Published on October 22nd, 2013 | by Malcolm Spinedi5
Beyond: Two Souls Review
Summary: Beyond: Two Souls is worth the price just to see it and to understand the direction that games are evolving to. The performances by Ellen Page and company make you wonder if maybe in the next decade if they'll be giving acting awards for being in a video game. Plus the level of detail that Quantic Dream can get now is staggering. However, the the mistakes the cannot be ignored. The story makes little sense, and is hard to get into. Lacking the ability to make any significant changes to the story through gameplay is confusing and disheartening. The end result is Beyond: Two Souls will be remembered, but be remembered for not reaching it's full potential.
Beyond: Two Souls was one of last big exclusive titles for the PS3 before the next generation of consoles arrived. Made by Quantic Dreams, Beyond: Two Souls followed suite in their style of blurring the line between movie and video game. This style led to a very memorable experience with their previous title, Heavy Rain. However, this style can very tricky as you walk that fine line on it being a video game, or just a movie. Sadly, Beyond: Two Souls crossed that line and left you with an an experience that failed to connect with you.
Beyond: Two Souls followed the story of Jodie (Ellen Page), a girl connected to a spirit named Aiden, and follow her life as she adjusts to this power. Which brings us to the best thing about Beyond: Two Souls, and that was the performances from the actors. This is especially true with Ellen Page, who puts on the performance of a lifetime as Jodie. Jodie’s pain, suffering, joy, and rage is conveyed wonderfully, and comes alive with Quantic Dream’s wonderful mo-cap. The role of Jodie is one that asks for a huge range of emotions, especially since from her teen to young adult years. Page handles all these emotional situations perfectly in an Andy Serkis-level performance. Credit also goes to Willem Dafoe, Kadeem Hardison, and Eric Winter in their roles too, and how they work with Page. It really makes you wonder how the level of acting in video games will be raised in the coming years.
However, this incredible acting was very much underplayed thanks to the awful way the story was told. Instead of Beyond: Two Souls being told from day one with Aiden to the very end of Jodie’s story, it ping ponged back and forth. Meaning one second you were undercover at a Sheik’s party and the next level you were attending a teenager’s birthday party. There are stories and games out there where this style works, but in Beyond: Two Souls the effect is very jarring and took you out of the story. In fact, in some cases it hurts it. For instance, there was one level where a character is being a jerk to Jodie, and it caused the player to dislike the character. In the next level when you were controlling Jodie after a time skip, she tried to score with him. The objective went completely against the emotional impact of the previous scene, which was sadly not the only time it happened. With time skipping around so often, it was easy to forget where in the timeline you were and go on to the next level.
Tell me if you have heard this one before: A little girl with powers gets teased by mean children and fights back, CIA uses a special soldier who goes AWOL after they go too far, or the guy and girl who hate each other but end up falling in love? Yes, those clichés are present; the children one will make you wonder if the writers have even seen teenagers before. On top of that, the theme jumped around so much that you could not really connect with it or the characters. In one level it was a chase, than a party, than training, and having a snowball fight. With Heavy Rain, you understood the theme was a murder mystery, but here it was easy to forget what the focus was. However, that’s not saying the levels aren’t fun. Levels like “The Condenser” and “Navajo” were truly a spectacle to behold, and it was a great time solving the mystery of those levels. However, it was like they had 20 ideas for Beyond: Two Souls, and just decided to do all of them.
The gameplay could be very fun, especially when controlling Aiden. However, they did not do enough with him. There were some great puzzles for Aiden, but more often than not it was a matter of “go possesses that guy” and ” move that little object”. The Jodie gameplay was varied, as there was some truly epic moments in Beyond: Two Souls that were incredible to both witness and play. Sadly, however, these moments come every so often. Until then you were engaged in some of the most unnecessary quick time events in recent memory. To a point where large sections of Beyond: Two Souls felt more like a tutorial level than an incredible experience.
They also made some interesting choices with the controls, especially with combat. Instead of a QTE, during an action sequence, time would slow down as Jodie moved. From here, you just moved the analog stick in the direction that Jodie was moving to to complete the move. While it could be hard in some instances to tell where Jodie was moving, this turned out to be a welcome change, and made some of the more intense sequences in Beyond: Two Souls possible, enjoyable, and flow well . They also made some good choices with Aiden’s supernatural powers by using the analog sticks to break the monotony of single button prompts. It’s also a shame they didn’t give Jodie a run button.
Choices were disappointing in Beyond: Two Souls. The choices you got were very minuscule, and had little impact on the overall story. The choices you made in one level rarely came up again, or had little change to the overall story. The story was going to go pretty much the same way no matter how you dress, eat at the table, or clean your apartment. I mentioned those examples for a reason. Most of the decisions in Beyond: Two Souls were small and did not matter. This, combined with everything else, meant you could not connect Jodie and her blight. You ended up feeling like you’re watching a movie play out rather than playing a video game. The choices you made felt like what you were supposed to do instead of you deciding.
If it seems like this is being harsh on Beyond: Two Souls, it’s only because it felt like Quantic Dreams forgot a lot of the lessons they learned with past games; games that gave us choices that matter, quick time events that mean something, and games that had focus. It is quizzical that they seemed to forget these lessons.
That being said, Beyond: Two Souls definitely had its good points. I do not usually like giving a game props just on graphics, but Quantic Dreams has to be applauded with how good they can make a character look. It felt like a movie once again as all the characters not only looked like the actors playing them, but showed the emotions of the actors as well. I am not saying the eyebrows pointed downward to show anger, I mean you could have looked at the actor’s face and tell what was going on in the character’s mind in every situation. Seriously, you would have thought you were playing a next gen system. On top of that, the visuals were mind-blowing, crisp, and were excellent in making moment of some of the more supernatural occurrences. Adding to these moments was the music, which complemented the setting perfectly and made those great scenes in Beyond: Two Souls truly epic.
Beyond: Two Souls could be fun. While the overall narrative was unfocused, the story told in each level was interesting enough that you would want to finish it. That was the one benefit of the scatterbrained style of storytelling in Beyond: Two Souls, in that you honestly did not know what was coming next. If you give Beyond: Two Souls a chance, you would want to finish it. However, unless you’re a trophy hunter, you won’t want to play it again after. However, it was an experience I would recommend playing at least once. Too much work went into this to simply ignore it, and it gave you a great idea where video games are heading.
There were a lot of great things about Beyond: Two Souls. It was worth it just to see and understand the direction that games are evolving to. The performances by Ellen Page and company made you wonder if, maybe in the next decade, if they will be giving acting awards for being in a video game. Plus the level of detail that Quantic Dream can get is staggering. However, the mistakes cannot be ignored. The story made little sense and was hard to get into. Lacking the ability to make any significant changes to the story through gameplay was confusing and disheartening. The end result was that Beyond: Two Souls will be remembered for being a memorable experience that greatly misses it’s full potential.
Editor’s Note: PR did not supply a copy of the game.