The Advocate: The Case for Beyond: Two Souls

October 21st, 2012 @ 02:18:19

After completing my playthrough of Beyond: Two Souls, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. This disappointment wasn’t the game’s fault, but rather with the people who had reviewed it. No one is ever going to see eye-to-eye on everything, that’s just life. What was upsetting, was that these opinions didn’t feel like they came from a place where a reviewer’s focus ought to be. Rather than focusing on what a game is and, there seemed to be a lot of weight put into what it wasn’t. There is a difference between grading something in comparison to another subject, and then there is grading things by expectation. It is the need for an advocate when an idea has it right, and many of the reviews felt as if they were rating on expectation.

The key critique of critics is the simple expectation that this was going to be Heavy Rain 2. The people who had reviewed Beyond: Two Souls were expecting radical branching of story arch and complex narrative shifts up the “wazoo.” I’m sorry not every single movie can be Inception, but a director should be permitted to explore new areas. There was clearly an effort to give a similar feel to players who had played Heavy Rain, but as stated before, this isn’t Heavy Rain. While there are choices to be made that will affect the ending of the game in Heavy Rain, Beyond is less of a game choice and more of a directed experience with interactions in-between to keep players involved. Video games may be an interactive medium, but that doesn’t mean every single game has to have multiple outcomes. Even though Heavy Rain had more weight (no pun intended) to the decisions the player made, Beyond gives just the right amount of satisfaction dictating where certain relationships go.

beyond5

While some may claim Beyond: Two Souls is a more passive experience, it is far more demanding when we talk about the new co-op feature. The mechanics are simple, but communication between player one and two is essential to completing objectives. This experience demands some role-playing that the solo experience only scratches the surface of. It’s understandable that this subtle change of pace is overlooked by reviewers because of the solitary nature of reviews. Typically when reviewing games in these days, multiplayer is expected to be online and requires little to no permission to interact. Playing single-player, one person will have control of both Aiden and Jodi, but when both characters are being controlled by two people. There is a much more surreal sense of these two characters being connected to each other. Because of these lack-luster reviews, it is saddening that this implementation of co-op will be lost when discussing games that did cooperative gaming right.

beyond_two_souls_jodie

It can’t stress enough that there is no intention to sound like the immature gamer that has waited a significant amount of time to play a game, invested the initial $60, and then had a need to be validated by gaming outlets. That is a completely separate issue that can be addressed at another time, but for now it is simply the idea of shutting down what a game does right. The review that had lead to the writing of this article, was IGN’s Lucy O’Brien’s review of Beyond: Two Souls. Her opinions of Beyond are as valid as anyone else’s, but benefits from the IGN podium that, in a grander sense, determines whether a game is remembered or not. There are few if any games that scored a 6.0 that we still talk about to this day. It’s one of the biggest gripes that many people like myself have with scoring systems. We associate them with the academic grading system, where anything below a “B” or “80%” isn’t worth it. It had all the merit to be at least considered “Good,” with all the ideas and boundaries it pushes. Everything considered, Beyond may fall by the wayside in the minds of many people as the next generation approaches and it’s a damn shame that it would be put down.

Aside from the simple expectation of Beyond: Two Souls being Heavy Rain 2, the way the story is told through constant back and forth put a lot of people off. This is where it is people can have open judgement, so long as it is for the story’s sake and not in comparison to Heavy Rain. The story could have been told in a linear fashion, but Beyond does something that many games don’t, and that’s make it almost impossible to spoil. Showcasing the game to friends, one of them had pleaded that I don’t play for the sake of not spoiling the story for him. The beauty of it was, the only way it could have been spoiled for him was by playing the final act of the game. Each part of Beyond provides a better understanding of the story without directly telling players where each piece of the puzzle falls. This works on two levels, one being that they’d be hard pressed to have the story spoiled for them, and two being that the co-op experience is unhindered when a player decides to go it alone for a bit.

BeyondTwoSoulsTribeca18

It has been difficult coming to terms with the idea that this game will be seen as both a disappointment and one of the Playstation 3’s swan songs. In the end, it comes down to the person playing the game. Games are never definite, even games with the highest of praise can be disliked. A game that comes to mind is the first Prototype. It received fairly mediocre scores, but the game had clicked with me on every level. I had an admiration for it, an understanding it wasn’t for everyone. That is ultimately what will happen with any game. Games like The Last of Us, BioShock: Infinite, and Grand Theft Auto V may successfully appeal to the majority of consumers that buy those games, but there will always be someone the game doesn’t click with. Beyond: Two Souls is one of those games. Beyond connected with me on an emotional level, and had changed how I see games as a medium. The ideas it had right will stay with me, but I will have to be the advocate for those ideas. It’s not so much that these people don’t agree with a position, it’s the lack of support for that claim when a game gets something right.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Top 5 PSN Games to Play for Halloween!

