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REVIEW: 'Beyond: Two Souls' Is An Interactive Thriller That's Underdeveloped

In Beyond: Two Souls, David Cage actualizes his fantasy of producing a game aimed directly at mature adults. But does his latest title expand on video games true potential or simply just blurs the lines?

Available today (Oct. 8), the PlayStation 3 exclusive is a mainstream title that forces gamers to do some uncharacteristic things while engaging in a life-and-death struggle for one's attention. For those familiar with Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy, you're standing outside the norm of a traditional video game. As Jodie Holmes (played by actress Ellen Page), gamers control her during various points in her life over the course of 15 years. The basic premise of the story involves her journey alongside a mysterious poltergeist-like companion who's been tethered to her since birth and is both fiercely and jealously protective of her.

Throughout the game you can delve into why the ghost known as 'Aiden' is around you, although it's implied that the spectral figure doesn't even know how it came to be. Gamers play as both roles, as David Cage insisted that the adventure should be in one's own hands (or controller). You'll decide whether to punish your father for his bad attitude; you'll use 'Aiden' to sneak out to engage in a snowball fight with neighborhood kids and more. Most of the time, you'll simply point your character at something, pick one of the options given to you, and course through the game using QTE (quick-time events). Similar to Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls restricts players and forces them to repeat mechanisms within a cinematic structure, with objectives propelled by the need to fulfill the event more than the actual needs of the protagonists itself.

Beyond challenges conventionality by creating something that feels like an unfolding novel rather than a level-tiered video game title. Focusing solely on characters and their development (Ellen Page, Willem Dafoe, Kadeem Hardinson), the Quantic Dream production touches on adult themes (rape, abuse, homelessness) and adds the value of a blockbuster film. Mainstream games within the industry rarely dive deeper into these aforementioned topics. They frequently ignore the threads that make up the bulk of their players' lives. Beyond: Two Souls manages to whisk players through one mystery at a time, while piecing together Jodie's memories albeit out-of-sequence. This non-linear narrative can be confusing to first-time players, but it pays off by keeping the overall story fresh and full of tension.

As players witness Jodie's entire life from the ages of 8 to 23, the most inspiring aspect of the game is Quantic Dream's beautiful usage of MOCAP to ensure that the actors play out beautifully onscreen. Jodie, Dr. Nathan Dawkens (Dafoe) and Cole Freeman (Hardinson) all are the best rendered, best acted video game characters to close out the PlayStation 3's console life.

Unfortunately, Beyond has its healthy share of hiccups. The fixed camera, which is controlled by the R3 sixaxis, offers limited viewpoints throughout the game. The out-of-sequence storytelling can sometimes be jarring and confusing to those unfamiliar with the Quantic Dream brand of gameplay. One may find themselves completing the game, only to jump back through the chapter selection just to clear up any questions of what happened when. The underdeveloped tale of Jodie and her not-so-Casper-the-friendly ghost 'Aiden' gets progressively sillier the deeper into the game you go. Despite certain spontaneous moments, Beyond takes itself super-seriously even though various plot elements and character motivations change that make no sense at all. The game does manage to reel in many of Heavy Rain's narrative tricks, but the David Cage-written script (over 2,000 pages long) isn't award-winning by any means.

Speaking of 'Aiden,' his intention within the story is to play out as some sort of puzzle aspect that wasn't really utilized in Heavy Rain. In addition to being able to control him through your mobile device ("Beyond Touch" on your Google, Android or iOS), his usage throughout the game feels a bit confining and restricted. As he's armed with the ability to heal Jodie's injuries, trigger flashbacks from objects, or, most interestingly enough, possess enemies — it's never made crystal clear why some can be affected this way while others cannot. During one "scene" when Jodie is being seized upon by police, as 'Aiden,' gamers merely float around trying to figure out how to aid her into safety. You're never truly in fear of Jodie's life as invisible elements make it hard for the enemy to touch her at all.

All in all, Quantic Dream has made a wonderfully engaging, if albeit undercooked video game. The acting and animation make it a beautifully rich experience. Its billed leads, Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, do provide Hollywood caliber performances that would have hindered the game without their presence. Breathing that kind of life into such thrilling characters is the distinction that Beyond: Two Souls has over other games in its weight class. David Cage has woven some pretty compelling issues (life, death, what lies beyond) into a game where the gaming industry normally shies away from such topics.

Qualms about gameplay, cameras and certain choices aside, and Beyond is an interactive thriller that will keep gamers talking about their memorable experiences for quite awhile.

Don't believe us?! Well, take a look at the trailer for yourself below:

Beyond: Two Souls is available in stores today (Oct. 8) exclusively for the PlayStation 3.

