Thursday, October 24, 2013

Beyond: Two Souls-It Actually Is a Video Game

So, with personal stuff coming up lately, I'm not doing Denver 5 for the forseeable future. I am very sorry.

However, I did get paid to play some Beyond: Two Souls, and it's pretty great. It's the video game that's made by the same guys who made Heavy Rain, and they apparently learned very little since then. Not that Heavy Rain was bad, it just wasn't very good.

Anyway, Ellen Page is Jodie Holmes who has a ghost attached to her (they call it an "entity" because they don't want to sound silly even though the portals to the underworld they create are called fucking "condensers." It's like, what, does the ghost realm have a fucking dewpoint?). So she's raised in a lab since childhood and joins the CIA, but then also runs away. She's a hobo psychic badass as a character class and somehow they manage to make it all work together.

The biggest complaint folks seem to have with Two Souls is that it isn't a game. It's a fair accusation because I didn't spend 8 hours of my life learning a completely useless skill set like a parakeet with an A-Type personality. So, I guess that's a loss. But fuck it; Two Souls knows exactly what it is and it's an interactive drama. I am just pushing buttons to make the story go forward, but that's every video game with a good story that I've ever played. The gameplay elements can be creating an appropriately grateful O-face during a fucking blowjob, but if the story is great, I'll literally-literally suffer through those blowjobs to figure out what happens next.

And Two Souls doesn't fuck around about that shit. It jumbles up Jodie's story so the quiet and actiony parts can alternate to pace the story well and force you to use your brain to comprehend where she is in her life. It makes you draw all of the pieces together, much like Momento did. It's a marvel of keeping the right parts at the right time to build the story, forshadow, and program Jodie Holmes with the most tragic backstory ever. Seriously, there's watching your parents get shot in an alley and then there's growing up in a world where it's the 21st century, but people somehow still think you're a witch and the only constant in your life is a cockblocking ghost.

It's a video game and not an interactive movie because--and perhaps only because--the interactions make you feel like Jodie and her ghost-pal Aiden. You're taking an active role in events, even if you're playing through a very linear storyline. Very few of the choices you make have any real impact until you get to the final scenes. Even then, you know that they're going make a sequel (because they all but have Ellen Page driving into Mexico in a jeep at the end) that'll make all but one of those choices relevant (I'll take up Christianity if it ensure the ending with Ryan isn't. Fuck Ryan. Fuck that piece of shit.)

The graphics are good, but you expect that from Quantic Dream. It's not fair to dismiss them because of their previously high performance, but remember that A) I don't care about graphics and B) The fucking amazing work of Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe are blunted because they're losing 80% of their work to the graphics that are coming up on the far side of the uncanny valley.

Anyway, Two Souls is great, as long as you know what you're getting into. Despite being a big, dumb action movie starring Ellen Page, it fits in a story about solitude and society and--well, I'll talk about that next week. Maybe when I've had some actual sleep.

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