Beyond: Two Souls Review – Why I loved my trip into the Beyond

The critics haven’t treated Beyond: Two Souls very kindly and to be honest, I have no idea why. Beyond made me cry more than any other video game ever has and possibly more than most films have too. I’m a pretty emotional person, so it’s not hard for a film or TV show to make me cry. However when it comes to video games, it’s a different story. Very few video games can make me cry. Sure they can shock me, wow me and emotionally move me but for a game to make me (or anyone, really) cry, it’s really got to do something special.

Well Beyond does just that. Right from the start you’re sucked into the story of Jodie Holmes, a girl who was born with a connection to an entity beyond this realm. Jodie is trying to remember what happened to her and therefore the story is told in chronological disorder. One minute you’re Jodie as a child, the next, you’re her as an adult. Aiden, the spirit she’s connected to, is always there. Scenes also differ widely in length, some are only ten or fifteen minutes long, others go on for over an hour so; there’s a nice variety.

It may seem like a strange way to order a game but it works just as well as Pulp Fiction did for Quentin Tarantino. After all, it’s your job to put the pieces together and figure out who you (Jodie) are and who, or what, Aiden is.

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What really makes Beyond such an emotional experience is the great writing, acting and technology involved. The story is an unusual one, as it essentially about the supernatural, things that don’t really exist. Death is an interesting subject though and Beyond explores the many different forms and meanings of death. Somehow, David Cage has managed to write a very believable story about ghosts and another world without making it seem ridiculous or silly. Personally, the only time I found the writing to jar was when a very minor character said “It’s like an evil spirit has been sent here to punish us for our sins!” Yeah, that’s an awful line.

However the main actors all perform brilliantly, Ellen Page is typically great in everything she does but Beyond could arguably be one of her best roles. Right from her first line of speech you feel like you’re with Jodie and there’s no doubt that many female gamers will be able to relate to the many horrible things that Jodie has to go through. She isn’t written as a “tortured” character though, something which is refreshing for the industry. Jodie is about as real as female characters get. Willem Dafoe, the other big star, is equally engaging as the scientist trying to understand Jodie’s ability. The relationship the two build is truly warming and it’s great to see that develop as the game goes on.

Technically wise, it’s amazing. The PS3 is at the end of its life cycle and Beyond shows just how far the PS3 has come over a relatively short period of time. I can only imagine how great Cage’s games look when the PS4 has its swan-song. Of course with something so high-tech, there’s always going to be some niggles. For example the character models are near perfect, but props often look a bit flat and fake. When you think that a sponge or sandwich is motion-captured from just cardboard in real life it’s not really surprising and luckily it isn’t too distracting.

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The controls have changed a lot since Heavy Rain, instead of QTEs, Beyond uses a simplified system. Basically, when you’re engaged in a fight or are running for your life, you need to flick the right stick in the appropriate direction in order to perform the action successfully. The screen doesn’t tell you which direction you should go in, instead the game goes into slo-mo mode and you only have a set amount of time to react. Most of the time missing the odd command won’t make too much of a difference but at other times one miss can completely change the scenes outcome – so you’ll definitely be on your toes.

The controls definitely feel more natural than Heavy Rain’s did and personally I think it’s an improvement. However as you’re left to make your own decisions on which direction you should go it, judging the movement can be tough so it’s not always easy to get it right and you might end up messing up a situation you hadn’t intended to. This can be a little frustrating at times but it adds a challenge to the game which Heavy Rain often lacked, so it’s a positive change.

You can also switch to Aiden (almost) whenever you want by pressing triangle. You can then float through walls and interact with certain people and objects, depending on the situation. You can’t travel too far away from Jodie though because you’re connected. Controlling Aiden can be a bit of a pain, especially if trying to travel up or down, as it’s easy to find yourself a bit lost which isn’t ideal if you’re trying to do something quickly. It’s also quite difficult to heal people or to remember memories using Aiden, because you have to push and hold both sticks on a certain highlighted area for a set period of time. 