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Jussie Smollett attends the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 60th Anniversary Opening Night Gala Benefit at New York City Center on November 28, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

'Empire' Camp Says Jussie Smollett Never Complained About Salary

The accusations made towards Jussie Smollett in the alleged staged assault has those close to the actor-musician scratching their heads–including his Empire family.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter Thursday (Feb. 21), sources close Empire were surprised to hear a salary increase was the motive behind the actor's reported staged attack in January. The Illinois state prosecutor stated in a press conference Smollett paid two brothers to orchestrate a homophobic racist attack in an effort to get his star rising and his pockets heavier. But those close to the Empire set believe that can't be the case since as he was most recently paid $125,000 per episode.

"I don't think it's true that he was unhappy with what he was being paid," the source told THR. "His representatives never once called and there was no effort to renegotiate. He's never expressed any dissatisfaction."

Created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, Smollett's base pay was in the $40,000 to $50,000 region but after setting record-breaking ratings in the first season, the main characters received a big increase with Smollett receiving $125,000 per episode and esteemed actors Taraji P. Henson and Terrance Howard moving from $110,000-$120,000 per-episode to the  $225,000-$250,000 range. Aside from season one, there are 18 episodes from season two to season five.

The actor has officially been cut from the last two episodes of the fifth season to avoid "disruption on set."

"While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out, a statement from Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer reads. "We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of Jamal from the final two episodes of the season."

Smollett has also maintained his innocence throughout the entire case. Alternative motives have pointed to a boost to his music career but the actor also seemed to be pleased with that as well.

Speaking to VIBE just after the release of his debut album Sum of My Music, the actor was pleased with his journey outside of Empire.

"Here’s the thing, I’m not ashamed of Empire songs. I wrote a lot of them," he said. Empire's soundtrack was a hit with fans as it climbed to the top of the Billboard charts in 2015.  "I’m proud of the work I’ve done with Empire. I just can’t be only Empire, that’s not all I am."

His project moved 7,000 units and views on his YouTube channel views have been modest with "Catch Your Eye" feature Swizz Beatz reaching 620,000 views and audio of "F.U.W." reaching 1.1 million spins. His most popular song on Spotify isn't an Empire-related track, it's "Ha Ha (I Love You)" from Sum of My Music.

As the case might to go trial, one can only hope the full truth will be revealed.

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Kevin Winter

Big Boi To Play Motown Founder Berry Gordy In DeBarge Biopic

Big Boi has reportedly been cast as Motown's legendary founder Berry Gordy in the upcoming biopic about Bobby DeBarge. The rapper confirmed the news on Instagram on Thursday (Feb. 21).

"Just finished playing Berry Gordy in the Debarge movie. Coming Soon," Big Boi announced on Instagram. The photo showed an acting chair with his name and Gordy's printed on the backrest.

Bobby DeBarge was the lead singer of R&B group Switch, an act signed to Gordy’s Motown Records imprint Gordy Records. Known for his  impressive falsetto, DeBarge quickly shot up to stardom during the late 70s. He later co-produced for his siblings' band, also named DeBarge, before joining the group himself.

Amidst his success in music, he struggled with substance abuse and legal issues. He died in Aug. 1995 of AIDS complications at the age of 39.

The Bobby DeBarge Story is slated to premiere on TV One sometime this year.

 

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Just finished playing Berry Gordy in the “ Debarge “ movie @swirlfilmsig 🎬🎥🔥 coming Soon ! 🆙

A post shared by Big Boi (@bigboi) on Feb 21, 2019 at 8:21pm PST

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Welcome To The Jam: 'Space Jam 2' Gets 2021 Release Date

It looks like we've got a real jam going down, and it will all happen in a few short years. According to Springhill Entertainment's Twitter page, the official release date for Space Jam 2 will be on July 16, 2021.

The follow-up to the 1996 Looney Tunes-heavy film starring Michael Jordan will star LeBron James this time around. Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler will produce it, and Terence Nance is directing, which were revealed in summer 2018 with a pretty cute promotional photo.

Filming will reportedly begin this summer, and we're certain we'll find out more high-profile cast members within the next year. James' production partner discussed the possibility of Michael Jordan appearing in the second film, but only time will tell.

"Michael Jordan is Michael F**kin' Jordan," said Maverick Carter. "It doesn't matter [if James] calls him, he's gonna do whatever the hell he wants, which he has earned that right to do."

The first film features basketball stars Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Larry Bird and more, and features a pretty memorable cameo by Bill Murray. Danny DeVito voices Swackhammer, the owner of outer space theme park Moron Mountain. He and his tiny group of aliens steal the talent of NBA players to win a basketball game against the Looney Tunes, which could determine the cartoons' fate.

July 16, 2021 🎥🏀🥕 #SaveTheDate pic.twitter.com/qV1Tnxuksd

— SpringHill Ent. (@SpringHillEnt) February 22, 2019

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