Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Thoughts on 'Beyond: Two Souls'

Despite the awkward title, I was really looking forward to this, I really was. Ellen Page is my favourite actress and Willem Dafoe is awesome too, and Heavy Rain was somewhat competent as well. I haven't played the game yet, but I want to. I know that it's not going to be as good as I hoped, but I still want to see Ellen Page in every haircut ever, and Willem Dafoe to feature in something that isn't bile. But what else would I expect from David Cage? He's not a very good writer or director. I understand that he wants to progress story in his games but he might just be in the wrong medium.

For those who aren't familiar with David Cage, he directed and wrote Heavy Rain and Farenheight/Indigo Prophecy. He's a fan of the 'choose-your-own-adventure' type of genre; not having much gameplay apart from waggles of the sticks, clunky, awkward movement and Quick-Time Events. Actual gameplay, of course, interferes with the story in David Cage's mind. Having a narrative weaved in to gameplay is an impossible task, apparently, so he chooses to have short moments of a benign gameplay followed by a lengthy cutscene, in which your choices have little effect. But enough of that now.

There's no reason why Heavy Rain couldn't have been a TV drama, or a film, or a murder mystery novel rather than a game. Sure, there are choices to be made, but they're really unnecessary once you complete it. In Heavy Rain, on every playthrough, the identity of the killer is always the same, so there's no point replaying a murder mystery if you already know the mystery, thus making that specific set of choices the only choices that matter. So no, Heavy Rain doesn't belong in games because the interaction is little, the choices, while they result in different endings, are pointless and the atmosphere is little.

So how can David Cage make Beyond: Two Souls any better? By the looks of it, it's very style over substance, in favor of pushing technology than making an actual game, and rather trivial. The whole mocap thing with popular film actors is cool, but it's a very defeatist attitude when you get right down to it. Why have respected game industry veterans in on the project when you can greet video games with Hollywood majestic presence? Almost as if Hollywood is the final frontier for games, or specifically: David Cage.

In recent years, game have been trying to be more cinematic, with Max Payne 3 taking seriousness to its ultimate conclusion, DMC: Devil May Cry having an instagram-esque filter with uber-stylish cutscenes, and The Last of Us trying to be the game equivalent of Oscar-bate. I say leave cinema for cinema. Why make a decent movie with scattered QTE sequences when you can make a great game instead?

By the looks of it, Beyond: Two Souls doesn't look like it has the components to be a great game. It might be a super fine interactive movie with two great film stars, but not a great game. It's a shame, really, because now there's little to look foward to in Gaming Season 2013. Hmm. Well at least there was a Terraria update.