Friday, October 11, 2013

Beyond . . . .

Well, me writing another post this soon is either a good sign or a bad one. Either I'm more motivated in general or I'm just more bored with life. I can't quite put my finger on either one, so maybe it's a little of both? Anyways, whatever the reason, here I am writing this so I might as well get some stuff off of my mind.

First, I played with some of the settings for my DAC and found out that Windows (7 at least, not XP, not sure about 8) has a "Bass Enhancement" feature that allows the lower frequencies to be boosted. I was a little apprehensive since most "Bass Boost" EQs crush the sound quality with a boot of bloated, over-bearing bass. After trying it I was very pleasantly surprised. I couldn't hear a drop in sound quality and the bass is much more pronounced! You can amp any bass frequency you want but since there is such a nice depth to the bass I amped 50 hz by 6 db and that seems like a sweet spot for my 990 Pros. I still get the amazing detail from the other frequencies but get a much better, tight kick from the bass. I'm actually starting to like the sound better than the "midnight" mode on my surround receiver, which I didn't think would ever happen with this amp. Anyway, that's one of the updates.

The main thing that's been bugging me is Beyond: Two Souls. I watched stuff about it, trailers and such, it looked awesome so I decided to pre-order it. I wouldn't have done it except that I was able to upgrade to the special edition for free from GameStop, which included the soundtrack and a DLC along with some smaller things like some avatars and a theme.

I pre-ordered the game without playing the demo because I wanted the
game to be as new as possible to me.
The morning it came out, October 8th, I laid in bed scrolling through the day's news stories on my phone and I saw IGN had a review for it and from the title it sounded like they didn't like it.
"What? I thought this was going like The Last of Us and just blow everybody away!"
I opened the story and scrolled down the review, reading bits here and there, most of which were along the lines of, "I had a really hard time giving this game a score."
"I was really frustrated by this."
"It was really confusing."
I was flabbergasted when I saw the dismal score of 6/10 at the bottom. I started to get that pit in my stomach that happens whenever I waste money on something that I regret.
"Can it really be that bad?" I thought to myself.

I scrolled through some more stories and saw Joystiq gave it a terrible score of 2.5 stars. In an almost panic I went to to see what other reviews said about it. It had a cumulative score of about 75% and after seeing some of the scores I saw that it got 9s and 6s. It's very unusual for a game to get a score that are on both end of the spectrum. I felt slightly better after seeing that it did get a couple of 9s so I decided that I wouldn't try to cancel by pre-order (which I'm not sure I could have done even if I wanted to since it was already out).

This is a picture of the special edition steelbook. I will say that the packaging
is pretty much super awesome. I wish I had The Last of Us in a steelbook.

I drove to the store, went in, and told the clerk that I had pre-ordered it. As he was getting the game ready he starting telling me that  it was an awesome game. I was slightly surprised and I asked him how he already played it, he told me that he got an advanced copy since he was the manager of that GameStop and he had already beat the game and loved it. I told him that I had heard mixed reviews, to which he responded by asking if I liked Heavy Rain (a game made by the same studio) to which I said that I did. He assured me that I would like Beyond since it was better than Heavy Rain.

Heavy Rain was an awesome game but it was kind of psychologically
disturbing in quite a few ways. 

I left felling a little better about my purchase although I realized it was in his interest to try and get me to buy the game since it would help the store. I went home and did some work that I had to do that day, the game weighing heavily on my mind. I knew, however, that I needed to finish Mass Effect 3 first before I started Beyond since I was so close to beating it. The ending of Mass Effect was interesting, but that's a story for another entry. After beating Mass Effect 3, it was around midnight but I decided to give my new game a try anyway. By the time it installed and I had downloaded the bonus content it was getting pretty late (or early depending on how you look at it) so I just played a few minutes of it to which I was very impressed with Beyond: Two Souls.

I really liked Mass Effect 3 but I thought Mass Effect 2 was a better put together
game with less technical hiccups. But the cover of Mass Effect 3 is reversible,
either male or female Shepard. How cool is that?!?