It is finally that time of the year, and in my opinion, the best time of the year! Now assuming you are too old for trick-or-treating, it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate Halloween. Here are my five personal favorite games to play through in October to get into the spirit of things.

1. Costume Quest

Video Game_costume quest_285106

As stated before, you are probably too old for trick or treating, but why add a little adventure to it? Dress up, and suit up as you and your ragtag neighborhood heroes help you save your sibling from evil Grubbins. While gameplay gets repetitious, the writing is fun and you’ll be so preoccupied with side quests and searching for costumes, it won’t matter. It’s a short game, which is perfect to get your Halloween fix without making too big of a dent in your game time.

2. InFamous 2: Blood Festival

infamous_festival_of_blood_ps3_game-1920x1080

Come back to a simpler time, when vampires didn’t sparkle and sucked the blood of women, not have mutant-half-demon babies with them. Blood Festival is a drastic deviation from the core game’s themes, but this stand alone expansion brings new life, and powers to Cole as he transforms into a creature of the night. In a speed run, the game’s main story can last you as little as two and a half hours, but if you want to see Cole’s true vampiric potential, you can easily double that time.

3. Plants Vs. Zombies

5428950560_b3b1fa1928_o

Okay, okay, I feel a little guilty putting this game in my list because it’s a great game no matter what time of the year it is. It’s just something about playing it at this time of year seems so much more appropriate.

4. The Walking Dead

the-walking-dead-the-game

If Plants Vs. Zombies is only scratching the surface of that zombie infection, definitely check out last years highly acclaimed The Walking Dead. It’s an episodic game, with five episodes roughly two hours a piece. So turn that Hallow’s eve into a Hallow’s week with Telltale’s heart wrenching storytelling and all-too-likable cast.

5. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare

Undead-Wallpaper-red-dead-redemption-undead-nightmare-19650090-1920-1080If there is anything to be learned from videogames, it’s that bears, plus zombie outbreak, equals one of the deadliest creatures on this earth. This expansion to Red Dead Redemption takes the core game and creates something completely fresh. Of all the games on this list, this is one that will require that you own a copy Read Dead Redemption, but you should have one anyways!  

What are some of your favorite games to play for Halloween, or just scares in general? Leave comments down below! :)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Angry Birds Space Review

Angry-Birds-Space-Wallpaper-21

With a success like Angry Birds, it’s hard to believe that whatever new installment of the franchise Rovio is churning out is anything other than just a simple cash-in. With the exception of Angry Birds Rio, this has yet to be the case.

Angry Birds Space still maintains a lot of the simplicity of the original, but offers some very fresh ideas. Not only are you anticipating where your bird will land by launching them into the sky to wreak havoc on the pigs below, but now you will have to deal with gravity on a whole new level. Instead of having the simple fort to destroy, you will be launching your team of flustered avian compadres through entire gravity fields. Now you have to anticipate how gravity will work in your favor.

One of the more interesting elements you will have to take into account, is how to get some pigs back into orbit as they float mid-space. Sometimes the best route to take is to avoid gravity completely. Some of the birds maintain the same gameplay properties, but the lack of gravity changes some birds’ dynamics in new and interesting ways.

Angry Birds Space is not without its flaws though. While Space has a lot of new and fresh ideas, it falls victim to the things that were wrong with the Angry Bird games before it. Even though there is even more emphasis on strategy and how gravity affects the outcome, there is still no sure fire way to beat a level. The same tactic and maneuver may not yield the same results, lacking a sense of consistency. It is also incredibly short and unlike most Rovio games these days, there seems to be no future expansions in the works. I’d like to see more levels made for the game, but that is just the self-entitled gamer inside me talking.

Angry Birds Space is the newer iteration of the series and possibly one of the most innovative. It’ll hold you over until the next Angry Birds game comes out, if you are one to play in spurts, but it does fall short on the number of levels to previous Angry Bird titles. Even though it falls victim to the same flaws of previous games, Space offers up a lot of new ideas that make this an Angry Birds experience you won’t want to miss.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Journey Review

Barrems1

It’s hard to review a game like Journey because it does so many things that are just difficult to convey into words. Journey is the latest game from ThatGameCompany, responsible for previous games Flower and Flow. In Journey, you are a person or creature in cloth that has the simple goal of reaching the top of a mountain. It’s as simple as that, but in the hour and a half it takes to beat Journey, it becomes one of the most meaningful and emotionally driven goals I’ve ever experienced in a game. You will explore vast landscapes, dark temples, and push your way through a terrible snowstorm.

