By JediXMan 7 Comments
Ah... Yeah. I'll freely admit that I have not played this game, nor do I intend to for a few reasons, which I'll eventually address. But I was extremely curious regarding the storyline; I like Ellen Page and Willem DaFoe, so that was a nice bonus.
So, what did I do? I went to YouTube and watched a complete playthrough with no commentary, so I could experience the story in its entirety.
... And so here we are.
Obviously, this review will be about the story and... Well, little else.
The story revolves around Jodie Holmes, a girl who has become isolated by her abilities. She has a spirit entity, named Aiden, who follows her around. He helps her and protects her, but at the same time interferes with her activates, preventing her from living, even if she wanted to.
Her whole life, she lived on military base. This base is a relatively small research facility dedicated to paranormal research, specifically research into the Infraworld, the place Aiden is from and where ghosts reside. Eventually, the CIA see that Jodie is the real thing, and they want her for themselves. Regardless of all the people who want to study and potentially use her, all Jodie wants is a normal life.
I... Ah... I don't know where to begin.
The concept is good. I really like the idea. Aiden is cool, Jodie is interesting and sympathetic, and the story is intriguing... At least in the beginning. A girl with a ghost-like friend who helps and hinders her? Some powers ripped right from the Sixth Sense? A desire for a normal life?
Screw that. It's time for the ELLEN PAGE VARIETY HOUR(s)!
That's right! You see, Jodie is a quiet, misunderstood girl by day. But at night, she goes into her wardrobe of a thousand faces, and we get the many faces of Ellen Page!
- Goth Page!
- Carrie Page!
- Hobo Page!
- Renegade Page!
- Rancher Page!
- Secret Agent Page!
- Commando Page!
- Deep-sea Diver Page!
Ah.. Ah ha... Yeah. Look, I do like Ellen Page, and she does a good job... As Jodie. But I truly see no reason for the majority of these scenarios. They shoehorned these things into a story that is, at its heart, about a girl who wants a normal life - right, because being a commando is normal.
I understand that peopledowant to use her because of her connection to spirits, but come on. Why would the CIA take somebody with unique abilities and put them into a mission that they don't need superpowers to accomplish? Any commando could just assassinate somebody, but why Jodie? And I'm sorry, but I can't take 5' 1", 90 lb Jodie seriously as a black ops soldier taking on armies of mercenaries in Africa during Uncharted-like fight scenes. Sorry, can't do it. Not saying women can't do it, or Ellen Page couldn't. But she really isn't conditioned for this, and she doesn't look like she is conditioned for it.
The story feels like it is made up of rejected script ideas that people attempted to glue together. Each, on their own, has some potential to be interesting - on their own. But not together, and not all involving the same person. It's like taking that kid from the Sixth Sense and saying, "Go kill Osama Bin Laden for us!"
And while we're talking about the plot, let's talk about the presentation. Sometimes, I like this style of storytelling: It starts with a taste of the end, and goes back to tell you the rest of the story.
But... But here's the problem: it doesn't know when to stop. For more than half the game, we see Jodie depressed and feeling hopeless because the government wants to kill her. Why? Don't know. I would have loved to know during all of these emotional scenes, but nope. You don't get to find out until the end of the second act. So essentially... I have no reason to care. It's like trying desperately to help a total stranger feel better, when that total stranger refuses to tell you the problem, and you don't have much emotional investment, other than the fact that you're sad at seeing a sad person.
When there are sad moments, like when she has to leave the facility and those who were her only family behind, they... They don't work. The moment was sad, yes. But then you have a flashback almost immediately afterward, removing that tension and sadness, because you never got the time to miss them. When she's finally reunited... You just don't care.
But what about Jodie? Surely I should care about her. And yeah, I do. But she suffers from a good deal of Plot Induced Stupidity. And really, it's because of a misogynistic writer. I don't generally take those kinds of stances, but I am here.
Jodie is meant to be a badass. She was trained in the CIA, can take down guys twice her size, and fight off groups of people. And all this without the help of Aiden.
So what is her weakness? Why every girl's weakness, according to the writer: rape. That's right. When confronted by a man who intends to do her harm, she loses all of her training, and needs Aiden to save her from the man.
"But," says the person criticizing me, "she was tired and hungry! She was almost dead the previous night, so she's weak!"
