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Beyond: Two Souls Review.

Beyond: Two Souls is Quantic Dream’s second PS3 game after the mystery thriller Heavy Rain (2010). What is clear is Beyond is divisive among critics and gamers alike. Much is left to opinion on this game and while it has many merits, it does indeed have flaws. How does it hold up though and is it as good as Heavy Rain?

One thing that is clear about Beyond: Two Souls when you play this is that it does not exert challenge, depth or painstaking difficulty. This is a leisure game-meant to replicate a Film where you make the choices, play the interactive bits and get to choose the moral choices in the game. It succeeds brilliantly here but ultimately, that means a line has to be drawn as to whether this is a ‘game’ or not.

Beyond: Two Souls stars Ellen Page as Jodie Holmes and Willem Dafoe as Nathan Dawkins. Jodie is an unusual woman as she is paired with an invisible entity named Aiden. This entity is not controlled directly by Jodie but is more of his friend. They can communicate with each other and they can both aid each other when necessary. It becomes clear that this gift leads her into trouble more often than not and for that, her parents opt to have her sectioned under the guidance of Nathan Dawkins. Beyond: Two Souls plays out Jodie’s very loud, chaotic life from a child to the young adult she is now.

What is noticeable almost immediately when playing this game is how extraordinary it looks. It is a PS3 game, not a PS4 or PC game. The graphics is great but the character modelling particularly of Ellen Page is staggeringly detailed. Dare I say that this, this looks better than The Last Of Us. Willem Dafoe looks like…Willem Dafoe. It is brilliant to see people brilliantly realised into games and hopefully this is a foundation for things to come.

The game is set in many parts of America-and some parts of the Middle-East. The exterior segments of the game are far more complimentary to the graphics of the game rather than the interior shots. It is a visual feast and although graphics do not make a game, they do sort of make interactive games I guess.

The gameplay is where the meat and beef of the game is. Some will enjoy it, others will loathe it. For me, it works but the action sequence QTE is flimsy and worse off, annoying. The control scheme in Heavy Rain was complex at times as at points you had to hold 4 buttons on the controller at once to break a door-hard times. Here, a flick of the analogue stick will do it. To punch, analogue stick. To block? You guessed it.

But, by pressing triangle, you can control Aiden in which the world to him is a fluorescent purple and the player can float between walls with Aiden almost anywhere. You can focus on targets and then interact. With Aiden, you can possess characters, knock over objects and breaks doors. The shift between characters is interesting and a nice gimmick to the game that works well. I liked Aiden a lot and the presence is felt throughout. When Jodie is alone-she isn’t really. When she has a date, she can have a jealous entity watching her every move.

As Aiden, you have the choice to stop or intervene in some of these moral dilemma’s. This leads me onto the story and it is an interesting prolonged story. Don’t get me wrong, its interesting and awe inspiring at points. It is however, disjointed as the story is not chronological and some scenes are well out of place. But, the further in you go, the greater the picture becomes of the game and ultimately the full scale of Jodie’s life is shown to you.

The voice acting or should I just say acting in general is fantastic. This is a milestone for gaming when you have not just one but two brilliant actors in a game acting roles like they would in film. As someone that has studied film, it is a great sight to see one in which that will stand the test of time and ultimately become the game’s bravado.

But, I think Beyond as a game is a step-down from Heavy Rain. While the ante has been upped, the cinematics increased, the game has considerably less characterisation outside of Jodie and Nathan. The core aspect of the game which is mystery, companionship and paranormal themes feel far less substantial when compared to Heavy Rain’s gamer friendly themes and goals.

Beyond also disappointingly has less replayability than Heavy Rain.  Beyond has multiple endings but with few narrow paths and goals. Heavy Rain had multiple branches and over 30 different ending possibilities one in which rewarded the player for being the bad guy. Yet despite these comments and criticisms, at the centre of Beyond is a story acted brilliantly with superb visual design with which the story is more complex than most games offer.

What is Good?

+The first game that can be considered equal to a  Film.

+Expert acting (motion-capture) and voice acting.

+Brilliant character animations and graphics all round.

+Engaging story that feels more leisurely at home than Heavy Rain did.

+Playing as Aiden is always interesting and fun.


What is Bad?

-Outside of the main two characters, characterisation is weak.

-The tricky gameplay of Heavy Rain which was immersive has been simplified to the extreme.

-The scenes of the story are non-conjunctional.

-The core themes and moral dilemmas are substantially weaker than Heavy Rain.

In writing this review, I have compared and considered it a lot to Heavy Rain. That is because that is the only other game like it and Heavy Rain was a magnificent game/film. Beyond is for the most part as good as Heavy Rain. Some things have improved and others not so much. It is a game though that maintains interest through its story and engaging dynamics throughout. Despite some of my concerns and criticisms, the core value of the game trumps those comments. It is certainly unique, enjoyable, gripping and worth playing. Approach it like its a film, something your going to enjoy to watch rather than play. 8/10

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