything.  In any case, she gets out of the busted vehicle, and there’s one injured SWAT guy left.  And what happens?   She gives a warning to the sole survivor.  Something along the lines of “Tell them to stay the fuck away from me, because next time I’ll kill everyone.”    Sound familiar?


I’m serious.  Same vocal recordings,  same camera angles…it’s a copy-paste job, and that’s especially the case if the lone survivor is the same model as the one from the town sequence.  Setting aside the fact that the player was just told that Jodie had been heavily sedated and shouldn’t have had the strength or clarity of mind to do much more than drool and slide about, all my actions up to that point just led to the same scene playing out in a different place.  In the end, my Jodie ended up virtually identical to my brother’s Jodie; they might not have seen the same things, but in the end they’re in almost the same place and are almost the same person.  What was the point of giving me choices if I’m ultimately on a strict narrative path?  Why even bother with the illusion of choice if what I do is just going to be overwritten, simply because there is no other path to pursue?  Why doesn’t Quantic Dream just make a movie and be done with it?

Breathe in, breathe out.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Breathe in…and…okay.  I’m all right.

I will be fair, though.  I will be fair.  Based on my experiences, and based on my best guess, this is not a game that absolutely demands multiple playthroughs.  It’s possible -- probable, even --that content has been gutted for the sake of a manageable file size, or a means to highlight the “best” parts of the game.  I have a strong theory that, like a lot of things, Two Souls is best experienced in the company of friends.  Pop in the game and make choices, so the movie can play out according to your decisions.  Play it raw, and play it once, and be done with it.  Whatever happens, happens.  No takebacks.  No do-overs.  Just push play.

As it stands, the demo seems to highlight -- if not prove -- that the full game is going to offer a lot of broken promises.  It’s possible that I’m over-thinking all this, and I’m expecting promises to be fulfilled that never existed in the first place…or if not that, then promises that are impossible to have fulfilled with the PS3 or even the PS4.  That’s fine.  I get that.  I don’t need an interactive movie or a CYOA book; if I want to make my own story, all I have to do is boot up Microsoft Word and start tying away.  I never needed Two Souls, and my life won’t be any worse off without it.  It’s possible that the full game fixes the issues at hand, and it’s possible that sitting out on it may mean missing out on an incredible experience.  But as a would-be writing hero, I’m all right with that.  I have my own worlds to make, and I don’t need the trappings of a multi-million-dollar product to realize them.

As it stands, Two Souls seems like less of a game and more of an experiment…an unsuccessful one, based on the demo.  As a story, it could be good.  It could be.  But as a game?  I get the feeling that it doesn’t really understand what it means to be a game.  It functions, at least.  But the changes to the formula are -- at least for me -- changes that come off as cute at best and infuriating at worst.  And by the looks of things, those changes to the formula are going to make for some serious problems with the story.  I feel it in my bones.  I’m willing to be proven wrong by the full game -- just barely so -- but ultimately, I really don’t want to get my hopes up.  This is not going to be the game that changes gaming.

So, bottom line?  Try the demo.  If you like it, cool.  Get the full game.  If you don’t, avoid.  If you’re on the fence, then PLEASE check as many reviews as you can, and see the general consensus.  Come to a conclusion based on multiple voices, concrete evidence, and your best judgment.  And for the love of God, don’t get suckered into a purchase just so you can stare at Ellen Page’s CG-rendered, blood- and sweat-covered, unnecessarily-zoomed-in face…or the chance to hear her pant repeatedly.  Seriously, you don't know how much time I spent sitting around listening to Jodie pant.  I can only imagine how Page must have felt during recording sessions.