More than likely, you won’t be traveling alone. Journey doesn’t let you just call a buddy to play cooperatively with, it will be with a complete stranger, with no knowledge of who they even are. There is also no way to communicate in a traditional multiplayer setting. You are limited to the simple act of emitting bursts of energy through a simple press of the circle button. This burst of energy’s primary use is to activate certain events as you progress through the world, as well as enable the other player to fly. When you both communicate with this simple method, it is no longer just flying through the air, it becomes a beautiful dance in the sky. Communication with the other player was something magical when traversing through Journey’s world. There were moments where I was genuinely scared that I lost the other player, but then they would emit energy to signal their location, I felt like I had found a long lost friend.

While Journey provides you with the simple goal of reaching the top of a mountain. The world tells you stories of how the world came to be, and where previous attempts to reach the top of the mountain have failed. There is also, of course, the story of the experience your partner and you share along the way.

Journey’s gameplay is also complimented by a powerful score that really sets the tone of your adventure. It is very rare in games to have such a strong connection to what is happening on screen while evoking emotions that sync so harmoniously to the story telling.

There is something to be said about Journey’s design and what makes it so successful. From the depth of the worlds history to its vast vistas. Journey has a heart and soul, it relies on very simple mechanics that express so much. As much as I’d love to share my experience, I would be doing a great injustice to you and your experience. Journey is a classic and a game that needs to played by all people who would consider themselves gamers. It is a masterpiece in art, music, story telling, and has the most unique brand of multiplayer. Stop reading this, go play Journey for yourself, and experience one of the most beautiful games ever created.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update: “I’m Getting Better!”

I’m still sick, but I whipped up my FarCry 3 review. I have a bunch of topics I want to post, but I need my rest. Not sure when I’ll be back up and going again, but it’s bugging me that I’ve gone so long without posting anything. I should be back later in the week or Monday next week.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

FarCry 3 Review

Far-Cry-3

Feel like you’ve been overworked? Have no time to relax? No time to stop and smell the fresh air? Need to just get away? FarCry 3 just might be the vacation you’ve been waiting for. On this tropical paradise, we have leopards, tigers, bears, and oh my do we have some gorgeous views. Need to let off a little steam? Go hunting! Need to just let loose? Go hang gliding or ride an ATV across one of our many beautiful coastal beaches! Take in all the beauty and shear wonder the world of FarCry 3 has to offer.

The FarCry franchise isn’t one of consistent story telling. It’s more or less a name that is thrown onto a game with shiny graphics and a gun on the screen. FarCry 3 goes back to it’s origin on a tropical island littered with mercenaries  but this time, many of the elements introduced in FarCry 2, are brought to the scene. FarCry 3 is back in its natural habitat.

You play as Jason Brody, the average trust-fund kid who just got his pilot license and went out to celebrate with his best friends. They let loose, but get careless and fall into the middle of a civil war. You wake up caged next to your brother and are introduced to Vaas, a very mentally disturbed madman with a lot of power. As you and your brother go to make a daring escape, and your sibling is caught in the crossfire. Vaas lets you live and as you escape, you are then found by some rebels that want to bring the fight back to Vaas and take back the island.

It’s very rare that a game offers the kind of animated characters that FarCry 3 does. From  Vaas’ psychopathic behavior, to Dr. Earnhardt’s doped out analysis situations, each character holds their own. While the crew you went on vacation with aren’t anything special, it’s the people you meet along the way that make FarCry 3′s characters something different. Vaas is the star of the show here, his performance is one of the most well done characters in video game history. There is always a feeling of discomfort around him, and just his presence brings an insecurity I haven’t felt since Heath Ledger’s Joker. There is also an attempt to humanize Jason Brody, promoting the idea he isn’t a natural-born killer. As much as they tried, he is just a really modest Rambo.

When I say “a lot has changed about FarCry,” I mean A LOT. Many of the issues people had with FarCry 2 have been addressed, fixed, and even eliminated. No longer are you constantly checking your weapon’s condition, and no longer are you having to kill the same enemies at the same checkpoint you cleared out 20 minutes earlier. FarCry 3 has taken a lot of the more conventional approaches to their open world formula, side-missions, mini-games, etc, but there is also an underlying depth to the gameplay that you wouldn’t expect from a first-person shooter.