I beat the Beyond: Two Souls today, and I couldn't disagree more with the reviewers. The Last of Us is hailed by everybody that I've talked to for being a masterpiece and I agree. After finishing Beyond: Two Souls it felt almost identical to when I finished The Last of Us. I was a little conflicted with the ending like The Last of Us and thinking back playing the game felt similar too even though the games are very different.

If you haven't played The Last of Us, you are missing out on a great game!

Beyond: Two Souls is a technical masterpiece. It blows every game this console generation out of the water. The only games that even comes close is The Last of Us, Heavy Rain, and maybe Uncharted 2/3. The character models are fantastic! It's so realistic you can even see the pores on their skin, scars, dirt, snow, mud, blood and anything else that makes it onto their face or clothes. The facial animations of the characters, especially Jodi, are mind-blowingly realistic. Very few video games can do water or tears on skin well, but Beyond does without a hitch, literally. Aside from the characters, the environments and everything else (like creases on a piece of paper that casts shadows!) is on the same level of fantastic with how the characters look. I played through the game and there was never a frame rate drop, stutter, or clipping of any kind. It rarely had to pause to load which boggles my mind considering the detail the game has. Smooth transitions, and fluid framerates all around!

This is the AMAZING level of detail the characters have in the game. And
yeah, that's an in-game screen shot. Blown away yet?

The sound was also fantastic from the voice acting to the Foley. When walking on the carpet you can hear the carpet fibers crush. When looking through papers the sounds are all synced up and sound super realistic. The only game that has better sound would be The Last of Us which isn't a surprise considering how much of the game depends on sounds. Lighting and particle effects also deserve a mention. A building in full flames complete with embers floating through the air while there is a full blown blizzard going on outside. Did I mention that the frame rate never dropped? Oh, also no v-sync issues. All frames were synced with no tearing at all . . . ever. The level of polish from a technical standpoint is simply amazing!

This is one of the most impressive scenes from a technical standpoint.
Fun fact: they did the particles for this game in Maya! :)

The graphics alone should put this game in the sevens or eights, but the story is also great. Following Jodie through 15 years of her life you see her grow up and mature. Many people didn't like how the game swings from when she is older to when she is younger, I personally thought it added to the story. She says at the very beginning that was going to try to remember her life so that someone knew what she had been through and that it was hard to put it in any particular order. In addition to that, at the end she gives a very compelling reason for the story line to be fragmented. It make perfect sense after you play it. If they had added more narrative of Jodie telling a story with her voicing over in between chapters I think it would have helped more people accept the story line order.

You follow Jodie though her life. This is a life story, not just a game. You can't
put a life story in a genre. Stupid reviewers . . . .

Others also had issues with the lack of big choices. But you make some pretty important decisions near the end and if it was her telling the story having less control over the direction makes sense, to me at least.

The only thing that I had issue with was that the controls were kinda wonky at times since there are just interaction points on the screen that you move the analog stick to and sometimes it was hard to tell which direction. Also, I was terrible at the fighting sequences that required stick controls in the right direction to punch or block but without prompts (like an arrow flashing on the screen for which way to move) you just have to figure out what to do and sometimes it's hard to tell (I think I might have had a harder time since my tv is kind of dark). Part of this was my problem since I usually panicked and didn't pay enough attention to what was going on.

Time slows down when you fight giving you a little time to figure out what
action to do. I suck at this kind of combat.

Anyway this post is getting really long-winded so I'll finish this up. Overall I feel that Beyond: Two Souls falls squarely in the 9ish range. I would say it's a solid 9.4/10. While this is a lower score than I would give to The Last of Us (10/10), if I was making a list of the best games I have every played, Beyond would be up there and it takes the cake for the best looking game ever. If not for The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls would be the best game this year in my opinion. I liked it better than Heavy Rain although it got a 9 from IGN and Beyond only got a 6 . . . . Go figure.

Between The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls that's more than enough reason
to buy a PS3 right now! Not to mention all the other awesome games there are. :)

My final thought is playing Beyond: Two Souls is like looking at a fine painting or reading a really good book, it's not about the player and their choices or personality, it's about Jodie and her life. Beyond: Two Souls is a one-of-a-kind experience and truly a masterpiece. I can't say the same about most games. Anyone who didn't like it, missed the point of the game, in my own humble opinion, it's more than a game, it's a life story.