LTTP | Beyond: Two Souls

Springy

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I mean, obviously, below is lousy with spoilers.

Beyond: Two Souls (B:TS) is a game I completely ignored on its release. I ignored it for the same reason I ignored Heavy Rain: it's a Quantic Dream game, and Quantic Dream made Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit in Europe), a game which, about halfway through, jumped the shark so completely that it was able to pull off a triple somersault mid-leap before hitting a perfect three-point landing upon its arrival in Crazyville.

I'm going to address Indigo Prophecy before I get into B:TS, as, for me, I can't talk about the latter without at least mentioning the former. The primary problem with Indigo Prophecy is that the plot, characters and dialogue are all, to put it politely, poor. This is not a new thing for videogames; there is a lot of bad writing in videogames, but it seems so much more of an issue in Indigo Prophecy because, unlike those other games, the story is not in service of the gameplay. Instead, the roles are swapped, and so the moment when the Internet assumes corporeal form and masquerades as a dead old lady in a wheelchair is that much harder to accept gladly, because I furiously waggled the left stick and rhythmically mashed the shoulder buttons for six hours just to see that god damn plot development. What started out as an intriguing premise and a fun way to create a murder mystery/police procedural feels obliged to tell you to save the world because this is a videogame, and that's what the player always does in videogames.

But that was nearly a decade before B:TS. B:TS has the advantage of improved technology, immense star power in the form of its cast and, surely, a far larger budget. B:TS should be so far ahead of what Indigo Prophecy could deliver that they are barely comparable. And, for the most part, I think it is.

I've always liked to think that a graphical prowess is entirely independent of a good game, that a good game is good regardless of how few or many polygons are being pushed. It annoys me that I think B:TS is a better game because of how gorgeous it looks. It's really astounding: thanks to its incredible design and art, its greater control over framing and direction than most games and its ultra widescreen aspect ratio, the game looks better on PS3 than many I've played on current-gen. The characters are brought to life through convincing motion capture and facial animation, and I can only assume that someone must be incredibly proud of managing to avoid dead-eye stares across the board throughout the entire game.

The acting, too, maintains a high level of quality from both the lead and supporting cast, and lines are delivered convincingly and with the weight and emotion as required by the scene. Ellen Page, in particular, puts in an entertaining performance, especially impressive when I'm sure that her celebrity could've allowed her to phone it in had she intended to.

The plot is equally intriguing; Jodie's story is told through a narrative that leaps almost chaotically from time and place non-linearly, but never to the effect of confusing me (the timeline on the loading screen admittedly was of vital help). I'm not typically interested in stories regarding ghosts, spirits, the paranormal and all the mystic bullshit that can normally haunt it, but it works here. Aiden, Jodie's entwined spirit, is a smart inclusion to allow for puzzle solving, delivery of exposition and exploring Jodie's character from a different perspective. You're not Jodie, you're Jodie and Aiden, and thanks to his ethereal nature, Aiden is the one character whose development you're most in control of throughout. Ellen Page's facial expressions and the emotion in her voice help us understand what kind of person Jodie is, but Aiden is a silent protagonist. When choice is given to the player in control of Aiden, the path the player takes shapes what kind of character Aiden becomes: is he playful or reserved? Protective or vindictive? Mischievous or malicious? The limited interactions allow for a surprising degree of variation.

It allows for some really well-structured and entertaining levels. In "The Dinner", the scene starts with Jodie at home in a messy apartment, laying on a sofa half-dressed, with an hour to make dinner for a potential boyfriend whom Aiden doesn't like. Trying to clean up the place and herself and preparing a meal while simultaneously trying to stop Aiden tearing the place up (and tricking you into getting locked out at one point, which caused me to burst out laughing with how well I'd been played), was more fun and appropriately stressful than it had any right to be. "Homeless" is multi-stage level where you try to survive in the midst of a stark winter blizzard, utilizing Jodie's wits and Aiden's powers to protect you and your friends who are written convincingly enough to the point where I genuinely cared about saving them from the many trials that were thrown at us.

About halfway into the game, I was envisioning any LTTP that came of it to be one long apology to David Cage and my proud assertion that I was now eager to see whatever else Quantic Dream thinks up, but then B:TS decided that, no wait, this is a videogame, and so we're damn well going to have to save the world.

