Podzilla 1985

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why am I not excited for Beyond: Two Souls?


  Beyond: Two Souls came out Tuesday and so far, reception seems to be mixed.

There was a time back when it was announced that I was excited for it. It had big names in Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, it was bound to look fantastic, it was another story driven experience, it had an intriguing supernatural element, and I liked Heavy Rain.

So what changed?
I'm not really sure.

The more footage that came out, the less I "got" what was going on. The plot seemed all over the place.
Heavy Rain was a relatively grounded thriller/mystery. The initial trailer for Beyond: Two Souls seemed, at least to me, to promise another relatively grounded story focused on one character(likely better acted this time) but with a supernatural element.
But then more clips came out and we were seeing her in the CIA, overseas in a 3rd world country, and in combat with camo.
 It just felt jarring and like a change in tone to me.

Now when I said "I liked Heavy Rain". I meant just that. I liked it. I didn't LOVE it.
I was hyped for Heavy Rain because it was fairly unique in what it was. Story driven and laden with choices that effected the outcome. Plus the enjoyment I got out of it was from the moments of tension it created.(Some people call Heavy Rain and B:TS, a return of classic adventure games, but I take issue with that. My experience with adventures games is that they were filled with charm, humor, puzzles and dialogue choices. These modern games are just story driven.)
I only played it once and didn't really feel compelled to play again to see other outcomes. Mine was the one I earned. It wasn't a good one, but those were my choices.

The thing is, one could argue, and many do, that Heavy Rain was somewhat poorly written and contained plot holes. It's much more apparent when you ask yourself, "How would I rate this if it were a movie?"
Admittedly, I'm not too sensitive to those things so I didn't catch on to that stuff during my playthrough. Plot holes rarely effect my enjoyment of a story, unless they're so obvious that a kid could see it.
(David Cage claims Heavy Rain is meant to be played once. Which makes me wonder if he KNEW there were plot holes that would become more obvious  if you played multiple times.)

But to get back to my point, the more I reflected on Heavy Rain, the less interesting and memorable I found the story. Plus, the more I read from David Cage, the more he came off as a wannabe filmmaker/artist blowhard. I can't really point to specific remarks, but he's a guy who's made story in video games his crusade yet seems to fall behind other developers in that aspect who allow more input/gameplay into their games. He wants gamers to pay $60 for what's basically a movie.(Simplistic, I know. But you get my point)

Now it's out, the reviews are mixed and I'm thinking "Neat, maybe people will realize Cage isn't quite the genius some think he is" and "I'll wait until it's cheaper and play it. I'm sure I'll at least enjoy it."
(I know I know, it's petty. But the guy irks me if he thinks his storytelling voice is unique or head and shoulders above other developers)


   Story in video games is still in somewhat of a period of growing pains. While there have been games with good stories through the years, it's never been a consistent thing. A lot of gamers still see it as secondary to gameplay. But, I'd say within this generation that's soon to be ending, great progress has been made. I'm guessing it's for several reasons. The age of the average gamer is now squarely in the adult range. Budgets have skyrocketed. And technology has allowed much more believable and nuanced performances from the characters. I like this trend and I hope it continues. But the thing I'm not sure Cage understands(Maybe he does and my limited knowledge of him restricts my view of him) is that you can tell a mature and interesting story in a video game without taking most of the control out of the gamer's hands.
  There have been a number of games that were heavy on action(in the sense that the gamer controlled most of what progressed the plot) without sacrificing the narrative. I mentioned them in a previous blog post but The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite both did that in my opinion. Others include Red Dead Redemption, Resistance 3, the original Bioshock, possibly GTA V, and arguably the Uncharted series(from a more pulp adventure aspect).
 Cage wants to focus heavily on telling mature stories. Fine. Good. Go for it. Don't misunderstand me. I have nothing against a more cinematic approach like Quantic Dream does. That's not my complaint. But if you're going cut out a lot of traditional gameplay, I expect more from your final product. Other developers do it and they don't pretend that the industry isn't interested in story.

There was nothing in Heavy Rain that stuck with me like Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us or Red Dead Redemption. For a game that's focus is heavily the story, that's something you can't allow. Your characters better be fleshed out and your plot better have tension.

So I guess when it comes down to it, I know why I'm not as excited for Beyond: Two Souls as I once was. My expectations are that it'd be $60 and I'd play a story driven game that I'd somewhat enjoy but would just move on and forget about it. On to more action packed games whose stories stuck with me.

Some notes:
-David Cage may be a nice enough person in real life. I have no clue.
-I didn't mention any of the Metal Gear Solid games up there within examples of good story AND gameplay packed games. I'm not sure if the Metal Gear Solid narrative is objectively good or not honestly. Kojima writes interesting stuff. But he needs an editor sometimes. I have to wonder if people just confuse thought provoking plot with "good writing". I'm not saying it's bad. It can just be so...out there...that it's hard to tell.
-Reviews say Beyond: Two Souls is different from Heavy Rain in that the lead character can't die like the characters in HR at various times. And surprisingly, that Ellen Page is better than Willem Dafoe.
-I talk a big game but I can be easily satisfied by stories in movies. But I stand by my thoughts on video game stories.
-All of this may just be me being cynical about games that outright STATE that it's dramatic and story driven.
-I honestly am curious to play it eventually. I'm just trying to keep my expectations in check given who I think is passionate writer/director, but claims more talent than he has.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Fashion Overlaod!

