Quantic Dream interested me and all the members of Pure|News when they announced their new game, Beyond Two Souls. I was not impressed because it’s my job, but I was intrigued and after my Preview where I left the quality of game out in the open I’m here to finally review this game and see to it that all the claims of the producers and the press are in fact justified.
Beyond Two Souls is Quantic Dream fourth game after such successes as Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain the stakes were high and the pressure was on for the developers to continue to impress, qnd impress they did or at least said they would. They raised the bar by hiring two big name Hollywood actors Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, now Hollywood actors aren’t anything new to games but it’s not often that they are marketed as much as they were in this game, and definitely not with the motion capture state of the art Mark 356 per cent high tech gadgetry that they used for this game, they said there would be no inhibitions for the actors and they’re performance would be the same as if they were staring in live action, just with you know a thousand small metal balls glued to your face.
They promised that every decision you make affected the story at a significant level, and that the game was fluid and fun to play and they also promised breathtaking and amazing visuals, all of these promises and more I am so happy to announce that they were kept.
Beyond Two Souls is one word and one word only and it’s a word so stock and over used that i feel bad that it describes the game so well but it does, Beyond Two Souls is amazing, purely and simply amazing, so what made this game finally made me say that word ?
First and foremost the story. This game stars Jodie Holmes played by Ellen page , we follow her life since her infancy to her adulthood and all of the phases in between, but Jodie Holmes is not alone in staring in this game, she is accompanied by an invisible entity known has Aiden, what or who Aiden is, is not known until the ending but if you do some exploring around the levels you’ll probably discover who he is pretty soon. Aiden can do all sorts of things for one roam around freely through the level, push things, blast things, levitate stuff, choke people, possess people and other stuff this game puts you in the shoes of a poltergeist basically and it is so much terrifying people. Yes indeed the only thing that poses a threat to Aiden are the invisible walls, to be fair they actually tried to disguise this and did a damn good job of it by establishing that if Aiden roams to far from Jodie it really hurts for both of them, okay game I applaud you for trying to explain your system limitations and actually adding that explanation into a game play element.
Jodie obviously doesn’t have an easy childhood you know being called witch monster and demon can be a problem for healthy development, so when she’s 8 years old after Aiden causes some problems in the house she gets basically put in a institution to study the supernatural, and there she meets her two doctors, Nathan played by Willem Dafoe and Cole freeman played by Kadeem Hardison, they became Jodie’s parental figures and they watch her grow up and test all of her powers with Aiden and such things, The game for some reason feels that telling this story out of order is appropriate and makes the experience better, i tend to disagree but oh well I won’t argue any longer and stop the plot recap here and only give you little snippets later describing things you can understand from trailers and such things. As for the quality of the story I’ll have to say it’s pretty good, every action is justified it gets you invested in its setting and characters in an amazingly good way, you find yourself making decisions not just to see what happens but because you want something to happen or you feel this way or another, instead of you feeling detached from the experience and basically rolling the slot machine to see what happens you make your decisions because you’re afraid or because your mad or everything all together, it’s the strength of the game really. Also the story isn’t afraid to take risks and to kill characters, if you act stupid or don’t pay attention it can cost you dearly, there is no game over in this game and that is one of the great things about it, If you screw around for too long when running from the police they will actually arrest you and handcuff you and you’ll have to make your way out of that situation.
In my Preview I said that the choices were an illusion and that it was just two or three ways of getting to the same place, I was wrong seeing as there really are 26 different endings resulting from choices you make and levels also end differently depending on what you do how successful you are at it, and yes it is more subtle than Heavy Rain like they so proudly announced, It comes in more ways than one and it tests your intelligence as well, do you just barge in the door or use Aiden to check for enemies and take out the security cameras and such, Whole events that seem huge like fighting with the police in a town can be completely removed from the game depending on your choices, and to make that all seem less is nothing short of astounding, all dialog options are well acted and flow naturally there is no “I should go” type of conversations and if you take too long in a conversation to make a decision the game will make it for you.
Combat is also alright, I like the feeling of it when you can actually get it right, other times when you miss you feel like a complete idiot but by that point your immersed in the story and setting and your more fearful than anything else, Do not take this to mean that Jodie can die if you screw up enough no I did not notice that this was the case at least in a normal fight, but there is always a good explanation or an alternate scenes because of it, that being said sometimes movements of Jodie Are hard to interpret and you may feel frustrated, this is made better thought by the addition of Aiden, its again a test of your intelligence, you can simply rush trough combat and turn Jodie into Rambo but that might not work out for you, if your clever and you use Aiden to take care of snipers or distract a guard and such you’ll fair much better off.
Beyond Two Souls made me fearful in one aspect, they said that each level would be sort of its own separate genre, this together with the skipping around the storyline part made me worry that they were unfocused or trying to make up for lack of depth , I was again thankful proven wrong, every situation is believable and flows well within themselves, there isn’t simply a horror section to be an horror sections there is an horror section because what’s happening is really scary, Speaking of levels this game has lot of them and even if I fall into being predictable here, the homeless level is my favorite contested only by the ending. Homeless just brought everything good about this game, the emotions the characters the choices this is where I understood that was making decisions for the characters and because of them, and in retrospect making a second playthrough it would be hard to make other decisions because this game makes you feel like you’re doing what is right because you feel like what your doing is the right thing, and I cant stress how amazing that is.
Now the graphics, yes the graphics are amazing. There are few pop in issues being PS3 and all but it did not bother me because for one the character models are amazing, It’s the best looking PS3 game that I can remember of the top of my head, The facial animations capture minute details and it’s so damn impressive and beautiful to look at, And it runs pretty damn smoothly I never saw one drop of frame rate and or any graphical issues besides the previously mentioned pop in delays, It is gritty when it needs to be it is bright when it needs to be and it is beautiful when it needs to be, this game looked exactly like it should look, even the free walking cycles that i mentioned might be a problem in my preview turned out to work pretty well, when shes scared when shes cold all the walk cycles are good, only a few retain that awkwardness i mentioned but come on how much polish can you put into one game really.
So some of the setbacks right? Well for one this game is so damn hard to describe for some reason, all the more to say play it, but then you never know not every gamer wants to play something like this, and while Quantic Dream tried a lot to make it more marketable with action scenes and even a great stealth mechanic, they are a lot of fun to their credit, not everyone wants to play a game where one level is essentially a date simulator. So be warned if you don’t want to play this for the story, then you probably should not play it or at least just be ready for some parts that may be described as boring for those that aren’t playing it for the story, also a few scenes could have been handled better, but an occasional flaw or two can be forgiven, and again I still don’t understand why we had to skip around the storyline, they do explain it and it feels justified but some decisions in the game felt weaker because I did not know what lead up to her wanting to make that decision, oh and one thing that got annoying, Jodie cries a lot, she cries nearly every level, not that her life is easy but it did get a bit weird, Jodie Holmes is a good character she is strong and not afraid to stand up for what she believes is right and wrong and not everyone could live like she does and still manage to be sane. She is a good and strong character but sometimes she may come off as relying too much on Aiden or just crying too much.
In the end Beyond two souls is nothing short of amazing, It is breathtakingly beautiful emotionally heart throbbing and addicting like a drug, Hard decisions throughout the story supported by emotional weight a kind I have never seen before this game is up there as one of the best of the year, and for those of you for some reason making comparisons, yes I think it’s better than The Last Of Us.
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