Feb 12, 2017

06: Is it a game or a movie?

Love or hate the games from Quantic Dream, but one thing is for sure: You can´t say that they don´t at least try to deliver a experience that is different from most other games. The problem is, and this is where a lot of hate towards their games comes from, that with the exception of Omikron: The Nomad Soul all of the Studios other games shifted more and more towards the realm of Interactive Movies with gameplay often consisting of not much more than choosing Dialouge Options and Quick Time Events. I tend to enjoy their games. What they lack in gameplay they more than make up in Storytelling. Just take Fahrenheit / Indigo Prophecy as an example. In this game you play both as the Agents working on a Murder case and the guy who did it. As the player you both whant to get the guy you are after yet at the same time you don´t whant to get caught. The Story get´s a bit more complicated than that, but overall it is a insanely great way to kick the game off. Beyond: Two Souls takes this Interactive Movie aproach and just runs with it in every way possible. The game runs in a 21:9 Aspect Ratio at all times to give it more of a movie feel, two of the main characters are acted, both in voice and motion capture, by real actors and the ingame models are modelled exactly after them. These are Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, both with Hollywood fame prior to this games release and their acting isn´t bad either. Cutscenes and gameplay sections often have transsitions so seamless that sometimes you end up making controller inputs during cutscenes. 

You play as Ellen Page´s Character Jodie and the Entity Aiden that is with her at all times. At first Jodie grew up with foster parents, however after an incident where Aiden almost choked a boy to death during a snowfight Jodie is taken to the Department of Paranormal Activity (DPA) in an attempt to understand and control Aiden. Once at the DPA she grows up there until she enters the CIA as a Teenager shortly after she was able to shut down the reactor for an experiment gone wrong that was intended to get acces and control the world of the Entities, now dupped the Infraworld. At the CIA Jodie taks part in a couple of Missions, however after she learns that the CIA lied to her about who the target of one of her missions really was she decides that she no longer whant´s to be a part of the Agency and runs away, living homeless on the streets for a while and hiking through the country and making a few friends in the process. After some time she get´s back to the DPA and agree´s to go on a last mission with the CIA to shut down a chinese developed Condenser before it is used to attack the US, in return Jodie get´s offered a new Identity to start a new life. The Mission is a succes, however the CIA doesn´t really keep their promise and they whant to put Jodie in a coma-esque condition. Nathan, one of the Doctor´s Jodie grew up with at the DPA, decides to shut down the containment field of the Black Sun dubbed Condenser in an attempt to reunite with his dead wife and daughter in the Infraworld. During the Shutdown Jodie learns who Aiden really is and she has to decide if she want´s to stay alive or if she whant´s to join the people she lost on her Journey in the Infraworld.

Ingame the Story is presented in a non-linear way. At least that´s what the game does by default, because the PS4 Version has at least the Option to play it in a Linear presentation. Why this wasn´t patched in for the PS3 Original is a mystery to me. The real issue is that both the non-linear and the linear aproach of telling the story aren´t perfect for this game. With the non-linear variant the game jumps around in it´s timeline that it get´s confusing at times, but that isn´t the real problem here, the actual order is. For instance you take part in a mission for the CIA in a Warzone, however because at that point you already played sections of the game where you are running and hiding from them, and because of this you already know that there can´t be any real threat for Jodie here because you know that she obviously didn´t die during the mission. With the linear aproach the game takes a real long time to pick up the pace, and at that point you might have lost interest in the game. With the PS4 Version you can at least pick your poison. Gameplay for the most part is a mix of Quck Time Events, manipulating objects or people as Aiden and fighting against other people or Entities. When fighting against other people it really is a slightly different form of QTE, in those fights, and some other instances the game will slow down and you have to push the right stick in whatever direction Jodie is moving. Sounds simple enough, but somehow it isn´t always obvious wich direction the game expects you to input. Luckily you are allowed to fail these inputs as much as you like because in an attempt to keep the Story going Beyond; Two Souls doesn´t have a failure state, but there are different ways in wich the scenes can end.

I played the PS3 Version and it is one of the best looking games on the system. It is really amazing what Quantic Dream did here with the system and the visuals are on such a high level that the very rare low-res texture and jagged shadow stick out as if a flashing arrow where pointing at it, but that´s really nitpicking here. Sure, the game has some Slowdowns, however considering how incredible the game looks and that the PS3 was already 7 years old by the time the game was released you can´t really complain that much. Both the Sound Effects and the Soundtrack are on a similar high level, but the Soundtrack isn´t memorable, it is just there. All of the Voice Acting is really well done to a point that paired with the visuals you can really mistake the game for a CGI movie at times. Sadly the game never really explores it´s gameplay capabilities to a full extend. Especially the Missions you do for the CIA and DPA show how much fun a game could be that gives you control over an Soldier and an Entity that allows him to control the enemies or to manipulate the world around him in his favour. As it is Beyond is a fun experience and it is worth at least a try.