Unfortunately, despite the hype, Beyond Two Souls hasn’t managed to successfully bridge the proverbial gap between video game and film. Many titles have attempting such a plug, with some getting closer than others - even Two Souls – but it’s the chasm remains. Hang on, though, do we really need to bridge that gap?
Ellen Page in Two Souls
Beyond Two Soul’s hype stemmed from a number of facets. Not only does it feature two prominent actors in Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, but it was also entered into the Tribeca Film Festival. This lead to a marketing campaign centered on the convergence of the two mediums. But it’s not as though Two Souls is the first game to do this.
Back in 1999, Quantic Dream – the makers of Two Souls – launched their first title: Nomad Soul. This was a revolutionary game, preceding the similar – more successful – Deus Ex by a year. It featured, for one of the first times, a story unfolding in an open world, with rich characters and a thick, complex plot; at least with an open world dynamic, anyway. The original soundtrack from David Bowie added to the prestige, but the in-game mechanics and tight script held the game together fantastically.
Since then, developers have moved towards storytelling over mechanics, despite the emergence of the fast-twitch, ‘shoot ‘em up’ franchises that have saturated the market for a decade. Members of the ‘true gaming’ paternity often malign the Call of Duty franchise.
Enter titles like The Walking Dead Game (Telltale’s effort) which focused on voice acting, character art and a deep, involving script to capture the heart of gamers. There aren’t many people who weren’t staring at their screen with a shatterproof gaze when Lee and Clementine entered the crescendo of their hard-fought tale.
Since The Nomad Soul – a cult hit and nostalgic hallucination for many – Quantic Dream made another attempt in Heavy Rain, another PS3 exclusive that failed to impress the critics on the same level as GTA V or The Last of Us. It, too, was billed as the ‘movie that you play’, but failed to ignite the same level of passion gamers felt for characters like Cloud and Sepiroth from FF7.
Willem Dafoe in Beyond Two Souls
In fact, ‘The Last of Us’ success is ironic considering the controversy that surrounded the lead female character, whom, according to Page and Quantic Dream, was a direct rip-off of the female lead in Two Souls. The Last of Us is deemed to be one of the finest games since games began, and a generation-defining moment for the PlayStation 3, cementing Naughty Dog’s reputation in the industry as, officially, untouchable. Two Souls got a 6/10 from IGN.
So to the question at hand: do we want the movie-style video games studios have been promising? Yes, but how far do they need to go? Considering we’re controlling the dynamics of the game, the mechanisms need to match the efforts put in to rich plots and deep characterization. Something that made every Walking Dead episode such a joy to play was the simplicity of its play style; combine that with a fantastic, involving story, and you’ll be close to figuring out the game’s critical success.
Gamers – a lot of them anyway – do want the level of story found in their favorite movies to be included in their gaming experiences. Of course they do. But Two Soul’s downfall can be found within its core gaming experience. For developers to truly merge the best of movies and video games into an interactive experience, only the best of the two will do.
A valiant effort, but Beyond Two Souls didn't deliver on its promise