One minute, I'm channeling a man's dead wife and telling him to let her go, the next, I'm infiltrating a Bond villain underwater lair in a mad-dash attempt to avoid the apocalypse. Apparently, the Kazirstanis (yes, they made up a country to act as a vague menace, another sign of great videogame storytelling), god damn them, will unleash the full power of the Infraworld (where the dead are, right) to catastrophic effect if my team of CIA douchebags and I don't go in there and do it ourselves anyway in the process of trying to blow up Blofeld's summerhouse. I accepted this mission from the US government immediately after finding out that the US government stole me from my mother as a newborn before chemically lobotomizing her, being knocked out by G-men seconds after this discovery and waking up in a secret government lab so clinical, dastardly and ripe to be torn apart by its own research gone wild that it would give the CEO of the Umbrella Corporation a raging hard-on.

It's like I put a VHS tape of Ghost in and, right about the scene where pottery-making is happening, someone taped over the rest with the second half of The Core.

And it's such a fucking shame. The characters were good! The plot was fascinating! I was attached to Jodie and wanted to see how the story ended. But they couldn't resist turning it into a videogame. You have to save the world! Action! Suspense! Global crises averted by plucky person sitting on a sofa gripping a DualShock® 3! I couldn't just have a well-crafted personal tale about a girl and her mischievous-or-malicious twinned spirit, could I?

And you had to go and end twenty fucking times, didn't you? Coda, fake to black. Coda, fade to black. Over and over. That last five minutes of The Core was recorded over with The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: Extended Edition.

Bleugh. I still like B:TS. The good parts, I think, outweigh the bad, and Quantic Dream are still doing something not many others are. Thanks to games like The Walking Dead, cinematic, interactive fiction has become a respectable, wide-reaching genre, but not many devs can deliver the production values that Quantic Dream bring with them. It's engaging and exciting, and I hope that the curve of their improvement continues into the future with their next project.

There's a lot I'm thinking of that I haven't typed. Part of that is because the OP is long enough already, and part of it is because it's still a vivid jumble in my head. My primary question to you, Gaf, is what do you think of the story's progression in B:TS? Am I alone in thinking it totally lost it in the last third?

Also, should I go back and play Heavy Rain?
 

kingpotato

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If you really feel the good outweighs the bad for B:TS, then yes you should check out Heavy Rain. You should be able to find it for cheap anyway, so not much of a gamble. But prepare yourself for more of the same gripes you had with their other two titles you played. Losing control of the narrative toward the end of a game seems to be a hallmark of QD.

Also, that first hour of Indigo Prophesy was pretty awesome though, right???
 

Certinty

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Heavy Rain for me was far better, simply superior in every way. One of the best experiences I've ever had playing a game and is easily worth a playthrough.

As for Beyond, I don't think it's a bad game but it also wasn't great. I think they sort of messed up with the story telling not being chronological, I know if it was the first half of the game would barely have any drama but the way the game was basically ruined most of the story early on. That's the other problem I had as well, the story was pretty bad for a game that is heavily focused on it, Heavy Rain's story had its flaws but it still led to a much interesting and entertaining game.
 

J_Ark

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I prefer Heavy Rain, my first QD game, but I love both of them. I played HR with so much tension, I clearly remember my hand shaking uncontrollably while eating soup one day after a gaming session because the adrenaline. Incredible.

The best from B:TS? Ellen Paige performance. Top level. Didn't felt that chronological order messed the game, though.
 

nib95

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Preferred Heavy Rain tbh. I really enjoyed the first 2/3rds or more of Beyond Two Souls, but the last few acts just soured it for me. They felt forced, choppy, thrown together and just not particularly rewarding, from a narrative or gameplay perspective.
 

Springy

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Thanks, guys. I'm definitely putting Heavy Rain on the shopping list. Glad I gave Quantic Dream another chance!

Losing control of the narrative toward the end of a game seems to be a hallmark of QD.

Also, that first hour of Indigo Prophesy was pretty awesome though, right???
Sure, if the games didn't keep opening so strongly, the inevitable decline towards the end wouldn't be quite so agonizing.
 

Jawmuncher

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Funny enough the only story moment that I felt was out there was the Navajo chapter. Mainly because it just comes and goes never to be mentioned again until the very end.
 

Tuck

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Feb 23, 2011
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I hated it. I had loved heavy rain but the gameplay here was a step in the wrong direction. The writing was silly and the Auden parts made me nauseous.
 

pinkurocket

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Heavy Rain is superior in every single way.
Beyond is just terrible. It's a shame because the production value is there, but the story and the characters are just so uninteresting.
 

