Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Beyond: Two Souls vs. The Stanley Parable

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 29 Oct 2013 12:00
Extra Punctuation - RSS 2.0

Well. I finally did it. I put a rather upsetting amount of money where my mouth is. Yesterday I received delivery of a new Alienware desktop gaming PC. Up until now, I've mainly played new games on the consoles, and occasionally whatever interesting new PC releases my laptop could run (usually for about an hour on the lowest possible resolution before it set fire to my desk and melted through the floor into the Earth's crust). But no more! Now Steam releases can optimize as shittily as they want, and with the exception of exclusives and delayed PC ports, I can play all the newest games on a platform that doesn't fill me with foreboding.

So I reckon my gaming habits are going to be comfortably sustainable in the event that the next console generation collapses into economic ruin and Call of Duty sequels. So once I'd set up my new machine that I have nicknamed The Fat Controller, and once I'd run out to buy a USB Wi-fi adapter that in my naivete I assumed would be built in, I inaugurated my return to the PC gaming master race by trying out The Stanley Parable. On the highest possible resolution. It ran very nicely, thanks for asking.

And it provides an interesting comparison to the subject of last week's review, Beyond: Two Souls. Both are more suited to the label of 'interactive story' than 'video game.' Both gear more towards movement along a linear story that branches off in places, rather than any challenge or organic gameplay. The main difference being that The Stanley Parable is breezy and entertaining, and Beyond: Two Souls is clunky and shite.

The comparison illustrates one of the reasons I sought to focus more onto PC gaming - that any attempt at innovative narrative design in a triple-A console release can't even move off the starting block until it has demonstrated a willingness to show off as much top-of-the-range graphics tech as possible over the course of at least 6 hours of campaign, and generally tick enough boxes to sufficiently assure a fat return on investment. Whereas attempts at innovative narrative design on Steam you can basically just throw out there and see if it works.

The fact that The Stanley Parable can say everything it wants to say within less than a couple of hours is also a big draw, because that's about the right length for a purely narrative-based experience focusing on a limited number of characters. That's why most films are about that length, too. Most video games go on significantly longer than that because they've got a lot of other things to pack in - organic gameplay, challenge, immersion, exploration, everything else that makes a game a game. The Stanley Parable keeps itself short because it has no pretension to being anything more than an interactive narrative.

'Pretentious' is the word that's going to come up again and again in any conversation about Beyond: Two Souls, but specifically it lets itself down by pretending to be a video game, despite being a collection of linear, occasionally branching narrative sequences with no gameplay or challenge (anyone who knows me at all will understand when I say that quick time events do not count.) It fills itself with action sequences and fake urgency to maintain the illusion, occasionally letting you crouch next to bits of chest-high wall for a bit as long as you promise to stay where it can see you.

Comments on