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  1. Remember that tech demo from Quantic Dream several years back that starred a female android named Kara who became self-aware after her assembly? It turns out that that was merely the prologue to an actual game using the same exact character and story concept. That game was revealed to be called Detroit: Become Human, and it's coming to PlayStation 4 as revealed during Sony's Paris Games Week press conference today. Detroit will continue Kara's story about living secretly in a world among humans where androids are treated as second-class citizens and servants. No release date or window has been announced yet, but you can check out the trailer for the game below. Are you interested in Detroit: Become Human?
  2. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Beyond: Two Souls

    Developer: Quantic Dream Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Platform: PS3 Release Date: October 8, 2013 ESRB: M for Mature David Cage is an incredibly diversive man in the gaming community. Some have loved most or all of Quantic Dream“s output, while others have labeled them as ridiculous. If you fall into either camp, it should still be easy to tell that the developer has certainly been refining their output with each new game. From Omikron: The Nomad Soul to Heavy Rain, it“s obvious that Beyond: Two Souls is their most ambitious project to date. But is that enough to wow players everywhere? Beyond: Two Souls is the story of a young woman by the name of Jodie Holmes. Although there are many mysteries surrounding her, we know that she was scientifically observed from a very young age because of a strange power she exhibited. This power is actually a spirit name Aiden and he is mostly under Jodie“s control. At some point, she was turned over to the CIA to begin training with them. After all, her spiritual skills would make her an incredible asset in infiltration and war. None of this is a spoiler, but the hows and whys are. Instead of presenting the story in a “typical” fashion, we“re given insight into Jodie“s world in small chunks. Each memory chunk serves as a chapter and is also presented to the viewer in a nonlinear fashion. Nonlinear narratives are nothing new, but it may surprise some players since it is a tactic not often used with video games. Although there is a point to this narrative device (driven home very rigorously in the conclusion), it doesn“t seem to be the most effective way of getting players engrossed in Jodie“s world. Instead, it feels more hectic and annoying. At least it isn“t very confusing to tell what comes when in her life“s timeline. If you“ve ever played Indigo Prophecy, or better yet, Heavy Rain, then you already have a pretty good concept of how Beyond: Two Souls is played. There is such a great deal of focus on the cinematic presentation that player control is relegated to a simplistic format. Sometimes you can move a character around an environment and interact with specific bits. Other times, you“re mostly tasked with hitting button prompts for QTE events. New to this title is a new type of QTE which shows no prompt at all and hopes you“ll understand the direction to push based off what is happening on screen. For example, Jodie may be running and need to duck under a high tree branch. The game will slow down, signifying this is a moment to press the thumbstick in one of four directions. It“s simple enough to assume that down is the direction to press because she needs to duck. At times, this can become confusing as Jodie“s body moves backwards but her arms move forward, or at other junctions. Jodie is pretty tough, though, and will usually survive through multiple mistakes on the player“s part without repercussions. If you find this frustrating, then turning the difficulty down to “easy” will add on-screen prompts to these sections. Beyond that there are also a variety of choices to make. These are usually related to conversations that Jodie has with other characters. By choosing one, you are possibly tweaking the relationship between the two characters, or simply prying into their lives. Although the point of choices is to change the narrative, it seems that many still result in the same conclusions. For example, early on there is a moment where you can choose to dance with/kiss a boy who seems to like you. Whether you go through with it or completely rebuff his advances, he will still end up calling Jodie a ****. Is this incredibly biting social commentary or the limitations of choice in games? It“s likely the latter. However, because the game does not allow for multiple saves, Quantic Dream has made it harder to immediately compare the differences between choices to see what actually affects plot points. The most notable feature of Beyond: Two Souls is that players control both Jodie and her spirit friend Aiden. Aiden can only be used at certain times, but you“ll know when because Jodie will begin barking orders for him. In this mode, everything is vaguely blurry around the edges and objects that can be interacted with are highlighted. Sometimes it is just objects which need to be pushed or thrown, and other times Aiden can possess or kill humans. Possessions often end up resulting in killing too, but are a bit cooler. There are some out there who discount Quantic Dream“s latest endeavors because they are not enough of a “game”. This is a silly thing to say, of course, but my mind did wander a bit when considering what Cage ended up directing this time around. I kept being reminded of FMV games on the Sega CD and 32X. Back then, developer Digital Pictures (best known for Night Trap) created multiple games which often related to a story playing out that the player had to interact with from some sort of control room. It was hard to not feel the similarities as Jodie called out to Aiden (effectively “you”) for aid manipulating the environment. With that said, it is still an incredibly cinematic experience and is not hindered by its FMV and adventure style. It“s a reminder that maybe these types of games didn“t need to go away after all. As far as calling Beyond: Two Souls cinematic goes, one must also consider the fact that two big name actors are a part of the game. Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe are both present, although Dafoe is a secondary character. Seeing Page rendered in 3D is incredibly odd for a while and you can never really shake that it“s her playing Jodie. This happens often with certain actors in films as well, and as fun as it may be, it detracts from the storyline. We aren“t completely wrapped up in Jodie“s tale because all the while we are reminded that this is Ellen Page playing the lead role in Cage“s Beyond: Two Souls. It may be for this reason that it was hard for me to become involved in the narrative. That“s not to say Quantic Dream doesn“t try extremely hard to make you feel for Jodie and her struggles. Oh, they try, and they try hard to appeal to a viewer“s simplest emotions. Everything becomes dramatic to an extreme degree because that“s apparently what Cage views as skillful storytelling. It does seem to be more practiced than any of his previously directed projects, but there is still a ways to go. After all, drama for drama“s sake can work maybe once or twice in a storyline, but is not to be relied upon time and time again. It can easily exhaust the player and effectively drain them of emotional reaction after a while. Another likely result of the famous involvement was that other characters had far less attention paid to them. Almost everything is Jodie, Jodie, Jodie, and by the time the narrative switches back to someone else, it has far less impact. We get to know Jodie, but everyone else is merely an acquaintance. Even after setting my heart on one of the characters, it was with a shock that I realized late in the game I didn“t even know his name. To be fair, the story does have some interesting interludes. Perhaps the most interesting were Jodie“s experiences outside of the CIA. The paranormal stuff as a whole might get a little overwhelming at times, but if Cage has showed anything over his career, it“s that he is really interested in spirits and alternate realities. If you absolutely hate that sort of storytelling then stay far away. However, those who are not biased against ghostly stuff may be able to appreciate the story. Of course, he has also repeatedly shown an interest in “adult” content. His reasoning for this is always to push the medium of games closer to films, which are far less restricted in content than games. However, his method of pursuing this artistic freedom seems to betray his explanation. Players are treated to two shower scenes and both seem to exist to briefly view parts of Jodie“s body, since she herself doesn“t even seem fussed with actually cleaning herself. Instead, she stands around with her eyes closed or leans forward for inexplicable reasons. On the other hand, a possible romantic encounter is incredibly stilted and awkward. Perhaps Cage is still worried that pushing that boundary too far would get his game censored in North America again. Then there's the whole romance aspect of the narrative. Jodie has her choice of a few guys, but it seems very apparent who Cage hopes to pair her with. Unfortunately, the man in question is pretty terrible and gives little reason to make him any more appealing except for the fact that the game constantly gives you the choice to say yes to him and his advances. It's definitely weird and just another example of how player choice is still heavily controlled by the developer's overall vision of how it is supposed to play out. With all this said, there is nothing wrong with players getting invested in Beyond: Two Souls. It is a graphically impressive and well-acted story that takes us to a multitude of locations. Jodie is strong, if conflicted, and it is exciting to see her presented as a capable protagonist. And even if Cage is not as fantastic as he believes his work to be, he is still trying to create something interesting which is more than can be said than most other developers. I could definitely see players attracted to the game for that very reason - it“s something that is rarely available in the gaming medium. But just because Quantic Dream was trying something “new” doesn“t mean they instantly deserve nothing but praise. I appreciate that Beyond: Two Souls exists but the execution leaves much to be desired. If you“re in it for a standard action film-like experience with paranormal elements then this will definitely fit the bill. It is fun and even offers up choices that can be quite hard to make. Still, I couldn“t help but keep running into the borders of the world which showed how much Quantic Dream is still restricted in their presentation. Much of the choice is shallow and gameplay (for those looking for it) is extremely light. But if you“re interested in seeing a bold, imperfect attempt at storytelling in the gaming medium then Beyond: Two Souls is a worthwhile experience. And honestly, most who play it are probably looking for exactly that. Pros: + Gameplay usually serves narrative well instead of getting in the way of it + Jodie“s journey takes many twists and it is interesting to see what comes next + High quality visuals and soundtrack + Has a good deal of replayability if you“d like to see how things play out differently at critical junctures Cons: - Paying attention reveals the many aspects where the game fails at its grandiose goals - Narrative relies on excessive, sometimes borderline silly, drama to strong-arm an emotional reaction out of players - It appears most game choices don“t affect much - People other than Jodie are left undeveloped and feel like types rather than compelling characters Overall Score: 6.0 (out of 10) Decent Beyond: Two Souls strains at the seams of what a video game narrative is “allowed” to be and falters. Still, it serves as an interesting experience which will entice some players with its paranormal storyline, cinematic flourishes, and accessible control scheme.
