Beyond: Two Souls PS3 Review

October 18, 2013 by  
Filed under PlayStation 3, Features, Reviews

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe  Developer: Quantic Dream 

Genre: Adventure  Players: 1-2  Age Rating: 16+  Other console/handheld formats: N/A

Quantic Dream’s David Cage thinks that a game can be more than a game, and he certainly proved this with the likes of Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain. Quantic Dream have certainly carved out a little niche for themselves with their interactive stories, and Beyond: Two Souls is the latest game from the ambitious developer.

Beyond: Two Souls features some big name actors in the likes of Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. The former plays the heroine of the game, Jodie Holmes, while the latter plays Nathan Dawkins, a government scientist. The story of the game sees Jodie tied to an invisible spirit known as Aiden, and scenes flip between the character as a girl, a teenager and a young woman, as she deals with the issue of having a spirit in her life for company.

The way that the plot plays out over the course of 15 years, I certainly felt that I developed quite the connection to Jodie, as well as to scientist Nathan, who studies Jodie and Aiden’s strange tie. I wanted both of these characters to be happy in their lives, and certainly in terms of Jodie, when she’s being treat like a freak by others sleeping rough, or on the run etc, I wanted her to get her revenge as well as to live as normal of a life as possible. If Quantic Dream set out to create a cast of characters that feel real and very human, then they have succeeded in doing just that.

When Jodie is sleeping rough, there’s a cast of memorable characters, each of which have their own story to tell, and, as soon as I became familiar with their crumbled existences, I really hoped that all of them were able to turn their lives around. This is powerful stuff, and I would agree with David Cage that there just isn’t enough of this in gaming.

Jodie is a wonderful and strong heroine, and she’s also given heart and soul by Ellen Page, who puts her acting abilities to excellent use. Playing as the character in three stages of her life, from frightened little girl, rebellious teenager, to determined young woman, really gives Jodie some depth and some real reasons to care about her through each and every one of these scenes, which are just dripping with character.

The characters looking and moving so real certainly adds to the humanity of each and every personality. Quantic Dream’s performance capture studio and their engine have come together to create almost lifelike virtual people. These characters aren’t just wooden puppets that require a good voice actor to breathe life into them, but all of their emotions are there to be seen. It’s so amazingly well done that I could almost feel the soul of each individual just by looking into their eyes. Their facial expressions and their realistic tears also add so much humanity to the characters. A human drama works even better when your cast of virtual characters also happen to look not too far away from real people.

Being that it’s an interactive story, I have mentioned a fair bit about the plot now, although let’s now move onto the interactive part. Firstly, Beyond: Two Souls is less of a game than what even Heavy Rain was, which will be good or bad depending on whom you may be. As much of the quicktime events are now based around stick movements, it does take away from these situations somewhat, making them feel a little bit more predictable. Basically, time slows down and you move the stick in the direction that Jodie is moving in, which does feel more natural in some ways. I really can’t fathom why the developer couldn’t have given us more difficulty options, though, making it more of a game for those that want it to be more of a game, and regularly making more use of the DualShock’s buttons during the game’s beautifully animated action scenes. Then again, perhaps I’m missing the point.

You’ll still be interacting with objects in the environment in the same way as Heavy Rain, although the more complex actions are out, although it could be said that twisting the stick in a half circle to open a fridge in Heavy Rain for example was a bit over the top for such an uninteresting action.

Being that Cage is a critic of the game over screen, it’s not possible to die during Beyond’s action scenes, and this does bring about a bit of a problem, as it does take away the tension from some of these scenes. True, the four starring characters in Heavy Rain weren’t able to die at absolutely any point in the game, but because there was four of them, those unfamiliar with the game wouldn’t have known when the real threat of death was imminent, adding to the panic of trying your best to stay alive right through the game. Saying all of the latter, if you fail certain scenes when playing Beyond, it is interesting to see how things pan out.

Another portion of Beyond’s gameplay is that you are able to take control of the entity that is Aiden. With Aiden, you are able to do various things such as interact with objects to divert the attention of certain individuals as well as possess people, and you can even perform some mischief during certain scenes, which Jodie is never too happy about. From a gameplay perspective, more could have actually been done with Aiden, but he still adds variety to certain events.

Beyond: Two Souls is certainly a game that has already polarised opinion, and it’s very easy to see why. As an interactive drama, this hits all the right notes, with believable and memorable characters, many of which I eventually felt a connection to, and amazing performances from all the actors involved, as well as a riveting and very intriguing story, although as a game it’s less successful, and would have benefitted from more options. Saying all of that, Beyond: Two Souls is a difficult one to rate, so let’s say an 8 as the interactive drama it was intended to be, although deduct a point or two if you are looking for an ordinary game.