Season 12 of Project Runway has been a drama filled mess. I really don't feel like there has been a season to date with as much personal crap thrown in our face. That aside we are down to the finals. The race to fashion week is in place.

The judges gave our final five designers two tasks in making their decision. The first was an avant-garde look inspired by butterflies. The second, take a loosing look and make it a winner. This second challenge had a lot of impact on Justin LeBlanc who had been technically eliminated himself. I seriously cried during that episode and was ecstatic when Tim used his "Tim Gunn Save" to keep this designer in the running.

Justin chose his own failed piece for a chance to redeem himself, and it resulted in another emotional episode. The man was crying as he wheeled his nightmare back to his work station, and I couldn't help but tear up myself. He has been one of the nicest designers to ever be on Project Runway and he's good at what he does. I want to see Justin make it to fashion week.

The judges had a tough choice this time around. All of the designers did a great job. The only real complaints were some things weren't pushed enough. Pretty and cool, but boring or seen too many times. So who can we see going to the main event?

 Bradon McDonald has been my favorite to win from the beginning. I don't think he has created a look this season that I didn't like at least a little. He won the final challenge with his dress that was a living piece of art and his remake of a failed unconventional challenge. We will be seeing this man's work on the runway, and I'm excited to see what he shows us.

Going with him for sure is Dom Streater, "The Come Back Kid" if you will. She's had her fair share of almost wins and "what were you thinking" moments. But her passion for print has helped her find her path to the main goal and she will get to show us her true voice in the world of fashion. Much like Bradon, Dom is a good person in the work room and didn't start any shit with people, even when their out bursts were causing her delays in her own work. I like that she's usually got a smile on her face, and is willing to give a few words of encouragement if someone needs it. I would be happy to see her win this season as well.

With little surprise the judges have once again given the final fight card. The last three designers will be making collections as well, but it's not yet decided who of them will be showing with the other two. I'm bias and want Justin to be the one, so we have a "Good Person" show, and whoever wins I'll be happy to cheer for.

Our other two final designers are Alexandria Von Bromssen and Helen Castillo.  As designers both women are capable at what they do but I feel that Helen has the stronger voice, well when she can find it any ways. Her little "oh poor me" parties the past few episodes have seriously rubbed me the wrong way. If anything she might not be mature enough for it. I'm tried of Tim and the other designers having to give her pep talks for her to finish her work.

Alexandria on the other hand has annoyed me from the start. Her "I have to be the best no matter what" attitude drives me crazy. It's good to have drive but she almost takes it too far. Like a Japanese high school student that will commit suicide if they don't get into their top choice college. She becomes obsessive and paranoid to the point that she seems to shut down, and that kills her work every time. She's made some great pieces and she's also made some real crap.

Personally I hope both women go home without showing, but we'll see what happens when Tim has his home visits. Maybe they'll change my mind.

With season 12 wrapping up that also means a new season of All Stars will be starting. What will season three bring us? Well from what I've looked at so far a lot of personal make overs for our past designers. There were so many that I knew the name but when I saw their photo I had to do a double take. I didn't recognize so many of them! And the worse part of that is, several where designers that I rooted for during their seasons. One designer has even gone as far as to openly live as a transgender individual now. No wonder I didn't recognize her, she was a he when she first was on runway....

New this time around is the fact that three of the designers are also past winners of their seasons. I can't decide if this is unfair or just a tougher challenge. Just because they won then doesn't mean they'll have a repeat right? All and all it should be a good season and I'm excited to see Seth Aaron Henderson (Season 7 winner), Jeffery Sebelia (Season 3 winner) and Christopher Palu back in action.There are really only two designers I'm dreading seeing again. Both were almost complete bitches on their seasons. Irina Shabayeva was the winner of Season 6, and as much as I loved her work I couldn't stand her as a person. I'm sorry but it's true. Then we have Elena Slivnyak from season 10 who was a complete psycho bitch for 85% of her run, but turned it around her last couple of episodes and was somewhat likable. She's a strange cookie though and I'm scared to she what will happen with her and Irina in the same room. But we'll have to wait a few more weeks for that train wreck.
Still love this look by Jeffery Sebelia

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Tom Clancy Passes Away

It feels like another day brings another unexpected death, and this time we lost someone vital to all sides of the entertainment spectrum.

Tom Clancy was an author first and foremost, but from that clever mind of his spawned hit films and blockbuster games that have entertained millions.

As a film enthusiast I'll always be thankful to Clancy for the fantastic adaptations of his work that graced the silver screen. This is the man who gave us Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan in a series of fantastic films, and then also Ben Affleck in one sequel. Oh, and Alec Baldwin vs. Sean Connery in a submarine battle that will stand the test of time, or until they remake it starring Rhianna and Channing Tatum, somehow.

It's going to happen, people.

As a gamer, of course, I'm especially fond of the Rainbow Six series. It was one of my favorites, and I played Rainbow Six Vegas on Xbox 360 until my eyes bled. And let's not forget Splinter Cell, or HAWX, or a multitude of other great games that came from the brilliant mind of one of America's most prolific modern writers.

Tom Clancy passed away in Baltimore, the city where he was born. He was 66.