Jeez.  I guess in the end, it was unavoidable.  It really did turn into one of those posts.  I wonder if there’s any way for me to end on a high note.  I sure hate it when Cross-Up goes super-negative, so maybe --



  1. And this is why I love Mass Effect. The trilogy is so much better at giving you the illusion of choice - and following up on it clearly or subtly that I can only say I had identical playthroughs twice at MOST. Some things still had to go a certain way (i.e. had to go to Tuchunka, had to deal with the geth and quarians), but the different characters and personalities you run into gave you the illusion that the tone and events would play out a bit differently. But maybe it only just shows how you can play a Choose Your Character's Personality kind of story. Regardless, I have less sympathy for the butthurt fans who continue to whine about how Shep can't make blue babies with Liara or something.


    Your experience with the demo proved my doubts correct. Maybe you're right. Maybe the demo took out some things due to a lack of space. Some games end up different from their demos... others don't.

    Or maybe the scenes they showed you hold no baring on the bigger plot elements. Sometimes nonlinear games have to impose an "inevitable" moment. To lessen the blow, it'd make sense to make the scene inevitable, but based on how you maneuver through it, the story really begins to branch out. You get to know a bit about the world before you make a committed decision. It ain't smart to go for Chaos without hearing out the Law supporters; you can't flip them both off if you never heard what their ideologies are, you know?

    That being said, even if my guess if true, there are still very glaring flaws in the demo. Having an identical scene with identical dialogue and "camera angles", only at a different location is lazy. It's just damn lazy. A shame considering that they blew their budget on the ZOMFG!REALIZTIKGRAPHIX!HOLYSHITEITZELLENPAGE!!!@*&^, very much like the disastrous DmC.

    Speaking of that mess of a game... this made me laugh:

  2. As if I needed more evidence explaining why Gordon Ramsay is so friggin' cool...also, that entire sequence (for lack of a better term) seems EXACTLY like something Donte would do. Only this time, he doesn't have magic powers to back up his boasting.

    But back on topic. You've got it exactly right -- the mere existence of Mass Effect (and even its imitators, to a far lesser extent) have already come very close to making Two Souls redundant...if they haven't already. And Mass Effect isn't the only one; if the goal is to tell an emotional story, Katawa Shoujo's beat them to the punch long ago -- and that was a game made by a bunch of guys on the internet. Honestly, it's as if Cage and Quantic Dream think that they exist in a vacuum. But then again, you could say that about a lot of devs these days.

    "A shame considering that they blew their budget on the ZOMFG!REALIZTIKGRAPHIX!HOLYSHITEITZELLENPAGE!!!@*&^, very much like the disastrous DmC."

    You know what? When all's said and done, I don't mind if devs put big bucks into graphics. I just want two things out of the deal. One: a good game (gameplay, story, or preferably both). Two: a style that sets the game apart from the crowd. Between you and me, I think one of the best looking games this entire generation is the Ultimate Ninja Storm series of Naruto games. It's stylish, it's got some fluid animation, it's bursting with energy, it's vibrant, and it's got some of the most over-the-top visuals I've seen in a while. If the gameplay got a few tweaks, I'd probably be playing its latest installment(s) every day.

    Why the games industry at large would choose to throw their money behind recreating real life -- sans the color, with more debris -- instead of following the example of a damn anime tie-in is a question best left for the ages.

  3. Of all this (as someone that played an enjoyed Heavy Rain) the part that got my eye twitching was the right-stick based combat. Heavy Rain used the right analogue stick too, but there it was used brilliantly. Typically they appear in precise and tense moments: Like having to pick a lock etc. The hold three buttons mechanic emulates doing things that require coordination too (like unclasping a bra)

  4. Dead Island...I haven't thought about that game since the one time I played it. That game was not for me, but I suppose it didn't have to be. I'm sure it's got it's audience; my brother once called it "the best worst game he's ever played."

    Anyway, I guess I'm not completely adverse to the right stick being used for melee, as long as it doesn't interfere with the gameplay too badly. And since Two Souls strips camera control away during those fight sequences, it takes a bit of work out of the equation for the player. Buuuuuuuuuuuuut even if that's the case, it -- i.e. the demo of the game -- really doesn't explain why it was absolutely necessary to minimize usage of the face buttons. Does it work? Yeah, I guess. but does it make the game better? It's hard for me to say at this point...which can't be a good sign.

