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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(L-R) Cast of Upn's 'Moesha'—William Allen Young, Yvette Wilson, Shar Jackson, Ray J, Brandy, Marcus T. Paulk, Lamont Bentley, And Sheryl Lee Ralph—celebrate the 100th episode of the comedy series.
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Netflix Acquires ‘Moesha,’ ‘Girlfriends,’ ‘Sister, Sister’ And More Classic Black Sitcoms

A slew of Black sitcoms are headed to Netflix. Moesha, Girlfriends, The Parkers, Sister, Sister and more will soon be available for streaming the company announced on Wednesday (July 29).

The new editions will begin airing next month, and are apart of Netflix’s Strong Black Lead campaign of programs that highlights the Black experience. “The goal of Strong Black Lead is to celebrate and lift up Black Hollywood. These trailblazing shows are a huge part of that story,” Jasmyn Lawson, Netflix’s Manager of Strong Black Lead and Bradley Edwards, Manager, Content Acquisition said in joint statement to Deadline.

“From the classic clown funeral episode of The Parkers to Moesha’s mind-tripping meet-up with Brandy, we’re thrilled that our members can now enjoy these amazing classics.”

The statement added, “These shows made us laugh, and cry, and sing along with those catchy theme songs. And mostly importantly, we felt like we saw ourselves on screen – in some cases for the very first time. Every week we were able to tune in to see people, families and friends that looked like us and characters whose everyday ups and downs reflected Black life in an authentic way.”

Episodes of Moesha arrive on Netflix on Aug. 1, followed by seasons 1-3 of The Game. Sister, Sister will debut on Sept. 1, while Girlfriends arrives on Sept. 11, commemorating the sitcom’s 20-year anniversary. The Parkers kicks off on Oct. 1, and will be followed up by Half & Half and One on One, both of which will debut on Oct. 15.

Watch the announcement below.

Time to pop bottles🍾🍾 The following classic shows are coming to @Netflix (US)

Moesha - Aug 1 The Game S1-3 - Aug 15 Sister Sister - Sept 1 Girlfriends - Sept 11 The Parkers - Oct 1 Half & Half - Oct 15 One on One - Oct 15

To celebrate, here's a message from your faves:

— Strong Black Lead (@strongblacklead) July 29, 2020

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Regina King's ‘Watchmen’ Series Dominates 2020 Emmy Nominations

The HBO drama Watchmen, starring Regina King, dominated the 72nd annual Emmy Awards nominations receiving 26 nods during Tuesday’s (July 28) virtual nomination ceremony. The superhero series, whose debut episode chronicled the Tulsa Race Massacre, earned nominations for Best Limited Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series of Movie for King, and Outstanding Lead Actor for Jeremy Irons, among others.

In the category of Best Lead Actress, King will face off against Kerry Washington (Little Fires Everywhere), Octavia Spencer (Self Made), Shira Hass (Unorthodox) and Cate Blanchett (Mrs. America).

Though Watchmen scooped up the most Emmy nominations, The Marvelous Mrs. Masel was not far behind with 20 nods, followed by Ozark, Succession, The Mandalorian, Schitt’s Creek, Saturday Night Live, and The Crown.

Elsewhere in the Watchmen cast, Louis Gusset Jr. earned an Emmy nod for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series/Movie, as did first-time nominee and fellow Watchmen co-stars, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Jovan Adept.

According to Variety, a record number of Black actors and actresses landed nominations this year. Black actors and actresses made up 35 of the 102 nominees (which includes Maya Rudolph receiving two nominations in the same category). Issa Rae, whose starring role on Insecure landed a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, will go up against Black-Ish star, Tracee Ellis Ross in the category.

Speaking of Insecure, Yvonne Orji was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for the HBO hit series, while the show received a eight nominations in total. In addition to earning nods for Insecure, the Rae-produced, A Black Lady Sketch Show, landed three nominations.

First-time Emmy nominee, Zendaya, earned a nod for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Euphoria. The 23 year old is the youngest, and sole Black actress, in the category. Also on the list of Black nominees are Billy Porter, Sterling K. Brown, Anthony Anderson, Don Cheadle, and Jeremy Pope. Although Porter received another Best Actor nod for Pose after last year's historic win, trans actresses India Moore and Angelica Ross spoke out about being snubbed at this year’s ceremony. Ross did however congratulate fellow trans actresses, Laverne Cox and Rain Valdez, on their Emmy nominations.

New Jersey born comedian-actor, Ramy Youssef, became the first Muslim American to be nominated for an Emmy, which he earned for his self-titled HULU series. Actress Sandra Oh is the only actress of Asian decent to receive an Emmy nod in a leading category, and Latinx stars were also largely overlooked this year.

“Despite the unprecedented challenges facing the entertainment industry, it has been an extraordinary year for television,” Television Academy Chairman CEO Frank Scherma said in a statement. “Television has inspired, united and comforted a global audience this season. We are honored to be recognizing so many talented programs, producers, directors and craftspeople behind the remarkable storytelling that has brought us together while we remain apart.”

The 72nd annual primetime Emmy Awards air on ABC on Sunday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. EST.

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Taraji P. Henson To Star In And Executive Produce ‘Empire’ Spinoff

An Empire spinoff, starring Taraji P. Henson, has been greenlit at Fox. The untitled series will follow the next chapter for Henson’s Empire character, Cookie Lyon.

In addition to starring in the series, Henson will also executive produce through her production company, TPH Entertainment. The show announcement coincides with a two-year first look deal that Henson signed with 20th Century Fox.

Danny Strong, co-creator of Empire, will pen the new series and serve as a showrunner along with Stacy Littlejohn and Yolanda Lawrence. Sanaa Hamri has signed on to direct. Empire creator Lee Daniels is executive producing the series with Henson, Strong, Littlejohn, Lawrence and Hamri, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Empire aired its season finale in April, but the new show could provide a bit of closure for fans. Ahead of filming Empire's final season, Henson reflected on how Cookie changed her life.

“Cookie has meant so much to me,” she told Entertainment Weekly last year. “She gave me a second life in this industry and made me a pop star in my 40s. Cookie was a movement. Long after I’m gone, people will be talking about Cookie.”

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