Thoughts On: Beyond: Two Souls

Is ambition dead in current gen gaming? I ask this because I feel that, while we do see some unique games come out everywhere, we don’t see as many experimental games as we did during the PS1 and PS2 era of gaming, where many kinds of games were made to give the gamer and consumer a variety of games to play. I mean, think of how many distinctive games we got during that time, and look at the variety we have now. Sure, downloadable games and indie games have become the next step in creative IP’s, but what about the big budget titles? Why don’t we see more unique and ambitious titles released on a disc anymore? It seems rare that we see this kind of game, and whenever we do see something truly unique given to us, either no one buys it or they react negatively to it, which is a darn shame. For example, one of my favorite games of all time, Heavy Rain for the Playstation 3. It was such a breath of fresh air to get what is basically a cinematic adventure game with puzzle elements. What happened after that? People made fun of it for its honestly weird controls and other sections of the more infamous parts of the game. In spite of it's reception, it is nevertheless, a great game and you should at least check it out if you haven’t already. Now then, why did I pick Heavy Rain as an example? Well, if you didn’t read the title of this article, this "Thoughts On" will be about Beyond: Two Souls, which is made by the same developer, Quantic Dream. With big name actors Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe and some incredibly good looking graphics backing up this ambitious title, what do I think about the game that will be out later this year? Read on to find out!

From what we have been told and what I know about the game, Ellen Page plays the role of Jodie Holmes, who, since she was a kid, had a connection with an unknown being known as Aiden. Throughout the game, we will see her from when she was a child to a young adult. We also know about characters, like a government scientist named Nathan Dawkins, voiced and played by Willem Defoe, and an agent of the Government named Cole Freeman, played by Kadeem Hardison. The story is to have elements and themes of thriller, horror, the supernatural, and the psychological. We are basically getting a movie in a video game format, and I like that. I have already talked about how games these days don’t have good storytelling elements, and this sounds like a great example of how to make a story-focused game. From what I have seen from trailers and footage, the story will be very mature and thought-provoking.

The gameplay has been described as a cinematic adventure game with puzzle-solving elements, like in the developers’ last game, Heavy Rain. It looks to control the same way as, and have a lot of similarities to Heavy Rain. From the very little footage available (unless you go to gaming events), the main difference from the previous game, as far as I can see, is that it has fewer button prompts than the very button-prompt-heavy Heavy Rain, and focuses more on Jodie using her supernatural friend Aiden to help her solve puzzles. As previously stated, the main gimmick is Jodie using Aiden to help her through the game. You can possess people to help you solve puzzles or get Jodie out of a tight situation. For example, the demo at E3 2012 showed Jodie stuck in a situation in which she was surrounded by cops, and the player used Aiden to possess a swat team sniper to take out the other policemen. You can also kill the people you possess, but from what I have seen, it’s better to see what you can do with said person before you end his/her life. Quantic Dream, the developer has also confirmed that whatever you do inside the game will alter how the story goes, which means like Mass Effect and The Witcher 2, you will have many reasons to replay the game, or play the game how you want and see what happens.

Graphically, what is there to say about it? It looks freaking fantastic! I know many games that have tried to get that photo-realistic look to their games that have worked, like Uncharted, Red Dead Redemption, and L.A. Noire, and games that have failed at it, like the recent Medal of Honor game. There is apparently a mixed reaction to motion capture due to the technical aspects of the subject of animation. The argument is that the good part of motion capture lets the actors, well, act and emote, since they aren’t having to rely on how the animator wants them to emote because their performance will be blended in with the CG environments. The bad part is that it takes away control from the animator, who in a sense should have more control on how the characters move and look when acting. Either way you look at it, I love this technology we are using today for video games, and since I am not much of a technical kind of guy, I just think it looks great how eerily realistic the CG looks at times. I like how, instead of getting voice actors for the role of motion capture and voice, they actually get Hollywood celebrities to do the motion capture, voice, and look of the character. I feel like more Hollywood actors should do this, since it would be cool to see both voice artists and Hollywood actors in the same game. It’s similar to how the first reboot of Spyro had Elijah Wood and Gary Oldman, and how Brutal Legend has Jack Black and all those famous metal musicians. All I’m saying is that it’s another avenue actors should look into.

So, any concerns before release? I hate to say this but since I feel like gamer’s tastes have changed, I'm afraid this game will not sell well. I say this because Beyond: Two Souls, which is basically an adventure game with a triple-A budget, is coming out when all the big budget shooters are coming out, and, well, as long as Call of Duty sells in the millions, ambitious titles like Beyond will always be second or lower in terms of sales. However, if we are willing to take a risk and enjoy something that has more thought and work put into it, I think gamers will be surprised. Sure, I enjoy a good shooter here and there, and know these kinds of games are not for everyone, but with the rise of indie games and kickstarter projects going the more unique and interesting route of game design, I think it is time we change our view of games a bit and try something new. I also hope the controls aren’t as clunky as Heavy Rain’s style of moving. Heck, I love Heavy Rain, it’s one of my top 10 favorite games, but man, do the moving controls just feel awkward.

To no one’s surprise, I am excited for this game. At first, I was going to wait and rent it to see if I would actually buy it since I did that with Heavy Rain, but after thinking about it for a few days and seeing the most recent trailer of the game, I said, screw that, and now I have my preorder of the Limited Edition waiting for me this October. I honestly wish more triple-A games that come out in the future have this kind of ambition alongside games like Watch Dogs, and like I said, the indie and kickstarter games. Beyond: Two Souls is coming out October 8th and will only be on the PlayStation 3. Thanks for reading and have a nice day!