Developer: Quantic Dream
Release Date: 10/8/2013
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Quantic Dream is one of those developers who tries something new and tries to innovate the game industry. They started out with Indigo Prophecy (or Fahrenheit for Europeans) and it was an interesting concept that was executed surprisingly well. Heavy Rain was the same way with a fantastic story and multiple choices that can change the ending. Using just various button presses to play the game could seem boring, but when the action picked up it got pretty intense. You had a split second to press the various buttons to make the characters flee for their lives or fight off enemies. Beyond feels like a spiritual successor to both those games but is less interactive than the other two.
You play as a girl named Jodie (Ellen Page) who has an entity named Aiden attached to her. She can control him to do anything from knocking down a box to possessing someone and making them commit suicide. You bounce back and forth from her childhood to her adulthood where she’s being taken care of by a scientist named Nathan Dawkins (Willem Dafoe) and also when she’s in the CIA. This may seem confusing because the storyline is told in a random pattern, but it makes perfect sense. The story is well-balanced and easy to follow and there are some great plot twists and changes.
Like Heavy Rain, you can wander around and do things, but there’s less optional interaction like in Heavy Rain. You will rarely find stuff to interact with just for the heck of it. When things start getting intense you will need to keep Jodie alive by following her movements in slow motion. The action will slow down a bit and you need to press the right analog stick in the direction that Jodie is moving. Sometimes this is hard to gauge due to an odd camera angle or her movements are too subtle. I never died in the game though, but slower reacting people may find the action sequences frustrating. That’s kind of where things become a problem. You will engage in a tense action sequence only to hit a chapter where you’re making dinner for Jodie’s date. There are some really dull and slow moments in Beyond and too many odd inconsistencies.
Like the mentioned scene above I had to pick up clothes, cook dinner, and get Jodie ready for her date. This was slow, dull, and the inconsistencies drove me nuts. After putting dinner on the stove I wandered around (the characters control like awkward tanks) I took a shower, watched her drink some old beer, helped her pick out a dress, and the whole time (about 30 in-game minutes) the food sat in the pan not being touched and it never burned. One scene towards the end has Jodie and her 3 CIA agents in North Korea tracking down a Condenser which is a rift to the Infraworld (the other side). They leave a house and do a lookout on a base but one guy is missing for about 3 scenes and it’s never explained where he went. Then he just appears out of nowhere.
Controlling Aiden is also another problem because the levels are hard to navigate. The rooms and hallways all look the same and you will get lost often. Aiden controls like a no clip camera with a fisheye lens. He’s just a floating spirit attached to Jodie. Your goal is to look for blue dots to attach to and use both sticks to slam stuff around, possess bodies, knock stuff over, and distract people. He’s kind of the puzzle side to the game. When I first played as Aiden he was nearly impossible to control and I almost threw up for how frustrated I got. Later on, I learned to get used to it, but this could have been done better.
Of course the game is all about the story and choices and there are quite a few, but in the end, the choices are pretty much predefined. Depending on who you keep alive or befriend you get to choose who you stay with or a couple of other endings selections. They seem cookie cutter and your little tiny choices didn’t really make a difference. Again, more inconsistencies. Besides the choices, the CIA portions were the worst and felt unnecessary for the game. It was just an excuse to add more action and close down these three condensers throughout the world. The more memorable moments were when Jodie was a kid and when Jodie had more one on one experiences with people as an adult like when she was homeless.
The game does look damn good though, in fact, one of the best looking games of this generation, it almost looks next-gen. The voice acting and motion capture is unlike anything we’ve seen this generation. Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe do an amazing job in their roles, but I can’t help but notice flaws due to the hardware limitations. Some facial expressions look overdone, some textures look muddy and downright ugly. There is skipping when the game is loading, but it’s all minor stuff.
Overall, Beyond: Two Souls is 15 hours long, but is filled with boring scenes that are there just to extend playtime. The CIA missions are boring and out of place and there are many annoying inconsistencies with events in some scenes. The game looks fantastic and the acting is superb, so this is a very entertaining weekend rental and nothing more. Don’t come here looking for action because timed button presses are all you’re going to get.