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Beyond isn’t perfect but it’s pretty damn close. I haven’t felt more connected to any other virtual character as I have Jodie and I genuinely cared about what happened to the other characters. As the reviews have proven, Beyond is a polarising experience, with some gamers just not “getting” it. I feel sorry for those people because they are losing out on an incredible one-of-a-kind experience which is bound to change the way you think about video games forever.

If you have a PS3 and don’t play Beyond – you’re missing out. See you on the other side.

9/10

Impressions of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and 48fps 3D

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Let me start off by saying I’m not a big Lord of the Rings fan, I like the films but LOTR is not one of my favourite film franchises. I mostly went to see The Hobbit for my boyfriend, and because of my curiosity for Peter Jackson’s new 48fps 3D.

For those of you that don’t know, all films at the cinema are currently shown at 24 frames-per-second so Jackson has decided to double the amount of frames we see. Now because it’s filmed at 48fps, this doesn’t mean the film looks double the speed – it is in fact intended to give the film a higher quality. Many are calling the idea “revolutionary” but it’s not, many 3D films, particularly at theme parks, are shown at a higher frame rate, some even go up to 60fps. However, this is the first time a director has chosen to do this for a feature-length film, so it’s a new idea in that aspect. I was worried about watching The Hobbit at 48fps as I’d heard many reports beforehand that it made the film look terrible, ruined it even but in reality? The media were making a big fuss over nothing.

There are upsides and downsides of 48fps 3D. On the plus side, it improves the quality of the 3D effects, especially with motion-blurring. When a fast-moving action scene takes place or the camera is planning across the screen, the 3D can often look blurred or unfocused, as if the eyes are struggling to adjust to it. 48fps seems to fix this problem as the 3D, to me at least, looked a lot smoother. However, the downside is that some parts of the film look noticeably sped up, as if they’re running at the wrong speed. The best example of this is one the first scenes of the film, where Bilbo is walking around his house. He looks as if he’s walking just too fast perhaps this is more noticeable on the slower parts of the film. You can also notice this when characters are making hand gestures, it doesn’t look quite right but I wouldn’t say for one second it ruins the film. It might be a case of audiences having to get used to it but remember the 48fps 3D is only being shown on cinema screens that support it, so you won’t be forced to view it if you don’t want to.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey … one embargo to bind them.

As for the film itself, The Hobbit should not have been made into three films. Jackson managed to get one film out of each LOTR book and he should have done the same with The Hobbit. Although there are enjoyable parts, The Hobbit is very slow moving. The start of the film where there’s a little nod to the first LOTR film and where Bilbo meets Gandalf and the dwarves for the first time seems to take forever. The audience is waiting for the adventure to begin and Jackson spends far too much time in Bilbo’s house. The Hobbit is a string of little adventures and encounters that come one after the other – they’re safe, something bad happens, they escape, something else bad happens. This continues until we reach the point of the film – where Bilbo meets Gollum for the first time. Parts like this are fantastic, they’re what we watch The Hobbit for, the real back-story. In fact, one of the best parts of the film happens right at the beginning which explains the story of how the dwarves lost their home, it’s concise but with a lot of action, mainly a fire-breathing dragon.

Needless to say the costumes, CGI and the cinematography all look amazing, you’ll be pushed to find a more visually striking film this year and perhaps that’s what The Hobbit is all about. Martin Freeman is the perfect Bilbo Baggins, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect actor, he’s naive, funny and charming and watching his character change in the next two films will definitely be interesting.

So should you go and see The Hobbit or not? My advice is, if you’re a big LOTR fan, you’ll love it and you should but otherwise, The Hobbit will fail to capture your full attention for the 2 and a half hours that it lasts. It simply would have been better if it was one film or two at the most. It seems a shame that it’s been stretched out so much purely to make money but maybe LOTR fans will like this as it means they get to see more of the book come to life on screen.

Film review: Rock of Ages

Get ready to clap your hands, nod your head and mouth the words to your favourite classic rock songs in Rock of Ages, the film version of the highly popular stage play.

Set in 1987, Rock of Ages is the story of small town girl, Sherrie (Julianne Hough), who travels to Hollywood in hopes of becoming a singer and Drew (Diego Boneta), a city boy working in a Rock bar who also wants to live out his dream of becoming a rock God. The couple meet and immediately, they are in love. Meanwhile the bar Drew works in, is close to closing down and Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand) are doing all they can to save rock and roll from the team of Christian women (headed by Catherine Zeta Jones) who are trying to shut it down.

