Beyond: Two Souls Review

BeyondBeyond: Two Souls (Available Exclusively on PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Quantic Dream
Release Date: October 8th, 2013

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Beyond: Two Souls M for mature because of blood, intense violence, sexual content, strong language, and the use of drugs and alcohol. Players have the ability to take over other characters and force them to do unspeakable things. There are some seriously disturbing scenes in this game that will frighten children if they so much as catch a glimpse, so do yourself and the future of humanity a favor and make sure no young one are around when you’re playing this game.

Plays Like: Similar to Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls is more of an interactive movie than a full-fledged videogame. The game plays out through several stages of protagonist Jodie Holmes’ life, and players take on the role of both her and her companion Aiden, a spiritual partner that is forever linked to Jodie. Aiden can interact with objects in the environment and grants Jodie superhuman-like powers. Gameplay is comprised of hundreds of buttons presses, quick time events, and standard analog movement.

Review Basis: Finished the game in two sittings.

After the universally praised Heavy Rain, Quantic Dream is back with an all new interactive movie. This time around players take on the roll of Jodie Holmes, a very special girl that is humanity’s only link between our world and…something else. Her companion is a spiritual creature named Aiden, and through the use of both characters, players live out a good chunk of Jodie’s life to uncover not only her past, but where she’s going and what makes her so special.

The Great:

The story is interesting, even if it can be a little unfocused at times. The game begins with a little girl being tested by a couple of scientists. She has an invisible friend named Aiden, who just so happens to be real. As players slowly make progression the focus changes from Jodie as a little girl to her as a rebellious teenager, all the way through to her FBI training, and eventually to her being on the run for some unknown reason. The more involved the story gets, the more interesting it becomes. This is ultimately a story of one frightened child becoming a confident woman learning to accept her place in this strange world. Ellen Page’s performance is fantastic, and is the main reason you will want to play Beyond: Two Souls. The downside to the story is the way the 20 chapters are broken up. One minute you’re a child, the next you’re an adult on the run, then you’re a teenager, now a child again, etc, etc. It can be a little overwhelming, but I still found it extremely enjoyable overall.

Beyond5The Good:

+ Swapping between Jodie and Aiden on the fly is a great mechanic that works well. While Jodie is as restricted as you or I, Aiden is limitless, except for his link to Jodie that is. So long as he doesn’t get too far away from her he’s able to fly through walls, interact with objects, and even take over other character’s bodies.

+ Gameplay feels intuitive and responsive. While moving around the environment, looking at objects, or just exploring, the controls are highly responsive. On-screen indicators let you know what you can and can’t interact with. Press the right analog stick in a certain direction and Jodie will gladly move a chair back and have a seat. While as Aiden, it’s extremely easy to flip switches, push obstacles out of the way, and much more.

+ No such thing as Game Over. If you fail, it’s incorporated into a different path in the storyline. Let’s say you were running away from the cops, but for whatever reason you couldn’t escape, the story will continue on from that point and Jodie has to live with whatever fate you’ve trapped her in. It’s a very unique convention I’d like to see repeated in the future as it encourages multiple playthroughs.

+ Superb graphics. This is one fine looking videogame. There are so many polygons in each character it’s enough to make your head spin. The animations are spectacular and the overall world is shimmering with detail. From backgrounds, to set pieces, Jodie’s world is brimming with life.

+ Co-op multiplayer is interesting. One player controls Jodie and the other Aiden, however the action all takes place on a single screen. The player controlling Jodie has to press Triangle to switch to the other player, and vice versa. It’s a nice diversion if someone really wants to join in. There’s also a free iOS and Android app called Beyond Touch that allows a player to use nothing but the touch interface of their phone or tablet in order to move one of the characters. The game defaults to easy mode while using the app though. It’s my understanding this was done as a way to convince more casual on-lookers to try the game.