Acquiescence

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You absolutely should play Heavy Rain. Unlike Beyond Two Souls, Heavy Rain is actually good. Really good. It's got its problems sure, but it manages to deliver on the promise of its rubber band narrative and choices that create diverging branches in the plot. The whole permadeath feature keeps tension high and it also manages that rare feat of making QTEs a fun and engaging game mechanic too. It's amazing how much QD dropped the ball following it up.
 

hesido

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We really liked Heavy Rain. First game my wife ever wanted me to continue to play. Didn't buy Beyond Two Souls though. We now have children and after work the total amount of "alone" time we spend together fell down to about an hour per day.
 

Harmen

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I enjoyed this game more than quite a lot of solid films and series that year. I thought it was great. People blow the bad aspects waaay out of porportions imo. And I always feel QD gets some extra hate due to Cage and his over the top PR nonsense (which I just ignore).

Yes, the game can have odd pacing (some scenes drag, some are too short/abrupt/random) and there are some bad dialouges and there was bad acting for a few side characters, but this is far from the majority of the game. People saying the acting in this game was terrible and the dialogue and writing was complete trash are way of the mark imo. While I love Heavy Rain, that game deserved that critique way, way more. I thought the overall plot was done really well, appreciated the non-linear order when the plot came together and there were a few great characters in this game. And this game handled it's final act really well I think.

And QD just does the interactive film concept really well I think. The camera, graphics, music, interactivity (gameplay) all are spot on for the most part. The action scenes in The Wolf Among Us felt like utter trash after playing this title, for example. In BTS I enjoyed the combat, stealth section, escaping from/fighting spirits etc.

We really liked Heavy Rain. First game my wife ever wanted me to continue to play. Didn't buy Beyond Two Souls though. We now have children and after work the total amount of "alone" time we spend together fell down to about an hour per day.
Well, if it helps, there is an option to do multiplayer here. One controls Aiden and the other Jodie. The "gameplay" requires the player(s) to switch between them constantly and work together to advance the plot.

I think you can even do this with a smartphone/tablet via wifi, making the controls very accesible. It is like watching a movie together, but both having a different influence how things work out for the given character.

Kotaku about playing this with your girlfriend (by a quick google):
http://kotaku.com/beyond-two-souls-is-better-with-a-friend-1443204688
 

Pilgrimzero

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I have tried Cages other games and either immediately didn't like them or found them too boring to continue.

But B:TS I found amazing and loved every minute of it. I really hope it get a PS4 (and/or PC) re-release because I would totally double-dip.
 

jayvo

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You should play Heavy Rain. I love both Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls, but I prefer Beyond Two Souls. It may be partly to do with some massive idiot online spoiling the ending for Heavy Rain before release day. So I played through Heavy Rain knowing the outcome already. Kind of ruined some enjoyment for me.
 

SomTervo

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Sounds nice, I didn't go for B:TS because I couldn't stand the supernatural shit which fucked Indigo Prophesy.

Heavy Rain has nothing supernatural in it whatsoever and is a great thriller. Others here are saying Heavy Rain went off the deep end by the end too - but fuck that, no it didn't. The one key bit of narrative control the game takes away from you is key to sustaining the entire mystery, so it's entirely justified. It's, imho, incredibly clever that they use misdirection and mis-focus to hide things from you (but you can still work it out if you're critical enough. My gf almost did). They made a big point of not forcing the game into 'videogame' territory in Heavy Rain, so that huge complaint will be wholly addressed.

Heavy Rain isn't a great game, but it's a great experience. Better than Indigo Prophesy and, from what I know, better than B:TS. I think one of my defining experiences from last gen was actually going online and comparing my ending to others'. It was literally like, '... We all played the same game?!' Some people experienced Mike Leigh style non-resolving dramas, some experienced a David Fincher style crime thriller, some experienced a fucked-up depressing tragedy.

You'll love HR's story if the other two's random pompous videogamey plots irritated you.
 
I'm maybe... halfway into it? ('Dinner')

It still has its Cageism flaws(mostly the forced outcome crap), but the highs are as good as ever. I love the quiet moments where the game lets the player make their own decisions and decide how the character is. Is Jodie sentimental, nasty, polite, shy?

The small parts are what really make his games. Hopefully the endgame holds up.

I'm trying not to have Aiden be a dick, unless Cage forces it(which he tends to do).

I'm hoping one day he makes a game that has complete freedom of choice, but that's probably asking a lot.


A friend claims I enjoy these titles because of how much I loved the Sega CD FMV games, which is probably spot-on.
 

EpicBox

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I haven't played Indigo Prophecy.

