Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Review Context: Heavy Rain was my first David Cage, Quantic Dream dream experience and I really enjoyed it so why not take a shot at Beyond: Two Souls?
Date of Playthrough: October 8, 2013
When Beyond: Two Souls was announced as the next title by Quantic Dream there was much anticipation and excitement at the thought of another David Cage game coming to the Playstation 3. Quantic Dream’s previous title, Heavy Rain, was well received by gamers and turned out to be successful. The bar was set high for Beyond: Two Souls to deliver an experience that was as thrilling as Heavy Rain, but did it?
Beyond: Two Souls stars actress Ellen Page, who plays the main character Jodie Holmes and actor Willem Dafoe, who plays Jodie’s father Nathan Dawkins. Beyond: Two Souls is essentially a series of events in the life and journey of Jodie Holmes. At an early age Jodie is discovered to have a supernatural force inside her named “Aiden” that can’t speak, but ends up being Jodie’s companion in the game. The mystery surrounding Aiden’s origin is built up during the game through interactions between Jodie and Aiden in the main story.
For the majority of the game the player alternates between controlling Jodie and Aiden. Jodie and Aiden can’t be controlled simultaneously so the player has press triangle to toggle Aiden. Aiden is controlled using both analog sticks, and can do different things depending on the directions the analogs are pulled while pressing L1 at the same time. Once Aiden is toggled Jodie can’t be controlled and the player is now controlling Aiden through Aiden’s perspective by moving with the left analog stick and controlling the camera with the right analog stick. These controls can be a bit wonky and floaty. Sometimes the player is prompted to switch to Aiden, but most of the time the player can make that decision. What Aiden does is generally up to the player. Aiden can throw objects around, mind control an enemy, or even choke an enemy to death.
The story of Jodie’s life is a sci-fi story that is not in chronological order, which means you may go from playing a segment of Jodie’s life as a child, then a teenager, and back to Jodie as a child. The life of Jodie does make sense in the sense that the pieces of the plot are put together in the end, but the story can be confusing while in the thick of it. There are segments in Beyond: Two Souls that will have players scratching their heads versus other segments that the players will fly through with enjoyment. Other characters in Jodie’s life besides Nathan Dawkins are never really fleshed out to the point you care about them much, which is a bit of a disappointment. By the end of the game the mystery of Aiden is answered, as well as why the events in Jodie’s life are not in chronological order.
One of the major (controversial) factors in this game are player choices and the impact surrounding them. Throughout Beyond: Two Souls the player makes decisions, but the results of most decisions are not immediately known, which can lead the player to believe decisions are meaningless. Most decisions in Beyond: Two Souls are not prompted compared to a game like Telltale’s The Walking Dead, where almost every decision is prompted and results are known fairly quickly. For example, if players decide to throw an object it was the player who made that made that decision. The decision was not given to players like, “Do you want to throw x?”
The game design choice to leave the impact of player choices shrouded in mystery is certainly a questionable one because part of the enjoyment of making a choice is knowing the immediate impact of it. The other way to look at it is that when you make a decision in life you don’t know the impact immediately. This doesn’t mean that the decisions are meaningless, but that the player has a much tougher time connecting the dots. There are decisions in Beyond:Two Souls that do string together in different segments of Jodie’s life, but they are hard to figure out. The concept of “illusion of choice” (the result of a decision is always the same) looms big in Beyond: Two Souls due to this game design decision, but when the game is broken down and standards are applied equally, it is no more “illusion of choice” than a game like Telltale’s The Walking Dead. The players have choices that impact the journey through Jodie’s life, and there is one specific choice that has to be discovered (not prompted) that does have high emotional impact. The game also has many different endings depending on events in the game.
From a technical standpoint, the graphics in Beyond: Two Souls are amazing. The game was filmed using motion capture video to give the game a life-like experience, but it also allowed all the actors to show off their acting abilities to their full extent. With motion capture video every emotion and facial expression is in high detail making Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe EASILY identifiable. Due to the game being entirely motion capture, and for game stability reasons the game has to be played like a film with the black bars on the top and bottom parts of the screen. Beyond: Two Souls pushes the Playstation 3 to it’s absolute limits and the end result is a game that has the best graphics(arguably?, The Last of Us) on the Playstation 3. The Beyond: Two Souls graphics(along with The Last of Us) make a compelling case that maybe the Playstation 4 came a year or two too early.
The very good soundtrack of Beyond: Two Souls is composed by Lorne Balfe, and produced by famed composer Hans Zimmer. Throughout the game the score helps add a lot of emotion to an already emotional story. The acting of Ellen Page, Willem Dafoe, and most of the other actors is very good, but the dialogue can be cheesy at times.
Beyond: Two Souls is an experience that will ultimately come down to whether the player connects with the story of Jodie Holmes or not. The Playstation Network demo is highly recommended for uncertain buyers because the demo can be played multiple times with different results to get a feel of the game. Unlike Quantic Dream’s previous title Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls is not as QTE (Quick Time Event) heavy, and provides an experience that every Playstation 3 owner should have.
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