Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Beyond something

Beyond: Two Souls is grotesquely stupid. Full stop. End of story. I have a higher than average tolerance for bull shit and on several occasions I looked down at my hands, shook my head and lamented to no one in particular 'So this is what I am doing with my life.' Mashing L1 or R1 to climb a wall. Pressing X to deliver a baby. Failing quick attempts on purpose only to have the game shuffle me along because it had to time for player choice or freedom, the delivery of its story was the only thing of importance.

Quantic Dream doesn't really make games, they make vaguely interactive experiences that could just as easily be played with a DVD remote as a controller. Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain at least allowed the player to feel like he or she is playing. Beyond: Two Souls doesn't even get that far. Worse still, I believe that it was an intentional decision to remove any and all player agency. It becomes voyeuristic, and not just because Jodie takes off her pants at every opportunity, though that certainly doesn't help.

Even if I view Beyond: Two Souls as non-interactive fiction it is still terrible. Every single section, save one that I will get to later, that features Jodie as a child or teenager is a crashing bore. We get it, she's awkward and more than a little bitchy. She also has a get out of trouble free card in the form of an invisible companion who almost always does what she says. Talk about an enabler. Equally stupid and just as unbelievable are all the sequences of adult Jodie in the CIA, continent hopping and being a general badass. I can suspend my disbelief about Aiden, her spiritual companion, just fine. The training montage followed by Jodie killing her way across a war torn African town were right out. I just wanted the game to end.

The final insult comes from two chapters that buck the trend and are actually good. First off is The Condenser: teen Jodie is sent in after scientists mistakenly open a door to the infraworld and release evil versions of Aiden, getting themselves and the recovery team all killed in the process. There was an excellent F.E.A.R. vibe to this; I was waiting for Alma to walk around the corner or, better yet, for the twist at the end to be that Jodie was Alma. No luck on either of these but it was still the only part of the game that featured anything close to tension.

Second was a longer chapter that finds Jodie lost in the desert, taken in my a family of native americans. I know nothing of native american legends and lore but I feel that the subject was treated with unexpected respect. It was a self contained story; this is exactly how the rest of the game should have worked. Establish the characters of Jodie and Aiden then send them out on a journey. Have them simply walk the earth, doing good, and then disappearing into the sunset because no one can accept them for who they are.

Instead I get political conspiracies, forced romances and the good guy, father figure losing his mind and turning off the containment field that holds all the monsters in so he can be with his family. Everybody dies, no one is satisfied and I couldn't wait for the game to be over.

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