Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Beyonder

I played through the "Beyond: Two Souls" demo this weekend. Yahtzee's review seems pretty fair - it's an extended quick time event disguised as an awkward, disconcerting, hard-to-control shambles of a game.

Bumming around as a ghost could have been fun if it wasn't so fiddly and, bizarrely, restricted; the ghost-centric demo level was initially fun but it soon became apparent that it was really a matter of sweeping the area for all the little interaction hot spots, then moving the joysticks in or out or down, and sometimes (if it's a "possession" hot spot) tapping a few prompted buttons. There was no sense that I could properly roam and chuck shit about at will.

On the other hand, the human-centric sequence is (as Yahtzee says) confused and disorienting. The camera switches angles as dramatically appropriate, which is nice and cinematic, but when running down a train it leaves you confused about which way you've just come (and when driving a motorbike leaves you terrified about steering off the road). The total lack of anything but contextual controls made me uncertain about what I was expected to do in any given situation until it flashed up on the screen, either with the slow-motion "guess which way we hope you'll interpret this movement as leading" moments or a literal icon.

Zero Punctuation makes the point that Quantic Dream keep trying to explore the nature of the interactive narrative in video games but keep coming out with these confused messes. I'd say the problem is that they are focussing too much on the stories - or, possibly on the very pretty graphics - and just entirely forgetting about the "video game" part of the project. There's really nothing resembling a game here, you're just watching your TV while occasionally flapping your controller.  Beyond: Two Souls appears to be a reasonably interesting movie that is trying, not entirely successfully, to convince you that you have some level of agency or input into the unfolding events.

I might play it through if I see it for very cheap indeed, because I would kind of like to see the story and don't mind flapping the occasional button as I watch. It gives one something to do with one's hands. Plus, apparently there are hot boys in it! So that's something.