Gamer's Notebook

Valve moves forward with Steam Box

By Chris O'Neal 10/17/2013


Everyone is flippin’ out about Grand Theft Auto V. Give me a flippin’ break! Not because it’s a bad game (it’s a great game), but because there are other things happening in the world of electronic entertainment that deserve just as much attention as your buddy Trevor doing a double back flip off the roof of his summer home into a shallow pool. We get it; you can injure yourself in very creative ways in GTA V.


Let’s talk about Valve. The geniuses behind such classics as Half-Life and the heart-wrenching anticipation for Half-Life 3 have announced something even grander than a sequel: an entirely new system.


The Steam Box, as it is known, has been rumored to exist for several years now (much like Half Life 3). Unlike HL3, however, it actually exists and was announced a week or so ago.


Valve already has a stranglehold on digital distribution on the PC side of gaming. If you’re in the mood for a quirky shoot-‘em-up or an episodic cerebral horror story, Steam more than likely has what you need. Now imagine all of that streaming on your television.


Gabe Newell, co-founder of Valve and godlike individual to some, announced the Steam Box and previewed its control pad, which looks very similar to modern systems’ input devices. But that’s where the similarities end. The Steam Box (not an official title) will be customizable, according to Newell, can be programmed to run on any operating system (think Windows or Linux) and can even be used to make a robot.


Your guess is as good as mine whether said robot will be the cute kind of robot (WallE) or the blood-thirsty gaming addicted robot (Evolver).


On the gaming-that-isn’t-GTA-V front, Beyond: Two Souls may be the industry’s first foray into melding Hollywood with the digital, playable format.


Developer Quantic Games balances interaction with story-telling starring the likes of Ellen Paige, who plays the game’s protagonist Jodie Holmes. Taking place in many different periods of her life, Beyond: Two Souls attaches the supernatural to a relatively human story of growing up and self-discovery.


Willam Dafoe makes an appearance as well, and somehow appears creepier digitally than in reality, though he gives a decent performance.


The object of the game, if you can truly call it that, is to be human. Paige’s Holmes is a child, teenager and adult learning to manage supernatural powers. Dealing with being picked on by her adolescent peers and dodging seedy government agents, she rarely gets a break, and neither does the player.


Jodie Holmes can control a spirit that can manipulate certain objects in her environment. Imagine knocking over a barrel to distract a bad guy or blowing up some flowers to show mother nature who’s boss. This is where the game becomes, well, a game. The rest of the time is spent watching cut scenes and displaying emotions.


If storytelling is that important to you, Beyond: Two Souls carries the weight.


Beyond: Two Souls is as much an experiment as it is a simple game, following in the footsteps of Quantic Dream’s previous foray into interactive storytelling, Heavy Rain, (which is the superior product).


Hollywood can’t keep its fingers out of the video game industry, but maybe this will fend it off for a bit — a movie posing as a game. Fun and interesting but not entirely re-playable, this will fit nicely on the shelf next to your DVDs.


Beyond: Two Souls is available now for the Playstation 3, $59.99.

Chris O’Neal is leaving on a jet plane and doesn’t know when he’ll be back again. Follow him on Twitter @agentoneal.

 

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