Beyond: Two Souls is a game developed by Quantic Dream, the company that brought fan favourites Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain and widely known as a Movie-Based-Game Company. Following in the style of David Cage’s narrative and story design, the game plays more like a choose your own adventure with quick time events taking up the majority of the gameplay. Will this game go beyond our expectations? Or will it just leave us wanting more…
You play as Jodie Holmes, an adopted child who has a physic link with an invisible entity called Aiden and who is tormented by the constant presence of Evil Entities as well as Aiden himself. The game goes in a sporadic campaign selection, moving between Jodie in her adult years, her years as a child as well as her hormonal teenage years. Throughout the game, Jodie is set against evils both human and entity alike which she must overcome with her own skills or with the help of her entity Aiden.
In chronological order, Jodie starts off living with her adopted parents, who have tried to keep Jodie safe and away from the public for both her protection and the protection of others. Her adopted parents soon get tired of her increasing abilities and take her to a paranormal research centre and hand her over to the care of Nathan Dawkins, a scientist who specialises in the unknown and paranormal.
From living in the laboratory, Jodie is taken through several tests over the years, testing her mind and gauging the extent of her physic abilities. Going from age 8 up to around 16, she lives in this laboratory with Nathan and his assistant Cole Freeman as they learn more about Aiden and the world he comes from, the Infraworld. Around halfway in her life in the laboratory, hell breaks loose in one of the other facilities in the city, as they have created a Condenser to open a rift to the Infraworld in an attempt to control it. Jodie is sent in to destroy the Condenser as it wreaks havoc on the facility and its employees.
Jodie is taken away by the CIA around the age of 16 and is put through gruelling army style training to prepare her to join the CIA and put her physic powers to use for the government. After her training she joins the CIA but leaves shortly after, as she was once again manipulated. The game then follows Jodie as she runs from the CIA and the army, visiting vastly different area of the world.
Throughout Jodie’s life, she is lied to and used which ultimately scars her emotionally and creates more development for her character, both in the ways we can choose her replies and in the way her character reacts to others in the world. Though a lot of the choices in the game aren’t referenced later on, the major parts are touched on, leaving us with the feeling that our choices have no real impact on the story.
The main objective of the game is to survive, both as a young girl and an adult, Jodie fights against humans with her hand to hand combat skills she learnt with the CIA, and Aiden protects her from more threatening humans and entities with his powers.
It is said that Beyond will last you 10 hours in its campaign, but I could not find a timer anywhere which told me how long I took. I will say, it took a few days, on top of replaying levels to see how each action affects the outcome.
This game, as stated by many fans of the series and players, is more of a movie or a choose your own adventure type game, as the story is told through long conversations and “cutscenes” with not much interactivity on our part. There are parts in the dialogue where we can choose our own replies, but they only seem to affect the chapter you are in and don’t really have much consequences for the rest of the game.
When playing as Jodie, you can walk almost freely around the environment, able to interact with most objects, either picking them up, carrying them or using them to help you in your mission. Almost all control is done with the analogue sticks, the left for movement and the right for camera and interacting with objects, which can get rather annoying as you will want to move the camera but instead interact with an object you didn’t want to.
Whilst playing as Aiden, you take on a much more free movement system, flying through the air in 3D space as well as passing through solid objects. Your range of movement is low though, as you are connected to Jodie on a tether. The main purpose of controlling Aiden is to interact with objects that Jodie cannot reach or to use your powers as an entity. Aiden can push or break objects, send visions from objects to Jodie as well as heal wounds on nearby characters; Aiden is also the only one who can directly hurt the evil entities. The way you control Aiden is similar to Jodie, left stick for movement, right for looking, but for interacting you use the R1 to target and object then move both the sticks in different directions for different affects, like pushing or choking.
The gameplay changes between the two characters flows very well without much jittering, giving you the sense that the two players are one and the same and doesn’t take you out of the experience. Though it can be a pain sometimes, as control of one character is forced for a time, when you might want to investigate with Jodie or Aiden or to interact more with objects as Jodie.
Besides the exploration and investigative parts of the game, there are also Action scenes in which both Jodie and Aiden fight their adversaries. Control changes to watching Jodie fights in hand to hand and Aiden protects her when he can. Jodie is controlled through quick time events, through pressing the main buttons on the controller; Square, Triangle, Circle, X, as well as the trigger buttons… you will also be throwing your controller around for the six axis events. When these events happen it can definitely spice up the gameplay, but failing the events doesn’t change the story all that much, as death is handled very lightly and failure doesn’t necessarily spell the end for Jodie.