Beyond2The So-So:

+/- Some chapters are much more fun than others. Playing as a little girl is powerful to the story, however the gameplay isn’t anywhere near as interesting as when Jodie’s on the run, for example. The more options available to players, like during an early FBI mission, the more the game feels fresh and interesting. Once Jodie is confined because of story limitations, the fun factor slows to a crawl. This throws off the pacing and often makes the game feel like bore.

+/- Choices you make do affect the person Jodie will eventually become, but it’s not as groundbreaking as it could have been. Take the party chapter as an example. Jodie is terrified because she was locked in a closet by some really horrible people. Once she’s free players have the choice to simply leave the house or to enact revenge. Depending on what you do it will have an affect on how the story plays out later on. There are other choices that have no baring on the story at all. Then there are actions that Aiden does that seemingly don’t matter at all. It’s all very jarring because on one hand you want to play a certain way, and yet on the other you’re often forced into a corner.

+/- The combat system works well when the camera angles cooperate. As Jodie punches, kicks, and dodges players use the right analog stick to guide her body. It’s very intuitive and works so long as you can see where you need to move her body. Sadly there are usually a lot of dynamic camera angles that swoop around making it tough to see if you should angle the stick down, left, or something else entirely.

+/- The music is powerful, touching, and heartbreaking, the problem is that it often overpowers Ellen Page’s performances and that can get annoying. She does such a good job with her dialogue that we don’t need to be reminded this is a sad, moving, or emotional scene with a musical aid.

Beyond3The Bad:

– False sense of freedom. How is that I can only take over the body of a person that is glowing red and not blue? Why can’t I interact with the second light, and not just the first? These are questions that constantly come to mind while you explore as Aiden. Often there is only one solution to a puzzle, even though there may be several logical ways to solve it. When the game does offer more freedom you feel enlightened, but these moments are few and far between.

The Ugly:

Am I a spectator or a player? I kept asking myself that question during some of the quieter moments of the game. While walking around the house as a child you can see how limiting Jodie’s actions are. She can’t interact with almost anything, she can’t go wherever you want to, etc. This limiting feeling continues in almost every chapter except that in the more action packed ones you won’t notice it because you’re too busy trying to stay alive.

Beyond4The Lowdown:

Beyond: Two Souls has a ton of excellent ideas, the problems are with the way they’re executed. Everything feels half-baked in the greater scheme of things. Combat works well, but the camera can make it tough to see. Choices are great, but only a few actually matter. Some chapters are a blast to play through, but others are extremely boring. See a trend here? The whole game shines with potential, but there are always shortcomings that prevent it from achieving greatness. If you’re looking for a game with an intriguing storyline that dares to be different Beyond: Two Souls is such a game. If you’re looking for the next action blockbuster, this isn’t it.

Final Score: 6.8/10

2 thoughts on “Beyond: Two Souls Review”

  1. Very fair critique. This is one of those love it/hate it games. Like Heavy Rain, it seems that it wants the mundane everyday moments to truly feel special by having us interact with them. Sadly, Heavy Rain was too slow for me so I couldn’t get through the first few hours without being bored…which is why I haven’t finished it. Beyond seems more action packed, but has those slow moments as you’ve mentioned with some of the chapters. Also, the faux-choices don’t seem to change the plot as in Heavy Rain. It begs the question of why didn’t Quantic Dream put in multiple storyline branches and ending as in their past game?

    There’s a limit to how little you should put in games in terms of interactivity, so from your review it sounds like Beyond fails to balance this aspect in my opinion. I’ll still attempt to play it anyway and see how much this will grab me. Heavy Rain with all its praise was just too boring for me and the acting was very wooden. Beyond has the advantage of having awesome performances and faster-paced plot.

    1. Some chapters are nothing more than a simple FMV-sequence like the old SEGA CD full motion video games from Digital Pictures. Honestly you can just press a few buttons and nothing more. Yes you can walk around, but there’s no context to these areas outside fueling the storyline. I really loved the action scenes though, they kicked ass, but the problem is I found the pacing would pick up and then just die the next chapter. Maybe I’m alone in this reasoning, but I think it need to be completely rebalanced.

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