If compared to other open-world games, FarCry 3 feels a lot like Skyrim. While traversing the tropics of FarCry, it was rare that I was going in the direction the game was telling me to go. There were so many things that could be, or had to be done (in my mind) before I wanted to progress. I almost genuinely thought I had ADHD. There aren’t dragons flying overhead of course, but the amount of content in this game is overwhelming. From clearing outposts to hunting sharks for another weapon holster, boredom is almost impossible.

Unlike previous installments, FarCry 3 has a skill point system. You earn experience points to earn skill points, to then spend on different stat boosts and abilities. This is a really interesting approach and keeps the gameplay fresh and interesting. Any inconveniences you have with the game is fixed somewhere down the road. Tired of waiting for that enemy to leave the dock so you can climb up and sneak up on him? Well now you can grab him while he’s standing by the ledge. What’s also nice about this system, is that you don’t focus on one skill tree, in fact, it forces you to branch out (no pun intended) and try a little of everything. Now, not all skills are blocked off because you aren’t far enough in the game. Some need you to perform certain tasks, like punch a shark, or kill a certain number of enemies a certain way. So there is always something to work towards.

The way the game’s economy works is a little confusing at first, but is really interesting. It’s not hard to understand, it’s just not very upfront about how it works. One of the more crucial things that isn’t explained, is how you unlock weapons. You can unlock weapons one of two ways, buying with cash or by clearing enemy outposts and activating radio towers. So, even if you don’t have the wallet to pay for that sniper rifle, you can take out 3 more enemy outposts and get it completely free. It’s a nice system that allows you to pay ahead of time to get what you want, but it would have saved me a lot of money knowing I could have work towards it instead.

In FarCry 2, you had to really go out of your way to get diamonds to buy new weapons around the world. Same remains in FarCry 3, but now we’re using cash. Typically, when you find a crate or box with money in it, there is usually an item or two attached. You can then sell in the store for more money. The fun thing about these caches, is that some of them require a bit of exploring. I’m not big on going out of my way to collect things, but FarCry 3 made me feel like Indiana Jones when I found a hidden ruin and it was littered with crates and the occasional relic.

Probably one of the bigger things that you will have to do in FarCry 3 is hunt. Sure, you can get by with a single gun and whatever you start out with for a while, but you’ll soon get that itch to improve your weapon, ammo, and wallet capacities. To do so, you’re going to need to retrieve animal hides and other parts to upgrade. On your map, there are labelled areas of where certain animals inhabit the most. Sometimes I would find myself unable to find these animals. If you come back later or hang out for a while, they’ll show up. The fun part is that these areas are not exclusive to each species, sometimes there is a pack of wild dogs, or a tiger in the mix. You may want to go in for the kill, but if a leopard is nearby, you’re better off letting nature take its course. This also applies when taking out some enemy outposts in certain instances. Patience is key.

Despite these interesting and new ideas, there are some “less creative” ones. With every vehicle used, character met, item used, there is a journal entry with snarky descriptions of who is who, what each item does, and what guns you’ve used. This could have been cut out completely and it wouldn’t have been missed. This detail is something most players will either overlook, view to get rid of the exclamation marks in the start menu, or straight up ignore.

Multiplayer is a thing in FarCry 3 that is a tad tacked on. The competitive mode could have just been eliminated. It offers very little, and does very little to differentiate itself to be a real competitor in the online multiplayer market. Co-op however, clearly had more attention and focus put into it. This is where future downloadable content will play its largest role. Up to four players can team up and compete with each other as the fight alongside one another. Players earn experience points and a winner is chosen at the end of each level by how much they earned. These points contribute to a leveling system that unlocks new weapons, perks, and abilities like most other multiplayer modes in modern games. Overall, multiplayer could have been left out, and the game would have been strong enough on its own, but of course, that just isn’t how the industry does things today.

FarCry 3 knows how to keep players constantly motivated and how to keep them engaged. I have yet to feel like I have nothing to work towards or accomplish. Everything about singleplayer comes together so well, it’s impossible not to recommend. FarCry 3 is one of the best AAA singleplayer experiences to come out this year and you’d be crazy not to pick it up.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sick & Away

I haven’t posted anything all week due to being ill. Expecting to be back to normal by Monday. :)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment