Review: Beyond: Two Souls (PS3)

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Title: Beyond: Two Souls
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: October 8, 2013 (US) / October 11, 2013 (EU)
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Quantic Dreams
Original MSRP: $59.99 / €59.99
ESRB Rating: M
Beyond: Two Souls is exclusive to PlayStation 3.

Gameplay:
The medium of video games has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. From text-only games with little to no soundtracks, to the good ol’ days of 2D sprite, to masterpieces like The Last of Us or Batman: Arkham City that hit your every sensory and evokes emotions that you weren’t expecting, a lot had changed, and it’s wonderful.

Quantic Dream has a long history in developing games that do not truly fit into the standard definition of a game. With their focus on bringing out emotion in the gamer, their games bridge the gap between a video game and a movie. Since Indigo Prophecy, Quantic Dream has strived to bring something to gamers that isn’t common in the industry; a great story, great characters and an emotional connection that will hook the player in and make them care about what is happening in the world and to the characters.

Enter in Beyond: Two Souls, the latest title from Quantic Dreams.

Beyond: Two Souls introduces us to Jodie Holmes, a girl who for some unknown reason has been cursed/blessed with having an invisible entity named Aiden as her life-long play buddy. With the presence of Aiden throughout Jodie’s life, she has been subjected to strange occurrences; leaving her emotionally and physically scarred. From being blamed for Aiden’s antics, to being made fun of by other kids and more; having this invisible friend seems to be a bad thing. Those, and more events, play out in a series of moments in Jodie’s life that you take part in.

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The story is woven throughout Jodie’s life; from childhood to adulthood. Though instead of playing out in chronological order, the story jumps forwards and backwards in time to different moments in her life. At one time you will play as Jodie when she is a teenager then next as she is a child then as an adult; there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to these crazy jumps in time. As you can imagine, these drastic time jumps throughout Jodie’s life makes the story…well, basically pointless. Yes, you can piece it together in your head as you progress through the game, but there is so much going on that you will miss major points because of its execution in this way.

As you will see very quickly, the story follows a very repetitive arch throughout; Jodie will experience some emotional event, Jodie will try to overcome that event, Jodie will fail, Aiden will come in to save the day. That flow of events is repeated time and time again in Beyond: Two Souls leaving the story, for the majority of the time, rather predictable and boring.

This brings another problem to the forefront; the lack of control of Aiden and the lack of context. Throughout Beyond: Two Souls you will be able to take control of Aiden and aid Jodie in multiple ways. Aiden has the ability to interact with various items in the world, to scare people, to posses people and even kill them if need be. The problem arises when you realize that Aiden is limited in the people and things that he can actually interact with based on the plot. You aren’t allowed to mess with all objects in a room at any time you want, only when Quantic Dream wants you to. Aiden can’t possess any person he sees fit, even if they are a threat to Jodie; he can only possess the one or two people Quantic Dream wants you to. Though the idea of playing a ghost was initially very exciting, the major limitations that are forced upon you really suck any enjoyment out of it. Aiden can’t even go through walls a lot of the time.

What makes the lack of control over Aiden even worse is there is no reason given as to why you can’t do certain things. While in reality it is understandable why that amount of freedom was removed from the game; as it could ruin the very dictated story that is being told, but tell us a reason, don’t just ignore it. Why can’t he possess or kill every enemy in the environment? The lack of reasoning behind some of these restrictions leaves a very major sense of laziness on Quantic Dream.

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Beyond: Two Souls is not really even a game; its more of a movie that you occasionally have influence in. The VAST majority of the game will have you mindlessly tilting the stick to have Jodie walk around the world while occasionally taking part in basic Quick Time Event battles. Those battles will have the action slow down to a snails pace while you tilt the right stick in a certain direction for Jodie to carry out an action, but the any penalty for doing it wrong is basically non-existent.

Just as every story does, Beyond: Two Souls fluctuates between slow, boring sections and the big, blockbuster moments that I’m sure you have seen on the trailers. While the majority of the story could have the potential to put you to sleep; those moments when the story is good, it is really good and very emotional. One of my favorite story elements revolved around a moment in Jodie’s life when she finds herself homeless and living under a bridge. During that, and some other moments, the game truly becomes what Quantic Dream intended it to be and it’s a rush to see that happen.

The true saving grace to the whole story is the fact that the actors in Beyond: Two Souls are excellent. The performances of Ellen Page, Willem DaFoe and the supporting cast really make the game shine.

Visuals:
For all the flaws that Beyond: Two Souls has, the visuals are where it makes up for a lot of its short-comings. Thankfully with the cast and the great motion-capture that has been used; they make Beyond: Two Souls a far better experience with their acting, which is saying a lot. Facial animations can sometimes leave you wanting more, but the overall experience from a visual standpoint is great.

The one weakness that clearly stood out to me was the lack of emotion on the face of the child version of Jodie Holmes. It would seem even when she was crying that it was only evident by the tears rolling down her cheek. She would stare off into space with a very creepy, dead look on her face; with the tears being the only indication that she was sad.

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It’s nice to see that next to the great looking and animated characters, the environment is just as vivid and stunning. The game features a wide range of locations around the globe that Jodie visits for one reason or another and each one looks great. Realistic weather affects adds to the almost life-like appearance of the game.

Audio:
Just as with the visuals, the audio in Beyond: Two Souls, is another place that really stands out. Each character comes across as a real person with real emotion and a history. You can really feel the emotion in the voices of a group of homeless people you come across; making one particular moment extra special for the gamer.

Thankfully, the soundtrack to the game doesn’t try to be more than what it needs to be; never becoming a distraction from what is happening.

Online/Multiplayer:
Beyond: Two Souls does have multiplayer, in a sense, but it isn’t really what you might expect and that makes it wonderful. The local multiplayer in the game allows for an additional person to play as Aiden exclusively while the other plays only as Jodie. I honestly believe that the correct way to experience the game is to play the entire thing through with another person.

When it is time for Aiden to take control and complete some sort of action, control is taken away from the player who is controlling Jodie and control goes over to the player controlling Aiden, leaving Jodie to just wait. This truly does make it feel like Jodie is attached to an entity that she cannot control. If you have the opportunity to play through with a friend, please do so.

Conclusion:
Beyond: Two Souls was a really hard game to review. On one hand, I really enjoyed my time with the game. On the other hand, it’s a game that is built around a story that has many holes in it. Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe provide a wonderful performance in an otherwise lack-luster story, making it a bearable experience.

Score:
7.0

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Written by Kyle Jessee

Kyle Jessee

Your lone Kentucky writer on staff. Loves the Big Blue Nation, rock music, and Resistance 2 (the best in the series).

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