    In any case, I'll have to give that IHY thing a look pretty soon. I'm putting the main story on the shelf for a little bit, but I still have an ace or two up my sleeve...and it looks like you just slipped another one up there.

    I'm pretty sure that that's cheating in the average card game, but given that I don't particularly know the rules to anything besides blackjack (and I have a habit of exploiting game mechanics to my advantage to the dismay of my competition), I can't say I'm too hung up about it.

  5. I played Beyond: Two Souls after some friends of mine kept pestering me about it and I gotta say...remeber back in the "Do games need good writing" article you wrote, where we argued about whther Walking Dead was even a game? Well, apparently Beyond goes the entire other way and..I don't want to say manhandles you through the gameplay, but...


    I played the game for a half hour. If someone had just told me "Beyond is going to show you some things. You are allowed to express your opinion on them but can't do jack shit about it" I wouldn't have had a single issue. There was hardly any freedom of movement in this game! Nothing that made me feel like I was doing stuff! It was weird and it was shiny and it was grim and so...damn...non-gamey!

    Wanna play a good game that works on the same principles? Play the Stanley Parable. No, I'm serious. Just play it. Go on, now. It is the answer to your prayers.

  6. Huh. Now I don't feel quite as bad about saying no to David Cage's latest. Still feel kind of bad, because I feel like he's got the right idea...he's just going about it in a completely wrong way. And terribly, at that.

    I guess that's to be expected, though. Have you SEEN what's in this man's games? Have you?


    I don't know what's next for Cage and Quantic Dream. I mean, I appreciate what he and his team are trying to do, but when I play the demo of this game and walk away more frustrated than intrigued, what am I supposed to do? What's anyone supposed to do? Say "better luck next time"? Is the world going to tolerate a next time? I'm sure not going to.

    Maybe I should give The Stanley Parable a look. I didn't know what to make of it when they played a demo of it on Steam Train, but something tells me there's more than a little moxie to the game than what they saw.

    ...Moxie. I need to start using that word more.

  7. Fahrenheit was an awesome game, imho. The creative team could not decide on what to do with it, it was supposed to be broken down into 20 episodes (I think) which got smashed into a single hurricane of awesome but yeah...the actual halfway narrative control system? Not the best way to resolve action scenes. You're really better off using a DDR mat (like in the original idea for Arkahm Asylum. no I am not kidding about this. It was gonna be a rythm game).

    But the Stanley parable is a game about a man who finds hia life narrated and can choose to follow the instructions or go against the omnipotent, all-knowing voice. If you are still not sold, try the Steam Demo. If you still aren't sold, tey the older steam mod. Still unconvinced? Just make one of your friends make you play it. Thank me later.

  8. At this point, I have to wonder how many games would actually be improved by DDR control schemes. Or if not that, then dancing in general; dancing games are -- as far as I know -- the one thing the Kinect can do reliably, so why not play with it a bit?

    Then again, I've always thought that someone should have made an action game controlled with the Guitar Hero/Rock band peripherals. If Dante can wield the Nevan with rockin' results in DMC3, then devs should be leaping at the chance to let players use supercharged virtual instruments of destruction.

    ...Because that's a fair equivalency. One's a half-breed professional demon-slayer; the other's got a plastic instrument with varying levels of musical talent.

  9. I'm laughing at an asshole at the thought of the youtube video somewhere in the multiverse, where a fat kid in a red trenchocat is mashing the buttons on his guitar while stomping on the DDR mat and then falls, face first, on the floor.

    Video ends with him shouting "Moooom!"

  10. True enough. Although that just makes me think that in a perfect alternate dimension, the average Joe has enough dexterity to make Dante look like a thousand-pound ballerina. Complete with tutu, because...hey, gotta keep up those boyish good looks.