Heavy Rain succeeded at creating a depressing yet tense atmosphere, and made us care about the characters. Unfortunately the story falls completely flat as David Cage tried to be too clever. In his attempts to keep us guessing and keep the plot twists coming, he created a bunch of plot holes. And the ending fight is nonsense if Ethan makes it to the final confrontation.

Given that the story is pretty much the only reason to play Heavy Rain, its plot problems ruined it entirely and I never want to play it again.

Beyond: Two Souls is a massive improvement. I want to see what else Cage can do in the sci-fi genre, because this shit was exciting. I detected no major plot holes. However, there were a few issues:

The out-of-order timeline made it hard to follow and ultimately added nothing of value. Sure, some flashbacks would have worked here and there, but it was impossible to fully empathise with Jodie when I didn't know what had led to her circumstances.

This created another problem: choices lack in consequence. No matter what you do, Jodie goes on the run from the CIA, becomes homeless, gets hospitalised, escapes and flees to the desert, fights off demons and then returns to see her mother, gets captured and joins the CIA on a mission to take down generic villain #36. The player has almost no say in what happens during this. And it's hard to tell what difference your choices are making when it's not in order.

In fact, the story would have also been less predictable if more of it had been told in the correct order. Nathan's family were killed when Jodie was young. This was revealed right before the ending sequence where Nathan goes crazy. But if it had been revealed way earlier, we would not have immediately known where it was going.

There are only 2 other things I don't like about this game:

1. Some of the high action set pieces have the illusion of tension ruined by the fact that you can't fail.
2. There's a really weird part where you can choose to make Jodie self-harm. I mean WHAT THE FUCK DAVID CAGE?!
3. The scene where Jodie nearly gets raped in a bar was so predictable and generic.

Overall it's a great game worth playing at least once and I'm starting a second playthrough soon.
 

DieH@rd

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Dec 9, 2006
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I really liked both Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls [which extracted maximum from PS3 hardware, maybe even more than TLOU]. They have different styles of storytelling, but in both game I got sucked in into the story and characters.

Can't wait to see what next QD is making for PS4.

Sounds nice, I didn't go for B:TS because I couldn't stand the supernatural shit which fucked Indigo Prophesy.
Supernatural story is in the core of B:TS and is showcased from the very start. Because of that, it works quite well. In the game we saw 20 years of Jodies life and how he was tormented by the "other side", how he learned to control it and in the end, confront it.
 
Just finished it. Definitely the most consistent of Cage's games, but dammit man, stop having this 'do everything right and/or wrong' and the same outcome still happens.

The party for instance, redid it:

Whether you're nice to everyone or shy away, they still treat Jodie like dirt. Have an outcome where she can become friends with them and she's part of the gang.

You have to allow some true player agency, not just little modifications.
 

GoldenCrow

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The credits rolled a few hours ago and even though I thought it was poorly written, badly directed with pacing all over the place I really enjoyed it.

Up until the train sequence I thought the game was dire, the narrative was disjointed and the interaction felt meaningless but the train sequence sucked me in it worked flawlessly and even though I wasn't in total control it gripped me and that was the point in the game I decided to stick with it until the end. The game had many more of these moments but they were too far between with some moments feeling pointless of interaction and could have been cut altogether.

The biggest flaw of the game for me though was never making the decision whether the player was suppose to roleplay or be an external manipulator of events. I always felt like it was flipping between the two and created a disjointed effect that was quite jarring.

The pacing was the second prominent issue. I have heard a lot of complaints from people that think David Cage would prefer to be a movie director but I personally feel he could learn more from that medium or better yet use well regarded directors in collaboration rather than trying to do it all himself (going from the writing it would have been better to learn from TV and allow others to write different sections and he manages that) as it was far to self indulgent. The game would have been so much better if it was split up into three parts, each with their own beginning, middle and end, focusing on the different periods of Jodie and Aidens life. Part one: The discovery of Aiden, the torment and the fight against the monsters, clash with the farther and the eventual separation. Part two: Bonding with Cole and Dawkins, rebellion ending with the CIA forcefully recruiting her, the CIA mission. Part Three: Going AWOL leading to homelessness and escape from pursuers, reunion and capture resulting to last mission, then finally black sun.

After playing the game the lasting impression is that Quantic Dream are a very good studio studio and what they managed to get out of the PS3 is phenomenal but David Cage would be better as a curator and producer and QD linking up with the film and television industries would push them forward to no end. I want to see them do a The Wire, Breaking Bad and The Sopranos style experiences, drop the nonsense and go gritty and realistic, use writers that are specialists in dialogue and thematic issues and directors that have cut their teeth and fitting complex plots into concise time frames.
 

