Review: Beyond: Two Souls
Beyond:Two Souls is another interactive tale from Quantic Dream whose previous title - Heavy Rain sparked some conversation. How will this one hold up to Quantic Dream's other titles?
- Addictive?If you liked Heavy Rain - yes. If you expect a lot of traditional gameplay - a little less so.
- Worth The Time?If you're fond of supernatural tales and you know you'll try it more than once to witness other scenarios - yes.
- Things LovedTruly engrossing story; interesting scenarios; great visuals; stunning soundtrack; the variety of options available in certain segments; great acting performances; interesting characters; Willem Dafoe!
- Things HatedClunky movement controls; bothersome camera that doesn't allow you to gaze where you want to gaze; disjointed scenarios here and there.
- RecommendationFor fans of Heavy Rain or supernatural stories. Not for those seeking constant traditional gameplay.
- Quick ConclusionBeyond: Two Souls does provide a stunning narrative experience and is sure to entertain you for one playthrough at the very least, but the greatness often tends to be dragged down by the clunky controls and bothersome camera.
- Name: Beyond: Two Souls
- Genre: Interactive drama
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Local: 1-2
- Platforms: PS3
- Developer: Quantic Dream
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Price: Standard Edition: R599; Special Edition: R699
- Reviewed On: PS3
You all know about the existence of those “create your own story” books for kids, right?
I read quite a few of those growing up and I quite liked the availability of options on where this specific story may take me. I was in control of the pre-made choices and it somehow felt like something more than the average book. Today, I prefer my books without these options and I feel that I like the one vision that was created by the author. However, I never felt that the “choose your own destiny” type deal would be a bad idea in another form of media. Gaming is full of choices and why not have that same experience right here?
It seems that David Cage and the Quantic Dream team agrees on this idea and they have set out to create another one of these games. It fits well within the story, but how does it carry over to the gameplay side of things?
If you have played Heavy Rain – Quantic Dream’s previous game, you’ll have a nice idea of what to expect in the gameplay department, but both games’ stories are nowhere near alike each other.
In Heavy Rain the player switched between four different characters as the story progressed, however, this time around, the focus is kept on one and only one controllable protagonist – Jodie Holmes.
Every character within the game is portrayed by a real-life actor’s look, voice and movements and you may clearly recognise a few faces as you go though Jodie’s journey. Expect to see a lot of Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe every now and then.
Our story takes place all around the globe as we see Jodie Holmes’ experiences and struggles over the course of quite a few years – ranging from her childhood to her young adult years. Do not be fooled as there is quite a few interesting scenarios to behold within these fifteen years.
As you might be wondering from the title of the game; “Two Souls” are quite descriptive in both a narrative sense and gameplay perspective. Jodie has been born with an unknown entity connected to her by the name of Aiden. A mysterious, speechless, ever-present and interesting character all on its own. Throughout the game you will be able to switch between Jodie and Aiden to progress through the story and make your way past certain obstacles in your path.
Seeing as how this is a game with its main focus on narrative, I need to explain the story and some of the events you partake in, but it is undoubtedly and tremendously easy to venture over into spoiler territory.
I’ll provide a brief framework of the events as some events might not be all they seem at first. Rest assured there is lots of narrative surprises to go around once you play the game.
At the age of six her parents takes her to the DPA, which may be seen as some sorts of base centered on the studies of all things paranormal and entity-like. They are filled with doubt and hopelessness regarding the strange events that constantly takes place around their daughter. This is all due to her being in the constant presence of Aiden – who provides to be both a wonderful companion or troublesome hindrance to her at times. You’ll experience her life at this base and maybe even a party or two as her rebelliousness enters the fray. In the time of her young-adult life she is forced to join the CIA and make use of her special abilities to partake in dodgy missions with her having an unorthodox upper hand in both combat and “information-borrowing”-type cases. You control Jodie in third-person perspective and Aiden in a floaty / hovering and passing through walls first-person perspective.
