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Life is Strange: Before The Storm – Episode Two: Brave New World PS4 Review

Like Life is Strange so often does; Episode Two – Brave New World opens in a relatable setting, and a familiar one for any rebellious teen. Our burgeoning protagonist Chloe Price finds herself in the principal’s office. She is surrounded by both familiar faces and newcomers. Instead of simply taking us on an unabated guilt trip this scene has deeper meaning. Chloe really loves her mom, and that love is reciprocated back. Rachel Amber’s parents stand behind her – and they care for their daughter too. However, as we learned near the end of the previous episode things are not that simple in her life. I instantly got the feeling that everyone on show, even the principal, wants to be a better person – but something stands in their way. There is always much more bubbling under the surface in Life is Strange than the dialogue alone initially suggests. Right from the get go Brave New World proves this to be true once again.

Pretty much everything that was touched upon in the first episode is expanded upon here in greater detail. Chloe’s visions – as she tries to subconsciously deal with the death of her father are highlighted again. These scenes may overwhelm players with metaphors and double meanings, but the beauty of the game’s excellent direction and presentation help to maintain an eerie undertone.

Chloe’s not just a rebel without a cause, she has a rebellious attitude for a reason. In the first episode it’s shown that she lashes out at others due to the death of her father – a figurehead no one could ever replace. In Brave New World she mainly fights back because she is growing to love Rachel. She’s willing to get in trouble if it saves her from harm. That may not be the smartest plan – but love is not very logical. Of course, Chloe’s rebellious attitude has a fun side too, and the game is fearless in showcasing this. A quick graffiti laden trip to a well known bathroom backed up by Daughter – No Care is testament to that.

Chloe’s relationship with Rachel seems to be moving apace; resulting in deeper and more thoughtful conversations. They already have a feel for each other’s personality, and have already shared intimate details. With that knowledge they can both lend a hand when needed with lingering life problems. Sure falling in love over the course of a couple of days may seem too fast for some, but seeing it flourish in this way was natural to me – so I am happy to believe in it.

Backtalk challenges return. They are the newest addition to the series now that time travel has gone missing – or has never happened depending on your perspective. Their use seems more cleverly defined in this outing. In the previous episode I felt that every time these challenges were offered they always seemed to be the correct answer to the problems that stood in your way. You were never forced into picking them, but the dialogue felt like it gently coerced you in that direction. For Brave New World their use seems to be a tad more questionable. Chloe may not be shy of getting in trouble to get what she wants, but how will her rebellious endeavours affect those around her?

Alongside this, more so than ever before, Brave New World made me feel that my choices were having wide reaching implications. This notion is almost always incorrect for such games – as developers do not have infinite time to develop infinite outcomes. However, with so many smaller choices accounted for as you go the feeling you are making a difference is strong. I ended up playing the first scene over and over again just to understand what was going on. Even though the next part always ends up the same I realised the road to get there can diverge in many ways. Deck Nine should be applauded for handling this so adeptly – as the same level of detail continues throughout the episode.

Another way that Brave New World steps up in class is in regards to presentation. It appears to be a fantastically directed episode from start to finish. There are really fancy camera shots with unique moves and sways in every scene. I know we are talking about a virtual camera but that does not diminish the achievement in any way. Everything is beautifully shot and framed in a stunning way. There are times the characters only occupy a small corner of the screen where I was wowed by the gorgeous visuals on show in the background. Even the timing of cuts from one character to another seems to be better paced this time around – adding some extra oomph to the game’s emotional and humorous moments.

An early episode of the original series had you searching through a junkyard for bottles. It seemed a tad tedious at the time, and I personally saw it as filler to add a few extra moments playtime to an otherwise short scene. Brave New World has another one of these problems. Chloe gets the idea to repair a car in the same junkyard, and players are tasked with searching for various bits and pieces. This endeavor was much easier than the bottle hunt, and it had interesting options as it develops, but it is still any annoying search through the least visually interesting location the game offers. I had hoped Deck Nine would have learned from one of Dontnod’s small missteps. The end result of the search was worth it though and leads to interesting moments long term fans will appreciate.

These slower parts always lead into hugely entertaining conversational moments – making the journey worthwhile. But that does not change the fact that this feels like a slower paced episode than many of its predecessors. Don’t get me wrong, that is not a criticism, as the pacing of Brave New World also makes it a more confident episode than those that came before. It’s brave enough to linger on scenes, giving them emotional depth without feeling pressured to rush to a bombastic moment. Furthermore the big reveals in Brave New World are much more personal in nature. Many of the series’ most memorable moments threatened lives, and one time even questioned the concept of time and reality itself. This time the twists are more emotionally fueled, and feel more personal to the characters involved. In Brave New World you will shed tears alongside a character rather than just cry for them.

A major characteristic of the series has been telling stories with a melancholic but honest approach. Brave New World slightly differs from what came before, and wanders into more vibrant feelings of hope – at least for a little while. There is a great love story been told here, and it is worth playing just for that. Deck Nine’s take on the series continues to unwrap the layers of what I once thought was a very stoical persona of Chloe Price. We now know there is something much more interesting underneath.

For me, Brave New World’s best moment is the continuation of The Tempest – the William Shakespeare play introduced in Episode One. Seeing the play in action tells an interesting story within a story. Other than Rachel, who gives a sterling performance, the play is purposely not well acted – giving it an authentic feel. Speaking of acting, even though an actors strike affects this whole series, everyone involved once again does great work. Kylie Brown stands out as Rachel Amber giving the character huge helpings of emotional heft and grounding her as genuine and believable. Chloe grows to adore Rachel so it would be all too easy to present her as overconfident. Thankfully, clever writing and acting manage to sidestep that pitfall.

Although many fans were initially worried about Deck Nine taking the helm for the prequel to Life is Strange that fear now seems totally unjustified. Their vision for the series, as showcased in the first episode, is proof positive that the much loved characters are in safe hands. Brave New World is yet another piece of lovingly crafted evidence that should banish any lingering doubt about the developer. They are a highly capable team and a near perfect fit for this series.

9 out of 10