Alternate post title: How to Ruin Valentine’s Day
Alternate (alternate) post title: The Actual Title of This Post Has Too Many Colons
Okay. So you may be wondering why there’s another post on Beyond: Two Souls on this blog after I seemingly closed the book on it. I did as much just by playing through the demo, and assuming the worst -- and then after watching the Best Friends Zaibatsu’s LP, there was more than enough evidence to say that it somehow managed to be dumber than a show about a spaceman delinquent screaming about friendship all day every day. Given that, you would think that I’ve done my time. There’s nothing else left to say. Technically, that’s very true.
But my brother came in one day and asked for Beyond: Two Souls for his birthday, presumably on the grounds that it has Willem Dafoe in it. And even though I told him multiple times on multiple occasions that it’s terrible (though to be fair I’m on record of saying “You need to see what’s in this game”), I wanted to do something nice for him. So I went out and got it for him, against my better judgment.
Or maybe I did it for certain other, eviler, vengeful-ier reasons. Who’s to say, really?
Whatever the case, 2Souls is in his possession, which means that circumstantially the game is in my possession. And you know what that means, right? This is a chance for me to play through the game for myself and do a full post on it…is what I would like to say. But I already know fairly intimately what’ll happen in terms of what one could charitably call the plot (thanks to the Zaibatsu and what I consider to be some of their best work yet). You might not know how bad it gets, but I do. Couple that with the fact that the game has long since stopped being relevant -- barring
rumors of a PS4 port -- and you could say that a full Let’s Discuss post would
be a waste of time.
But you see, there’s something that’s been on the back of my mind for a good while. When the Zaibatsu did their run -- if not in the full LP, then at least in the Machinima video -- they did everything they could to create some of the hypest moments. And even in the short time that I watched my bro and a buddy go through it, they went through some of the same beats. That is, the game created scenarios where destruction and pain were practically the end goal of every scene. Refusing to do otherwise meant, potentially, not playing the game. Or alternatively, you can only play Renegade.
So here’s my two-stage question. Is it possible to play a Paragon Jodie? And more importantly, would doing that break the game?
Games nowadays have an increasingly-glaring problem wherein players are expected to play as not-really-but-totally-when-you-think-about-it psychopathic killers. This isn’t just me still being butthurt over Aiden Pearce and Watch Dogs; I’m not the only one who’s worried that too many devs are turning too many titles into short-sighted murder simulators. David Cage himself once promised that 2Souls would be more than just a big dumb shooter, and while that’s circumstantially true, the demo can end with a small town practically set ablaze out of Jodie’s “self-defense”. But my experience from said demo suggests that that CAN happen, not that it will 100% of the time. And Pat of the Zaibatsu confessed towards pushing Jodie down the darkest path, just to see what Cage thought would happen.
In other words, there’s a glimmer of hope.
So you can consider my upcoming time with 2Souls not as a report of what I find, but an experiment. It’s easy enough to assume the worst of Cage and his latest game thanks to the deluge of evidence -- but if there’s a chance to find some small semblance of redemption, if not innocence, then I think I want to try and look for it. Remember, the assumption with this game was that it would at least create the illusion of choosing your own adventure. Given that, I want to choose my own adventure -- one with a definite through-line -- and do my best to bend the story towards the conclusion I want.
I’m not so naïve to declare “I’m doing a pacifist run!” and assume that the game will allow that to happen. BUT it’s my theory that even if you can’t avoid killing others to survive, you can at least minimize the amount of death and damage dealt. That’s what I’ll be going for -- and with the foresight gained from knowing how the majority of the game’s events play out, I can sidestep them and hopefully create scenarios that A) don’t end with wanton murder, B) don’t end with Jodie crying or emotionally distraught, C) don’t end with Jodie’s life in shambles, and/or D) don’t end after a murder spree with Aiden to the sound of an orchestra OD’ing on all of the drugs. I know that’s the same as A, but give me a pass on that one.
Is it possible? Yes and no. The ideal state would be to have every decision you make decide where Jodie ends up -- but with the plot and its events set up as they are, nothing’s stopping me from flashing toward the…well, less than sensible sections of the story. So, like I said, I’m going to try and avoid as much damage and destruction as I can, as per my wishes and the “experiment” at large. And I want to create the most consistently-characterized Jodie the game will allow. With any luck, I’ll have good news in the weeks (months? We’ll see) to come.
In the meantime, you’re probably wondering: now that I have the full game, is there anything I can say about it that makes it a little better?
Oh, wait! I thought of something.
Interestingly, there are more options and triggers in the game than even the Zaibatsu managed to find. I guess that’s a consequence of other parties giving the game a look, but it’s still surprising to see what can be done (or ignored) in a playthrough. Apparently at the party scene, Jodie can get drunk as well as -- to put it mildly -- take a hit. And she can leave the party at any point in the midst of her “revenge”, i.e. she doesn’t have to have Aiden bust out the knives or set the house on fire. So if nothing else, there are moment-to-moment options.
Also? Maybe my brain has started to atrophy in the months since its release, but for moments at a time I can kinda-sorta understand why 2Souls’ events are arranged in the way that they’re set. Don’t get me wrong; it would have made for a more solid experience if the game played out in chronological order, and you really have to strain to see the through-line, but there are traces of logic. Jodie getting her CIA training is followed by Jodie on the run, so you could argue that whatever hopes she had of being a part of something (and having a stable home) get dashed immediately. It’s not the strongest argument, but it can be made…though you could argue if you have to work that hard to see the connections, the game shouldn’t be set up like that in the first place.
But whatever. That’s just about where I stand. My expectations are not particularly high right now, but I’ve been surprised before. Maybe I’ll be surprised again -- and who knows? Maybe it’ll be because I put in that effort that I find something worth being happy about. No guarantees, but I’ll be honest: it’d be pretty cool if there were more games out there that I could talk about without simply saying “Well, at least it looks good.” Damning with faint praise is not how I prefer to treat the medium I love so much.
So. Let’s see what happens next, shall we? Look forward (?) to more on 2Souls. And in the meantime, look forward to some other stuff here on Cross-Up. Like a post I’ve had ready for a couple of weeks now, but keeps getting pushed back because of random posts like this one. And there’s this thing I tossed over on Destructoid a while back that I need to bring over here, so maybe that’ll be up this week. And beyond that --
Yeah. I should probably do something about that.
Eventually. Soon. Maybe.
Eventually. Soon. Maybe.
After hot dogs.