The game allows for duo play, giving you the ability to play with a friend, but it is done in such a way that is slightly obnoxious and takes away from the immersion. You basically play pass-the-parcel, as whenever Jodie is being played, Player one controls her and must give control to Aiden with the Triangle button or from scripted sequences. You will find yourself watching you friend play for half a chapter before getting a go and it just becomes boring and feels rather pointless to add into a game. Split screen or online would of worked better with this type of game, with the setup it has at the moment, I would not suggest Duo, unless you are fine watching someone play a game.
Since Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe are two of my favourite actors I decided to add in this temporary segment… Because I can.
Jodie Holmes, who is played by Ellen Page, is designed wonderfully in my opinion, besides looking like her actress; Jodie is designed in such a way that goes against the stereotype that is normally found in games. She isn’t overly sexualised and becomes a lot more outward and dominant in her later years, probably due to her army training. Her character develops from a scared little girl, through her hormonal teenage years of angst and rebellion, up to her adult years of self-discovery and choice. While the main game is set around survival and hiding from those who hunt you, they spent a lot of time developing the character we play as, giving you greater attachment and emotions as you don’t play as a one sided character throughout a game. You really get a feeling of change in her character as she grows older; however she still keeps her core personality, finding the sweet spot between developments and staying true to who you are.
Nathan Dawkins, played by Willem Dafoe, becomes a sort of cliché, especially towards the ending of the game. He is portrayed as the father figure and the only one that Jodie can rely on, with a great script and voice acting we can truly believe this as the emotions that are shown to us create an almost life like bond between the player as Jodie and the Scientist Nathan. Nathan isn’t a one sided character either, being the father figure we see almost all sides of him, when he is weak and vulnerable, to being a stern and disciplinary father up until becoming a bit insane.
Throughout the game, both the two main characters as well as side ones, the people you see and meet have real purpose in the game, rather to become filler. Real life crisis as well as real world problems and events are touched on in the game, through a father losing his family, a girl being lied to and manhandled, people becoming homeless and even dealing with loss in other ways. I don’t normally feel attachment to characters in games as powerful as I have with beyond, I even felt myself become sad and almost teary at the sadder parts of the game, either due to the fact that some of the events are personal to me or that the acting is so spot on in those points in the game that make them feel real.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
The music in the game takes a major background role, setting the scene for us and making sure we aren’t playing in absolute silence; however the majority of the music is toned down piano tones and ambient music. While the music is beautiful, you will be more focused on the game to realise the music is there, unless you are in combat when the music changes to be louder and more upbeat to reflect what is happening. When you do hear the music, it definitely adds to the game, complimenting the atmosphere, as well as just all around being good music.
As a game, Beyond Two Souls does not offer much besides watching the beautiful graphics and choosing to turn down or throw a chair at a teenagers face… ok that was fun. There isn’t much in the way of continuity to be felt either, as only the major events change the game, like characters dying or choosing someone to enter a side romance with. Quantic Dreams previous instalments felt like choice had a much bigger impact, as choices were persistent and really affected the overall experience. Beyond just feels as if we are told the story and are not given much freedom or real choice.
Beyond Two Souls also seems to have a fair few jitter problems, where dialogue and cutscenes do not flow properly and stop for a few seconds between sections to “process” your decisions. This can be seen a lot more predominantly when you wish to replay levels to see how each choice plays out and takes the immersion out of the game. Besides the choices you make, the camera can also be very disagreeable, as when you wish to turn it to investigate your area; it will fight you for complete control. I found myself spinning around when trying to look at a body on the floor as the camera wanted to give me an “Emotional” camera angle.
There is a lot of replay value to be had in Beyond, with the multitude of different paths to take and replies to choose in conversation. But after a few chapters you just get annoyed with the endless and un-skippable cutscenes…none can be skipped and it really grinds my gears. Especially if you want to play an entire chapter, only to have to watch the 10minute long beginning scene over and over. The chapters are split up nicely in the early stages in Jodie’s life, but later on the chapters can last up to an hour each, making you not want to revisit them. You cannot select checkpoints in chapters either, so if you want to enter a chapter near the end to choose to not kill someone you will have to complete the entire mission again.
I will give Beyond Two Souls a 4/5, it is an amazing experience to be had but there are too many annoyances and nit-picks to be found to make it flawless. I would suggest waiting till it goes down in price, as for a game, there isn’t much “bang for buck” to be found in this purchase. Fans of the company and series will enjoy this slightly new spin on the genre, but others might be left wanting more.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.