The love story between Drew and Sherrie is sickly sweet and almost becomes too much but then Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) steps in. Cruise playing a drunken, sleezy rock God may be his best role yet. The girls faint, kiss him and sleep with him, the ultimate roll model for every wannabe rockstar. Stacee unintentionally makes things to go sour between Drew and Sherrie, causing them to go their separate ways and proving it’s not as easy to achieve your dreams as you first hoped.

As you can tell, the story isn’t brilliant but boy does the rest of the film make up for it. Not only does it contain some of the best rock songs of all time including: I love rock n’ roll, Sister Christian, Don’t stop believing and We build this city, the acting, singing and dancing are all incredible. The two lead singers, Drew and Sherrie have amazing voices and really pack an emotional punch. Rock of Ages also does a great job of mixing several songs together at once as well as intertwining each of the characters separate stories and backgrounds to keep the audience interested.

Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx and his baboon, Heyman, definitely steal the show. Stacee is effortlessly cool and sexy but has also gone a bit bonkers, certainly the star of the show. But Baldwin and Brand are also fantastic as the club owners, it’s the perfect role for Brand and I guarantee even if you usually hate him, you’ll laugh at him in this.

Catherine Zeta Jones has some great parts too – especially “Hit me with your best shot” where you see her singing and dancing in a church doing some incredibly high kicks. Props to you girl!

Rock of Ages is a great summer film for all the family and for anyone who’s a fan of classic rock. It’s funny, it’s sexy and it will have you singing along for days after you’ve seen it.

Rock of Ages is out this Wednesday.

4/5

Review: Dark Shadows

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Johnny Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a man who’s cursed with the worst fate a man can suffer – a woman’s scorn. Angelique (Eva Green) is a girl who falls in love with Barnabas but as her affections are unrequited, she plots against him. Unfortunately for Barnabas, Angelique is a witch and she throws his true love off a cliff and curses him with living forever, as a vampire. She turns the towns people against him and Baranbas is locked in a coffin for eternity until 200 years later, construction workers dig him up.  The rivalry between the witch and the vampire begins again.

The real laughs begin when watching Barnabas try to get to grips with the 1970’s but there is something all too familiar about an out of place man in the ‘modern’ ages. In fact, Dark Shadows very much reminded me of Edward Scissorhands – a tale about an outsider who doesn’t understand the world completely and gets driven away by violent villagers.

Although there are these similarities, Dark Shadows manages to be different. The character of Barnabas is fantastically portrayed by Depp, he’s witty, charming and even though he kills a few innocent people – he’s surprisingly likeable. It was also a nice surprise to see Eva Green as a completely different character than we’re used to and she makes the despicable Angelique sexy, seductive and incredibly evil.

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Many people criticise the constant pairing of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton but let’s be honest, it works and it was great to see Burton back doing a proper gothic film again. The sets are stunning, part fantasy, part reality for example the dusty old Collin’s family home is beautiful and really sets the scene for such a family. The make-up and CGI impress too, especially Angelique’s porcelain skin, although I’m not sure every single person in the film needed white make-up. We get it Tim, it’s gothic but don’t over-do it.

Combining the 1700s with the 1970’s was a great idea; mostly for the great music, clothes and hair-dos that go with it. It also meant the film gets a cameo from Alice Cooper himself which Barnabas declares is “the ugliest woman I’ve ever seen.”

Dark Shadows isn’t just funny – there are some wonderfully dark parts to the story, true Tim Burton style. The Collin’s children are misunderstood and have unfortunate pasts and presents, something which Burton loves to do as he felt his childhood was always slightly dark.

Dark Shadows looks good, sounds good and the story between the evil witch and loving vampire is definitely enough to keep your attention span. The humour makes sure the film isn’t too dark but there’s definitely enough sorrow to satisfy any avid Burton fan. And, may I now say, well done Burton for doing a decent vampire love story and welcome back to the genre you are perfect at.

4/5