Beyond: Two Souls — First impressions

I haven’t had a chance to update this blog in ages, as I was immersed in a few huge design projects that just basically took over, and I was sick for a whole week. Until recently, I hadn’t really watched many new movies or played any new games, not much to review, etc…

But I’m coming back now!

Some minor spoilers follow:

I rented Beyond: Two Souls from Redbox yesterday because even though the game looked impressive, I don’t exactly have $60 to drop on a brand new game today. I figured $2 was good enough to try it out. The TL;DR of this post is… well, it seems like I may only need to spend another $2 on it in order to beat it. Granted, I know the main point of the game is to play it a few times and make different choices along the way to see how your decisions affect the story, but I don’t know if I’m that deeply invested in it after 4 hours or so last night.

Beyond: Two Souls sets the bar a bit higher in terms of its ability to really stretch the graphics of the PS3. The motion-capture, the textural detail, lifelike faces, and lighting are stunning. Actually, when you play a game like Skyrim and have gotten used to its horrible saw-blade-edge shadows, the slickly perfect shadows in Beyond: Two Souls makes Bethesda look like they weren’t even trying. Beyond: Two Souls is by the same developer (Quantic Dream) as Heavy Rain, and none of this is really a surprise. The attention to detail is insane and often downright groundbreaking. The uncanny valley fades away more than a few times.

Jumping in to the game, I was completely surprised to be able to play it two-player. I played as Aiden (the invisible entity), and Kyle played as Jodie (Ellie… erm… I mean… Ellen Page). This was fun, and I was reminded of an old Sega game called The Haunting, where you could possess items within a house in order to scare the humans in it. There’s a sickly-exhilarating feeling I get from pushing those control sticks around as the controller vibrates furiously, activating objects and attacking people. Totally fun. Obviously, Kyle and I traded spots a lot, letting me play as Jodie and he as a Aiden.

What became clear while playing for awhile was that the game wasn’t really a traditional game, per se. It was more akin to a newer evolution of the point-and-click adventures that I grew up with and loved. (Day of the Tentacle, anyone?) It’s no The Last of Us, and trying to compare it would be foolish. There are no clickers with procedurally generated reactions and difficult levels where you can die. The story keeps going if you make a mistake (sometimes). It’s much more like playing Simon and reading a Chooose-Your-Own-Adventure book. Push X to say something ironic. Push the control stick right to open a door. Fly Aiden around and activate these random items and see what happens. It’s fun, but it’s… different. I think it’s completely polarizing. Some people will love this game and think about the fact that it’s a really amazing way to tell an interactive story that changes as you play. Others will wonder where the actual gameplay is. I’m somewhere in the first camp, but I completely recognize that I’m glad I only spend $2 on it so far, because I am not really that interested in replay value at this point. If I bought any game for $60 and finished it in a day or two, I wouldn’t be happy.

I think the best part of the story for me is the fact that you can seemingly make real decisions to decide whether or not Jodie turns out completely fucked up, thanks to Aiden’s goodness or evil pleasures. I’ve held off killing a handful of people because Jodie wanted me to stop. I don’t know if it actually affected anything, or what really would have happened if I kept going, and that’s pretty cool. What if I had killed that little bully? Would that change the story? I really don’t know. Do you think anyone doesn’t choose the Revenge option at the teenagers’ party? I dunno, I have no idea what would happen if I hadn’t.

So far, there have been some very fun, exhilarating moments; some adrenaline pumpers. Some very cool storytelling devices, but I haven’t got to a point where I feel like I’m watching a film. It feels more like a bunch of tv episodes from a good paranormal-scifi show. Like Fringe. Based on the in-game loading screen, it looks like I’m about halfway through the game, but I’m really not sure. So far, only about 4 hours or so. I may return the game and get it again this weekend so I have more time to play it, and likely beat it.

It did freeze in a fire-heavy area last night, but that’s probably my PS3’s fault. It has frozen for almost every game I own, including early games like Oblivion and Resistance.

I don’t know, it’s a fun game, quite enjoyable, a well put-together story with amazing graphics, but I don’t know if it has replay value or any real difficulty. Just run in the right direction and push buttons when you’re supposed to…

I will say that I’m also playing through The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Master’s Quest for Nintendo 64, and that is both very fun and very difficult. Soo… I dunno…


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