I once said that Ellen Page’s acting stinks. Truthfully, I don’t think I know what good acting is. I just can’t tell. Never could. So I don’t know why I singled out Ms. Page. Maybe it’s because I hated ‘Juno.’ Maybe it was because she made a flap about Naughty Dog ripping off her look for Ellie in ‘The Last of Us’ (I still maintain there is no resemblance). In any case, I’m sorry.
After playing a bit of ‘Beyond: Two Souls’ last night for #BacklogSunday, I’m no closer to discovering what makes a good actor. That’s not at all a slight against the game’s stars, Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, or any of the supporting cast. I think I may have a deficiency.
But we’ll just press on. It’s not often a game even has “acting.” Sure, there’s loads of voice actors doing tremendous work on games, but what the developer of ‘Beyond,’ Quantic Dream, is doing is a bit different. As an example, Quantic Dream founder David Cage appears as a 3D character in the tutorial segment of their game ‘Fahrenheit’ (or ‘The Indigo Prophecy’) on what looks like a film set. And you don’t start a new game in ‘Fahrenheit,’ you start a New Movie. Yes, Quantic Dream actually bills their games as “interactive films.” Neat!
I liked ‘Fahrenheit,’ but I didn’t like their next one, ‘Heavy Rain.’ I didn’t like the controls, I hated the dialogue, and I thought the story was weak (which is not a good thing when your whole game is essentially an interactive story). I appreciated the technical aspects of the character animation and the gameplay elements, like the branching storylines and the idea that if you accidentally kill one of your characters, the game will just continue without them (I never tried it, though). But it never “grabbed” me the way a good game will, or a good book, or a good film.
‘Beyond: Two Souls,’ on the other hand, is shaping up to be a much more engaging experience. When it came out, I wasn’t too interested, partly because of ‘Heavy Rain,’ and partly because of the mixed reviews in the games press (in those days, I still followed a few gaming websites for news and reviews. Not anymore, though. Fuck the games press). So I bought it a while after it came out, but it literally sat in the plastic for six months before I unwrapped it last night. Being wrapped in plastic is the console-games equivalent of a downloadable PC game you’ve purchased but never installed. I got a bunch of those.
And I’m glad I finally got around to playing it. ‘Beyond’ has a lot more to like about it than ‘Heavy Rain,’ not the least of which is the character of Jodie Holmes, played by Ellen Page. She’s an isolated, lonely girl who apparently has bad luck with people. Seriously, almost everyone she comes across is a complete jerk to her. And Willem Dafoe is excellent in everything he does. The controls, sadly, are the same as they were in ‘Heavy Rain.’ I’m just no good at those timed button presses. So really, that’s not a complaint about the game, more like an admission that I have crappy reflexes.
I didn’t finish ‘Beyond: Two Souls’ last night, partly because my PS3 sounds like it’s on its last leg. I’m its second owner, and it’s already been refurbished with a new hard drive and BD drive. It may need some nursing before I get back to the game, but I definitely will.
Same time next week for #BacklogSunday on Twitter.
Bonus: Here’s a tech demo released by Quantic Dream as a showcase of their facial and character animation abilities. It was released a while before ‘Beyond’ was announced, and it’s quite haunting: