Beyond: Two Souls Review
Joe Anderson | 3 years ago
David Cage and Quantic Dream's long awaited title Beyond: Two Souls finally arrives, following up from Heavy Rain by once again offering photorealistic characters and a great story; however is it actually a good game?
As a director and writer, David Cage knows his stuff, perfectly intertwining emotion and action, getting your heart racing one moment and having you weeping the next, never giving away too much and striking all of the right chords in what is essentially a ten hour movie, but where do you place a title such as this, as a game or a movie?
Due to the nature of the story I will only give a general feel to what occurs, the main reason being that this is more akin to a movie review than a game review, so I will attempt to avoid anything that will spoil the enjoyment. In the game you get to play as Jodie, experiencing her life from child to adult, starting with her as a young girl and then watching as the timeline bounces back and forward, all shown through a series of flashbacks. Though Jodie seems like a normal girl, she is incredibly unique in the world in that what initially seems to be her imaginary friend is in fact an entity, a 'spectral being' tethered to her soul and living beside her, out of sight but able to interact with the real world like a sort of poltergeist. We join her life’s tale a few years in from the discovery of Aiden, with her visiting a government agency and Nathan Dawkins to test these strange powers. The game then starts to mess with her timeline, jumping between different parts of Jodie’s life and slowly building a strong story as to what her relationship is with Aiden and how she deals with it growing up as a young teenager or dealing with the aftermath of the 'incident', feeling truly alone and worthless and offering more than the occasional tear from me, especially when the fantastic acoustic rendition of Beck's Lost Cause arrived.
Though the timeline is constantly changing, the stories main focus is the 'incident', although the game does go all out to avoid just what that is for some time. Often the gameplay will have you skipping over this 'incident', instead showing the aftermath, be that Jodie on the run or what happened before, such as her getting used to Aiden and even training for the CIA. What is clear though is that she has been accused of treason and therefore the whole country is after her.
For the majority of the story the pacing is great, as just when you think you have it figured out, another bombshell drops on you. But having the 'incident' as the main focus means you are travelling towards disappointment as it just takes far too long to get to the truth, which in the end is nothing particularly ground breaking and has been done in countless movies in the past. Once away from that part of the story the game does manage to pick up again, moving away from the human element and focusing on the more interesting aspect of 'the entities', as it appears Aiden is not the only one, with other governments looking to harness their powers, opening dangerous portals to the Infraworld.
Personally I feel this game is best viewed as an interactive movie rather than what I would call a computer game. The story will slowly roll out before you, leaving you to move the character forward to the next point where the cinematics click into play again. When playing as Jodie, for the majority of the time you are fighting against a camera that wants to keep it all cinematic but ends up being just plain awkward. Often you'll be looking around for small white globes to appear near items, which in turn will allow you to pick up a letter or open a door, but that’s pretty much it. There are a few sporadic moments of action, mainly when you play as the older Jodie and these are a little more interactive but still extremely linear, with you holding the X button to run from cover to cover or tapping the shoulder buttons when a shot reticule comes up. At times Jodie will also get involved with hand to hand combat, with the game then going into slow motion to allow you to point in the required direction with the right control stick, watching her body move (not always easy) to follow through with a punch, kick or a dodge.
It is not just Jodie that you control but also her tethered entity Aiden. While the game gets a little more interesting when controlling Aiden, it does seems like he has been reigned in far too much, with the game mostly dictating when you can use him. Being a spirit Aiden is able to float around and also through many objects, letting him listen in on conversations and also interact with certain items which this time are indicated with little blue dots, requiring little interaction other than holding a trigger button. From here Aiden is able to pull off certain moves such as his power push, where you hold both control sticks back and then push forward. Other abilities include a choke power, which works by pushing both sticks in and finally, his possess power, which requires you to pull both sticks out. Just do not expect any real tactical decisions in respect of when you can use these powers as the game will dictate their use.
This extremely linear feel runs throughout the whole game, giving you the feeling that any decisions you are making actually have very little impact. The story constantly throws good and bad, right and wrong choices at you, but the decisions you make only seem to slightly affect the path of the story. On occasion some choices do have slightly more serious repercussions but those are ones that only really appeared near the end of the game.
Whilst on the subject of the end of the game I mention as carefully as I can the game's closing scenes. For what it is worth, I enjoyed this Beyond right from the start, I found it thrilling, exciting and emotional; yes it had a couple of quiet moments that did seem to drag a little but what film doesn’t? The point is I cared about the characters and wanted to see it through to the end, which in a way does not come. What was shown instead, is what I feel, is a set up for a sequel, the game's earlier flashbacks indicating something truly horrific was going to happen, but for the game not to really show you any of it and show it off as a final closing scene, to say I felt a little cheated and duped after ten emotional hours invested would be putting it lightly and to see the reactions of other players once the game is out will be interesting.
Just as Beyond: Two Souls brings up questions about life and death, this title also pushes equal questions about what exactly it is? As a film it is great, as a game not so much, with gameplay being very shallow and even more so once you have played through the whole story, since the game does not really open up; it will allow you to revisit previous chapters to witness other endings or dialogues you may have missed but you have to play through the whole chapter again and with no skipping through the scenes this ends up being very tedious. For someone who will want to see all outcomes, it will be a very laborious and tiresome experience for very little pay-out.
As a movie Beyond: Two Souls would be rated quite highly, offering plenty of action and delving into interesting aspects of spiritual, family and emotional ideals, however as a game, it offers very little more than moving around the screen and very basic interaction. If it wasn’t for the ending I would have been very happy with the experience, but after all that time I was left feeling a little sour, which is a massive shame.
Words by Ash Buchanan.
(Version Tested: PS3)
+ Multiple endings
+ Fantastic story
+ Amazing looking characters
+ Great performances from the cast
- Very little interaction
- Not to be seen as a game
- The ending
Edited On 08 Oct, 2013
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