Soon after that she is on the run. I prefer not to say by who or why that is, but let me just state that honesty wasn’t a definite priority to some people around her. You’ll go from her original home, the DPA base, embassies, trenches, offices, an area simply brimming to its seams with conflict and AK-47’s, a farm and quite a few locations I’m keeping my trap shut about.
The plot jumps around like a squirrel who had too much of some sort of energising drug. We are constantly thrown around different events throughout Jodie’s life and while it undoubtedly do make things more interesting as you try to puzzle around all the previous scenarios in your mind, you may wonder if all this was really necessary. Luckily in the loading screen, you will see where exactly these given events take place in time. This is portrayed in a type of timeline shown when you’re about to enter another scene filled with angry paranormal entities splurged all over the walls. (Not every scene, though.)
All of these events are brought to life by real-life actors as I’ve mentioned above and while the hiring of big-budget actors wasn’t necessary to provide an interesting and dramatic tale; there’s definitely some truly touching performances by these people. This made it feel all the more like a film, despite the fact that so many cut-scenes (the whole game is basically one long interactive cut-scene) complete with their camera angles aims to make it look like a movie with strange symbols hovering over the characters extremities. (Quick time events everywhere, people.)
A great sense of realism is added by these actors and most of the environments provide a wholesome feast for the eyes. This games shines in pretty much every aspect of graphical fidelity. I did encounter brief instances where textures behaved freakishly, as well as one occasion where Jodie’s mom’s face took some time to load. Maybe she was having a bad morning? (Actually, she did have a bad time in that specific scene.)
Pretty visuals are all nice and well, but the game’s voice acting, sound design and especially the soundtrack composed by Lorne Balfe did a noteworthy job to enhance the experience. There is one specific scenario where you had to take control of Aiden, and with the given events that needed to happen and the especially powerful bit of soundtrack playing – it truly made for a hair-raising / goosebump-infused experience.
This is all great and fantastic, but we have a flip-side to Beyond: Two Souls’ coin. A brilliant supernatural narrative with interesting choices and possibilities, a stunning soundtrack and powerful performances on one side, but we have the clunky gameplay and frustrating camera on the other side of this pretty coin.
The gameplay is very reminiscent of Heavy Rain’s quick time event-focused gameplay with a few more slim lined features incorporated into the hand-to-hand combat sequences. Instead of pressing certain buttons to attack or dodge incoming fists or debris flying over Jodie’s noggin, you now have to pay attention to the direction Jodie or her pain-producing appendages is currently making their way, while engaged in a brief slow-motion moment. You’ll use the right analogue stick to move accordingly in the desired direction. It was an addition I found more engaging than pressing certain buttons, but sometimes it was hard to quickly and accurately make out which direction she is currently moving.
The movement controls sometimes feel like there is a delay of some sort and the movement is very stiff. For the most part it doesn’t feel as though you are controlling human being. The movement controls are more like that of a vehicle with a preset speed depending on the situation. You do not have any way to make Jodie traverse the landscape slower or faster. You are able to reach the given destination, but there is always something scratching against your mind that it could’ve been way more fluid and indeed, more fun to move around. It is a little bit more fluid than Heavy Rain’s movement controls, but unfortunately not fluid enough to make for a better experience.
The camera is always in a preset position with very little leeway and adjustability to look around your character and have a more complete view of the environment. In some scenarios where you are forced to run away or make yourself scarce I see that this may be needed to urge you along, but a fully functional camera will have benefited this game immensely.
The quick time events does provide the needed urgency in most cases, but there are some instances where it may feel a bit shoehorned into the gameplay. Not a deal breaker, but definitely something that will create unnecessary frustration in some people if they aren’t that familiar with the DualShock 3 controller.
The game features multiple endings and different outcomes to many of the events onscreen, which may add to the replayability factor if you enjoyed the game the first time around. I’m 100% happy with the ending I received.