  3. When the PlayStation Blog was updated today it came with a batch of unexpected news. Considering Beyond: Two Souls was not discussed more more than a second in the recent PS conference, it seemed perhaps a game that would remain under wraps for a while longer. However, that now appears to not be the case at all as a release date as well as other information about the game was clarified. First, it has been dated for October 8th launch on PS3. Alongside that, they are giving all GameStop pre-order copies DLC which adds thirty minutes to the overall experience. Quantic Dream did similar when they gave away a DLC prequel with Heavy Rain. Also, if you pre-order then you get immediately upgraded to the special edition. Of course with this type of "special edition" you aren't really getting much more. It comes with steelbook packaging, behind the scenes videos, soundtrack download, PS3 theme and avatar bundle. One interesting feature of the game is that the lead character not only looks like Ellen Page but is acted by her. She's not the only star on the set though, as it has been revealed that Willem Dafoe is also taking part in Beyond: Two Souls. The two characters work together as they try to understand Jodie's psychic powers. Now to wonder if there are other famous names yet to be revealed or if this is it. Do you like the idea of Hollywood actors playing game characters?
  4. David Cage is a man who seriously enjoys discussing video games. His company, Quantic Dream, has come out with a handful of games that were well-received as well (Heavy Rain). Today he got up on the DICE stage and discussed what he felt needed to be addressed. According to Cage, the games industry behaves like teenagers because it is scared of "growing up". As such, he offered up nine ways that, if followed, would push the games industry toward real growth and acceptance. Here are the titles, with descriptions for some of the concepts below: Make games for all audiences Change our paradigms The importance of meaning Become accessible Bring other talent on board Establish new relationships with Hollywood Changing our relationship with censorship The role of the press The importance of gamers Cage does not see the games industry as devoted to making games for everyone. There are games for children, teens, but what of adults who do not want that same media? Adults are not catered to due to the paradigms in the industry which assert violence as the only method of value. If the industry can get away from violence, then we can see games for more people made available. He also would like to see games made more accessible. He did not go into accessibility in regards to disabled players, but players who are not comfortable with standard "tough" gameplay and controllers. In making games for everyone, we would also need some games which exist without trying to force difficult obstacles onto a player. Of course, games exist to counter his claims, but they are not the norm. Then Cage brings up censorship. It is true that many games are not able to reach their full potential due to the ESRB, as well as outside eyes on gaming, but my view is this is a point which the industry cannot take on fully by itself. Those in the position of rating games must learn to rate them as they would films, and even then, movies are often robbed of their initial integrity due to the MPAA. Unfortunately, the games industry itself won't be able to take care of these issues. Finally, he raves a bit about the importance of gamers in the equation. Gamers must not "buy crap" in order to see good games come out. Of course, this is based on Cage's own perceptions of what a bad game is. Regardless, the points are ones that many have espoused before, just not at DICE. There's good points and bad points, but at the end of the day developers will go with what keeps their company afloat, regardless if it's best for gaming as a whole.