DarthWoo

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Started playing this last week, and although I know it's not what hardcore gamers would really consider much of a game, I'm enjoying it quite a lot. I don't know if this sounds strange, but I really find the bits that show Jodie as just a mostly normal girl (who happens to have a powerful spirit-thing tethered to her) in relatively normal situations to be quite charming; for example, wandering around the Holmes house as an 8 year old.
 

Erevador

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Jan 25, 2014
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Heavy Rain is much better:

The mechanics feel both more complex and more intuitive.
No horrible Aiden mechanics.
The story is linear. It's a problem in Beyond Two Souls because I would have made certain choices differently if I had known what my character had been up to earlier in the timeline.
The sense of atmosphere is unparalleled.
 

Cert.in.Death

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Jun 28, 2013
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The back-and-forth arrangement of events was not a misguided approach but I can't say it came out as QD had hoped. The game started getting off the rails for me once
Jodie wound up at the Navajo Ranch and had to "expel" the demonic force there residing
. After that point I couldn't take it seriously.
 

DarthWoo

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Jun 9, 2004
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Finished my first playthrough last night, but the ending left me a little sad. It seems like no matter what you do, Jodie essentially gets kicked in the teeth in most of the endings.
She's losing her memories, has permanently lost Aiden, and apparently (to leave room for a possible sequel) she has to prepare the little girl she helped deliver while homeless for a coming apocalypse John Connor-style.
I was a bit attached to her character at least so I was hoping for something a bit happier.
Poor Nathan too, goes off the deep end and unwittingly tortures his dead family for years, although strangely the moment he offs himself, they embrace him happily in the Beyond.
 

SniperHunter

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Mar 18, 2012
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I liked Heavy Rain way more than Beyond TS. The occult aspect really killed it for me. The entire hell aspect of experimenting with demons, hell gate portals and souls...it just pulled me out completely. It was stupid in Doom and it is stupider here.
 

Tuck

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Feb 23, 2011
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Hated it. Hated it so much.

The aiden parts made me queesy, the rest was janky in other ways. I loved Heavy Rain but this one did nothing for me, sad to say.
 

R10Neymarfan

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Jan 14, 2013
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Every time this game is mentioned I wonder where the hell the official announcement for the HD PS4 version is coming. It's taking longer than expected maybe hopefully because heavy rain is getting remastered too
 

JP

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Every time this game is mentioned I wonder where the hell the official announcement for the HD PS4 version is coming. It's taking longer than expected maybe hopefully because heavy rain is getting remastered too
It's already been announced.

EDIT:
Should add that they're Europe only releases at the moment though.
 

Rembrandt

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Jul 31, 2013
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heavy rain is one of the best games released last gen; i definitely recommend it. i've been watching a let's play of this and it seemed entertaining, but it was in the first couple of chapters. i've heard the game started going down towards the ending but all of his games do, so i'm still looking forward to the remaster and whatever they're working on PS4
 

Choomp

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Jun 3, 2014
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Looking back on it, this game really sucked. I had good expectations enjoying Heavy Rain to some level and the game looking promising with a cast of well known actors, but there really felt like there was little substance in heart in the game. That's my main problem with David Cage, here he seemed to try and tell this grand tale with so many things going on and it's really all unnecessary and not very enjoyable.
 

Springy

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The back-and-forth arrangement of events was not a misguided approach but I can't say it came out as QD had hoped. The game started getting off the rails for me once
Jodie wound up at the Navajo Ranch and had to "expel" the demonic force there residing
. After that point I couldn't take it seriously.
That was the weirdest tangent. I have no idea why it was there; it exists in a complete vacuum to the rest of the game, and I don't know how it relates to anything else from a narrative or character-building standpoint.

I'm thinking, what if David Cage had a co-writer for QD's next game? Someone to tell him when to rein it in?
 
Jul 30, 2014
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It's like I put a VHS tape of Ghost in and, right about the scene where pottery-making is happening, someone taped over the rest with the second half of The Core.
I just wanted to chime in and say this is one of the best analogies I've seen in a while, holy shit so true. Still really liked the game though, even for its many faults :)
 

DarthWoo

I'm glad Grandpa porked a Chinese Muslim
Jun 9, 2004
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Just a bit of an odd question, but why in the world would Ryan expect
Jodie to love him toward the end? He almost literally rips her away from her childhood, and just a couple years later he is party to tricking her and turning her into a murderous war criminal. Those are two pretty big strikes. I'm sure there's a third one I'm forgetting. Also he's a cyclops.