BEYOND:Two Souls Review | What Lies BEYOND
Heavy Rain set a bar in the industry back when it came out in 2010. It showed that you could tell a great story and have an interesting game mechanic that not every gamer would initially understand, but come to appreciate and enjoy in time. Beyond Two Souls takes some of the best parts of Heavy Rain and builds on them to create a story that is unheard of and memorable in today’s gaming world. The aspect of telling your own story in games has been a great way to offer replay ability and what Beyond does so well is that you can’t tell what parts in the game offer that every time. It also tries to change-up the gameplay in a way which is always a welcome addition, but also a hinderance to the experience at times.
Beyond takes you into the world of Jodie Holmes, a girl who since she was born has been linked to a spirit called Aiden. He acts as a somewhat guardian for Jodie throughout the game and also has more of a personal story than you would expect. With supernatural powers you are of course a target for people in the game that want to take advantage of this, so Jodie is lead to use her powers for a higher purpose. This will lead to you making game changing decisions that in turn shape the story into a different experience depending how you react and play.
Telling a narrative that doesn't follow a year by year tale, the story is told in a more chronological way to give you hints as to what is actually going on in the game. The more you progress through the story the more you think you understand, but you will have moments where you think you know something and are turned over by a slight change in character development.
The added benefit of having professional actors capturing a real performance, is what really pushes the narrative of the game. The performance from Ellen Page and William Defoe are oscar winning and also impressive since acting in a mocap suit is something new to a real-time Hollywood actor. That doesn't just go for them as its well captured and performed all round, with the accent's actually fitting the character roles, unlike its predecessor Heavy Rain.
If there is one area that everyone who came off Heavy Rain would want to see perform better, it's the gameplay mechanic. Alas even though they have taken a different approach with their implementation of an analog counter system, this does not do itself a great justice. During a combat scene time will slow down and you need to react to whatever way the camera is facing and whatever Jodie looks like she is trying to do. If she is blocking and she is on the right, you tilt right.
Sounds simple, but when you have a constant scene by scene camera move its hard to tell what way to react. This doesn't lead to you losing or dying, it may change the story if you get caught by the police or escaping them and not having to play out a scene where you escape a police car.
The game has some stunning breathtaking scenes during the 12 hour story campaign. The great thing about Beyond is that it takes you to so many different world locations that you never grow stale of the one area all the time. There are locations that standout more than others and then there are some bland and not so detailed ones. For instance, the game is clearly about story and feeling so having a narrative scene take place in an empty big room with a desk and a few chairs just takes you out of the moment.
The frame rate holds up for the most part, with only a handful of moments where it dips and I had one moment where my game exited out to the PlayStation menu but it wasn't enough to prevent me from diving back in and discovering what else lies beyond.
The game has put no budget on its score. Having such talent as Hans Zimmer implementing a deep and meaningful soundtrack engrosses you further into the experience of Beyond Two Souls. And that's what Beyond is: an experience. One that everyone will walk away from with different and mixed feelings at the end.
Voice acting is one of the pushes the team did going off Heavy Rain. Having Hollywood A list actors involved in the project helps with getting you to feel compassion and distain towards characters. All the dialog is good even when it makes it hard to follow and the moments in the game with high-paced action are filled with music scores that make your skin tremble.
The game begins strong, although it loses its footing through constant jumping back and forth between time lines. Trying to keep up with each scene can be nauseating at times, especially when you're going from ones that don't always go together such as being a child in a snowball fight with the local neighbours to jumping from a high-speed train while park rangers are trying to arrest you.
Thankfully Beyond does introduce you to the game mechanic's early on. Offering you a great intro on how to control them, it takes place in one of the scenes you will have noticed in trailers leading up to the games release. Controlling Jodie from a young age, you are in the facility where they conduct the crown experiment and you are given the freedom to walk there or interact with the objects in your current room. Once you get to the other room, it's all about answering questions and getting to take control of Aiden, who is fun to use and very easy to control with the analog sticks and triggers.
Beyond is an experience and one I don't like comparing to Heavy Rain because in a way they are different games. People will miss the ability to really shape the outcome of the game but it is a story, and always has been referred to, as the story of Jodie Holmes. Quantic Dream has created a world that is a treat to explore and whilst it falls ahead of itself at parts, it has an enough interesting narrative to drive you forward. I can't see it appealing to all gamers but I don't think you will leave disappointed. David Cage does story and character development better than anyone, and it is clear throughout Beyond Two Souls.
Great engaging story, Soundtrack is one of the best in gaming., Ellen Page.
Gameplay is disappointing, Game gets ahead of itself at times.