I could buy that... If she didn't beat up a group of 4 guys by her self mere hours after the attempted rape - with no more food or sleep than she had during the rape attempt. So apparently, it's only when she's being threatened with rape is it a problem.
For the record, this isn't the first attempted rape for Jodie. During her Goth-phase. She's almost raped by a group of guys. Now, the argument is that this is pre-CIA. Well, yes, it is. And I wasn't necessarily upset by this scene: it showed how naive she was, and it showed just how desperate she was. But when there's a second rape scene and she still doesn't fight back, now it's not about the character: it's the writer's view on the world.
She also suffers from some inconsistent morals. During her time in the CIA, she gets upset that she kills a man who, apparently, was innocent (well, technically she has Aiden do it… so…). That’s fine, I get that. What I don’t get is that she vomits at the sight of the dead man, before she even finds out the truth about him. In this chapter, she just finished killing dozens of soldiers with no problem, but now she has a moral dilemma.
After she finds out about the innocent man, she goes on the run. So what does she do? She kills soldiers trying to capture her. … Wow… That… that makes no sense. I understand killing the main guy trying to hunt you, but the majority of soldiers are innocent people, too. You can’t just pick and choose when killing is wrong when it suits you (though I suppose the writer can). Essentially, the writer is saying this: “The military is wrong for killing people. So let’s kill the people who are only following orders! It’s only okay to kill people when you’re not working for the government.”
Really strange view of the world you have there, David Cage (the writer and director).
The other characters are interesting and, mostly, likeable. But they all essentially default to cliché roles, especially: father figure, father figure, and father figure. Norman is a father figure; Paul of the Navajo is a father figure; Ryan, initially, comes off as a father figure. Or perhaps "father figure" is the wrong word; general "authority figure" works well, too
As with the ever-changing costumes, we get ever-changing scenery. We get to go to a scientific facility, the suburbs, the desert with a Navajo family, a city during winter time, forests, trains, a war torn city, a war-torn city in the winter, and a secret underwater military base operated by the Chinese mili...
Back up. Back up now. Let's... Let's read that together now: a secret underwater military base operated by the Chinese military, where they are trying to research the Infraworld.
... I'm sorry, I thought I was meant to take this game seriously. I didn't know this was essentially GI Joe: Rise of Cobra. I didn't know the villains had a military base accessed only by a submarine. Okay, good to know. I now have absolutely no reason to take this game seriously any longer. This isn't a drama; this isn't a thriller; this isn't even a movie about spies or special ops work. This is a straight action movie. That's it. The Uncharted analogy stands perfectly. But whereas that game was fun, had likeable characters, and never had any pretense of being a pretentious piece of art, this game has no excuse whatsoever. Great.
I'll drift away from the plot for a moment, because if I don't, I'm going to get more upset:
The graphics are beautiful. With this and the Last of Us finishing this generation, it's just a nice way to show that the previous gen is still capable of competing with the Next Gen, and that the Next Gen has the potential to be all the more amazing.
Music is kinda good... Well... Sorta. It kinda repeats the same song over and over again, and it's not great. Not bad, but repetitive. Meh.
The acting is quite good. Everyone plays their parts well, even if I don't always like the parts that they play.
My reason for not playing this is... Well, frankly, the gameplay looks dull. It's basically an interactive movie. I like a little choice in my game, or at least the ability to do stuff. In this, there is no illusion of choice. If you fail, the game moves on. There's little to no punishment if you fail in this game. It doesn't reload; it just continues with that scenario. And while that might be potentially interesting in a game with choice, this game has no choice that in any way affects your interaction on the characters later in the game.
It's a movie, nothing more. So it's not fair for me rate it on the basis of gameplay. I will only rate this based on the narrative, the acting, graphics, etc.
While I appreciate what this game is trying to do as far as a deep narrative is concerned, Quantic Dream is not the company that I will ever look to for that. I will continue to look to Naughty Dog and Telltale for my gaming story needs. Quantic Dream's designers deserve to work for better companies. They always produce amazing environments and character models, but their writers and directors (*cough*David Cage*cough*) should never work on a video game again. I don't even think they can make a competent movie.
I give this game a 5 / 10. It got away from a 4 purely because of the graphics.