3. A-List Duo Pays Off Big Time.
The script was over 2000 pages. Yikes.
I'm a big fan of Ellen Page's recent roles since Inception. I really dug her in this year's indie The East, alongside co-writer Brit Marling (Sound of My Voice). She's great at playing individuals living off the grid. Even in the tech-heavy Nolan pic she remained old-school brainy. As Jodie, she has plenty of moments to embody a young woman who can work a firearm as well as a guitar. In the aforementioned homeless chapter, she has does a nice acoustic version of Beck's "Lost Cause." Nice pipes!
Her performance is all over this role; delivering snarky lines with her signature half-smirk, Page is unique. With her numerous facial expressions and the way she skitter-walks, she's the opposite of the Lara Crofts of the gaming universe. Thankfully, processing power has come such a long way from the unnerving uncanny valley days of CGI. Even when some of the writing might feel a bit too on the nose, Page sells it. One such scene has teen Jodie sneaking out to a bar. It's obvious from the moment she sees the local drunk guys what might happen, but Page elevates the material.
As for Dafoe? His virtual skin has been de-aged a bit. His noticeably high cheekbones reveal a grin that gives him that Norman Osborn circa 2002 look. As Dr. Dawkins, his role is merely supportive, but he delivers just enough heft.
2. Deliver a Baby, Then Save Said Baby From a Burning Building, Hulk Style!
Like Doctor David Banner (TV version, not comic book Bruce), Jodie encounters plenty of folks who need her help. As you probably figured out, thugs really shouldn't make Aiden angry. They won't like him when he's angry....
In Arizona, she aides the best aged-CGI old women ever. There's a mystery to solve too so Jodie/Aiden are on the case! Sticking with the Hulk TV show comparison, that makes Dr. Dawkins the Mr. McGee part, but Dawkins is much nicer and way less scheming. I wasn't kidding about the burning building scenario, either - the baby is just one occupant!
Cue Hulk sad music.
Jodie even does the lonely hitchhiker moment.
1. Even When I Live in a Swanky Pad, I Still Order Take-out.
I woulda just worn a T shirt and jeans.
Seriously, only a David Cage game will have you get ready for a dinner date with options like being stylish (nice dress, clean up apartment) or lazy (jeans for me). I was in no mood to cook for Ryan, the dude Jodie is crushing on, so I just chose "order pizza". I was delighted to hear Jodie say that she can't believe she has the number of the pizza joint memorized. Once the date began, I switched to Aiden so I could be a havoc-causing jerk. These are the touches that a David Cage production brings.
Continue on, you crazy Frenchman. To the PS4!
3. Replayability Pretty Low.
That homeless level screams to be played over and over...
This is a $60 game where, IMO, the stunning production value justifies the hefty price tag. However, I've actually never bothered to replay Heavy Rain. I'm glad Beyond allows me to revisit chapters so I might replay some of them. Or I might not.
2. Why Such a Reliance on the Fantastical? "Condensers?" Huh?
Good thing, Aiden didn't use this as his vessel.
After Indigo Prophecy's cop tale gave way to last-act antics like ridiculous shadow monsters, Cage was determined to not rely on magic for Heavy Rain. (Technically, he did not, but Detective Jaden's cyber tech was realism stretching too.) The title, Beyond: Two Souls makes no bones about having supernatural elements. For the most part, it works better than expected. Until, however, the plot gets bigger and more, well, loopy in (once again) the last act.
Don't misunderstand, Aiden is a compelling character that brings a necessary balance to Jodie's more earthbound concerns (like that chapter where you cook and clean), yet, the mystery of Aiden's existence leads to silly contraptions. Dr. Dawkins tries to create a bridge between the great beyond and our own with gigantic metallic condensers. Um, what? The whole "other side" plot device hasn't been interesting since Poltergeist made us care for blonde tyke Carol Anne. Aiden is spooky enough while the Under Verse (or whatever it's called) ultimately underwhelms.
1. QTE Stuff Gets Old.
Players reply on a single white dot as the main mode of the direction in the game. In theory, this should be intuitive: to punch a guy, click right, to sit down, click down, etc., but many times it just isn't, which leads to much frustration. Worse is getting bogged down by holding several buttons at once (R1, L1, square) thereby breaking the immersion. Other more standard controls like walking feel too narrow. Example: you can't use the right stick to look around as you walk, or more specifically, you can't look more than a few degrees in either direction. Cage has a gift for melding tech with human-feelings so I hope his next project will finally solve what is his biggest problem: awkward controls that lessens the fun.
Verdict: Recommended for fans of Heavy Rain or anyone else looking willing to trade intuitive gameplay for engaging cinematic storytelling. The fact is no one else in the industry makes stuff like David Cage. If he is the Godard of games, where is gaming's Truffaut? At the very least, can we get a Death Chess simulator inspired by The Seventh Seal? Now, that I wanna play!
Previously by Peter Paras: