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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Beyond: Two Souls

TranscriptEdit

As anyone who's eaten Tex-Mex before a long plane ride will tell you, colons can be very problematic. I fucking hate saying the title Beyond: Two Souls, 'cause you have to mark the colon with a little pause, or people think you're saying Beyond Two Souls, as in "more than two souls". So, three souls, then? Four souls, dare we dream!? But if you take off either part of the title then people won't know what you're talkin' about:

"I've been playing Beyond!"
"Beyond what? Beyond the limits of social acceptability?"
"No, I mean I've been playing Two Souls!"
"Oh, right, isn't that that really hard game from By Software? I mean, by From Software?"
"No, that's Dark Souls!"
"Oh, so you were playing some kind of game about the exploration of several human sphincters?"
"No, that's Arse Holes!"

The whole colon-title-separation thing is predicated on the irritating trend that all games must at least pretend to be launching some kind of larger franchise. But, frankly, after playing this, I wouldn't hold out much hope for Beyond 2: Some More Souls We Found in a Hedge.

Beyond – Eergh, fuck that – The Ellen Page Variety Hour comes to us from David Cage, a man who is himself caught between two worlds: eager to spearhead a unique genre of interactive narrative, but at the same time possessing the writing ability of a half-melted chocolate bunny rabbit. His previous game, Heavy Rain, switched between ridiculous high-octane quick-time event scenes and prolonged sequences of someone bumbling around their house, looking for objects and surfaces to momentarily rest their gonads on, like if someone intercut Dragon's Lair with security footage from my living room on the morning of a major deadline.

Ellen Page-apalooza does thankfully tone things down a bit with the bumbling – well, depending on your personal bumbling capacity – but without bumbling, the game's little more than a linear sequence of actions, each firing off only after you press the button prompt, and the great thing about this is that you can recreate the exciting "interactive narrative" experience by watching any normal film and pressing the pause button every two seconds. Or by strapping yourself into a Chinese water torture machine that asks for your consent between every single fucking drip.

Previous games have attempted broad multi-character stories that all spectacularly collapsed, so this time the narrative focusses on a single character, randomly flipping back and forth between key points in Ellen Page's life, from birth to childhood to teens to more teens to– actually, she never really moves past the teens. It is quite funny at one point when she's supposed to be a rogue CIA agent but she looks more like a 15-year-old boy put on camo gear, and drew all over his face with black felt-tip pen like mummy's little insurgent.

Anyway, Ellen Page is really sad her whole life because there's an invisible ghost following her around who kills everyone she doesn't like. Fucking suck it up, Ellen Page; some of us had to make do with rat poison growing up! But no, the ungrateful tart spends half the game sounding like she's about to start crying, and the other half crying. Actually, everyone in this game cries like altar boys after lights-out. You could use their faces to irrigate the Sahara, since, y'know, the emoting thing doesn't seem to be working out. I do think it's churlish to criticize facial animation when just ten years ago you'd be lucky if characters opened their mouths when they spoke. But having said that, whenever someone's supposed to be at the limits of screaming emotion in this game, it looks more like they're concentrating really hard on trying to do a horse impression.

The Ellen Page-David Cage Rage Gauge pulls a very mean fast one by letting you think there's actually gonna be some fucking gameplay in it. There's a stealth tutorial early on when Ellen Page is training for the CIA in a sequence borne out of David Cage watching the opening sequence to The Silence of the Lambs at some point, introducing such mechanics as using your ghost murderer friend to scout ahead and clear paths, as well as cover mechanics and pre-animated takedowns, which normally would excite me as much as a lukewarm sponge on a dead cat's face, but I'll fucking take it if it means we can finally have some action that isn't a sequence of quick-time events, cracking off like farts from a row of nervous pigs. The problem is that, besides the tutorial, these mechanics are used on only one other occasion, which, by staggering coincidence, turns out to be the bit that was in the gameplay trailers. Now that's just dishonest, David Cage! What was the thinking? "Yeah, people might get pissed off with how little organic gameplay with invisible murderer ghosts there actually is, but I reckon by that point they'll have been drawn in to Ellen Page's heartwarming struggle to kiss a succession of hunky boys!"

And for the record, Despite Ellen Page, I Am Still Just a Rat in a Cage contains the most retarded attempt at a token multiplayer mode I have seen since The Amazing Back-Titted Woman: it's the same as the single-player except one player controls the Pagemaster and the other controls her imaginary friend. But since neither character can do anything while the other is in control, you may as well just pass the controller back and forth. And it's pretty unfair if you ask me, if one of you gets to kick furniture around like a bored six-year-old with the upper-body strength of Rowdy Roddy Piper, while the other, meaning no disrespect, has to be Ellen Page, the snotty handkerchief trapped in the body of a human being, whose secondary misbehaving invisible friend is the camera, to which her movement controls are oriented, so controlling her is like playing putt-putt with a gym ball and a breeze block on the end of a stick. If you are playing as Ellen Page, then when you're at a point where you have to switch to the other player to make the plot move forward, it won't do so until you press the button. So at least that provides a way to glean some amusement from the experience: "I know it says to push the button, but I dunno, maybe some secret will be revealed if we watch this idle animation another eight or nine times!"

Buried somewhere in the concept of piloting a telekinetic ghost with a grudge against furniture, there may be a nice little idea for a game, but in the hands of Quantic Dream it is like an arthritic horse trying to hold a china teapot. For a company so bent on exploring videogame storytelling, you'd think they'd get less shit at it! The tone and atmosphere wobble insanely back and forth like the wheels on an insolent supermarket trolley, so one minute Ellen Page is exploring the grim realities of homelessness, and the next she's using spirit magic to fight Native American demons with a pair of hunky boys. All the characters' actions bear about as much resemblance to believable human behaviour as a camel licking sweat off your forehead does to a whirlwind holiday romance.

About the best thing Quantic Dream games do is provide material for David Cage's psychological profile. What struck me out in this one is that he's got a really patronizing view of poverty; nobility and quiet intelligence go up in inverse proportionality to the character's bank balance, while rich characters all seem to end up taking drills to people's hoo-has. Maybe he's just trying not to alienate himself from the people he might have to live with if he keeps making games like this fucking shambles.

AddendaEdit

  • Keeps all his souls in an unmarked van: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • In my experience teenagers will at least wait until the second playdate before trying to burn you with cigarettes
  • Who needs hunky boys when you have me

ScreenshotsEdit

ZP BTS 1

"No, that's Arse Holes!"

ZP BTS 2

But I reckon by that point they'll have been drawn in to Ellen Page's heartwarming struggle to kiss a succession of hunky boys!

ZP BTS 3

In the hands of Quantic Dream, it is like an arthritic horse trying to hold a china teapot.

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2

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