When I'm not playing, thinking about, purchasing, thinking about purchasing or otherwise idly day dreaming about video games, I enjoy counting my toes to make sure that no more have unexpectedly grown and attending the latest operas dressed in my favourite Captain Crunch outfit (I have several just in case one gets stolen or ceased by the authorities for infringement reasons).
Title: Beyond: Two Souls Developer: Quantic Dream Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Country: France Release: October 8th 2013 (North America/European Union/Australia) Format: PS3
Following the commercial and critical success of 2010's Heavy Rain, Quantic Dream's next PS3 exclusive 'Beyond: Two Souls' recently became the first video game ever to be featured in a major international film festival. The audience at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival in New York were shown a specially edited 35 minute preview built from in-game footage followed by a motion capture demonstration and Q&A session with director David Cage and cast members Ellen Page, Kadeem Hardison and Eric Winter. Chairing the presentation was writer and New York Times journalist Harold Goldberg.
Beyond: Two Souls has been described as "a marriage between cinema and games" and tells the story of Jodie Holmes, a young woman who was born with a supernatural link to an invisible entity known only as Aiden. After years of struggling with her unique gift, Jodie becomes estranged from her parents, is given the lab rat treatment by corporations and government hoping to harness her power and finally escapes as a homeless and penniless fugitive. Sadly, however her pursuers never seem to be far behind and life on the city streets also come with its own problems.
Forced onto the streets, Jodie has to rely on Aiden and her wits to survive.
The demo first featured Jodie's initial hours on the streets including a telephone call to her mentor, a scientist and close friend played by Willem Dafoe. In an extremely emotional scene, Jodie is then rescued from the streets by a homeless stranger before attempting to commit suicide by jumping from a building, a plan prevented by the spirit of Aiden who Cage has described as being sometimes helpful or controlling based on the situation. In later scenes, Jodie saved a new homeless friend from an attempted Youtube mugging by four street thugs, helped by the spirit of Aiden and delivered a baby in a backstreet before being forced to escape from an abandoned building during a vicious arson attack by the camera phone gang from earlier. The demonstration ended with Jodie being attacked with a baseball bat and left for dead before the ambulances and fire crew arrived. In case you haven't already guessed, this isn't a game meant for kids.
Visually the game looks incredible, even compared with Heavy Rain which still remains one of the best looking console games available and is testament to what the PS3 can still do in the right hands. The world seems to live and breathe, character faces and expressions look extremely realistic and the high quality visuals of the scenery should make for an engrossing and immersive experience throughout the game's 10 hour single player story.
The cast list for Beyond: Two Souls is capable of rivaling many major Hollywood productions.
The control system appears to be similar to Heavy Rain in that players will be prompted for button presses or motion control movements during the action or dialogue with the game's other characters. Players will also be able to summon or take control of Aiden at the touch of a button for puzzle solving or to help Jodie and her friends at a time of need. The demo included Jodie calling upon Aiden to open a locked door from the other side and to check on the health of her friend's then unborn child. Cage was however quick to point out that this is a game 'more about people than about the supernatural' and the main focus of the story is to invoke player emotion and sympathy for Jodie's situation, despite the supernatural elements.
During the closing minutes of the Q&A session, when asked about how he expects Beyond to compete in today's market of franchise first person shooters and budget or free to play mobile games, Cage replied that Quantic Dream are working to create an extraordinary experience that is different from most other games available today, adding that "you don't always need a gun to interact". Personally I cannot wait to play this game. Quantic Dream stand out as a very unique studio and Cage seems to be a visionary capable of looking at the medium differently and pushing it in ways not usually explored by other developers. PS4 or not, this should definitely be a game to watch out for when it launches later this year.
If you would like to try one of Quantic Dream's earlier titles in the meantime, then I highly recommend Fahrenheit (AKA Indigo Prophecy) which was released on the Xbox, PS2 and PC in 2005 and is currently available on PC from Good Old Games for $2.99. The GOG version is guaranteed to be compatible with Windows 7 and Windows 8 and will definitely be a worthwhile investment.
Title: Aliens: Colonial Marines Developer: Gearbox Software Publisher: Sega Release: February 12th 2012 (North America/European Union) Format: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U Format previewed: Xbox 360
In recent years, few games seem to have been delayed for as long as Aliens: Colonial Marines and even mentioning this game on some forums now will launch comparisons with 2011's critically damned Duke Nukem Forever, particularly as both titles carry the Gearbox label. However I can confidently say that aside from a few minor issues and the presence of evil alien enemies, the similarities seem to end there.
In the initial opening stages of Colonial Marines which I played today, the action takes place on the U.S.S. Sulaco shortly after the events of the first Alien movie and the Colonial Marines have been dispatched on a rescue mission with all occupants of LV-426 assumed dead. From the very beginning the development team's homage to the movies which inspired this game become evident with the bottom half of the treacherous android Bishop strewn across the docking bay and areas of the level such as floor grates left as they were by the now absent, and assumingly deceased, crew.
The protagonist is advised to simply get in and rescue the target however plans inevitably go quickly awry and the player is dragged along on a mission to secure data leading to a fight for survival against all manner of Xenomorphs, Facehuggers and opposing human mercenaries.
Visually, Colonial Marines is unlikely to win many awards. Like many titles which share a similarly long development cycle, the graphics really show their age compared with some of the more impressive titles from recent years however obvious care has been paid to the trademark off-white aesthetic and lighting which helps to gloss over some of the occasionally ropey detail and bland low-resolution textures. The audio design on the other hand is superb and anybody with a great sound system or paid of surround headphones is bound to be immediately impressed. The Xenos let out life-like and horrifying screams, Facehuggers scuttle in the distance, clattering with the surfaces and scenery and the legendary sounds of the motion sensor and pulse rifle will evoke feelings of nostalgia in any fan of the franchise.
The AI is also similarly impressive, the Xenos will hunt in packs and work together to outflank the player, climbing along the walls and ceilings. AI companions seem capable of handling themselves realistically although notably the initial mission which I played involved several instances of defending your AI team mate whilst they cut open a door and in almost every case the enemies seemed to target the human player, even walking directly past my AI team mate on one occasion. The now industry-standard regenerating health bar is ever present however acid blood splashes and spit from the Xenos will impact harm upon the player, causing health to regenerate more slowly and damaging armor and to recover health completely after taking massive damage will require a medi pack which are only sporadically placed on normal difficulty.
Overall, this looks like it could be the most promising Aliens tie-in since the original Aliens Vs. Predator games on the PC and whilst my initial time with the game failed to invoke the kind of fear and terror which I experienced with something like Dead Space, Colonial Marines could still turn out to be the game which Aliens fans have been so patiently waiting for since this current generation began.