Beyond: Two Souls – Review
There was never a time I’d think that the current gen would come to an end. However, fast forward over three years later after I bought my first PS3 and here we are. We’re on the edge of the next gen and no matter how hard you try, it’s coming – and faster than anyone anticipated. I always wondered how the PS3 would bow out. So when the likes of Beyond: Two Souls came around, I was immediately intrigued.
Made by Quantic Dream, the makers behind Heavy Rain, you really couldn’t blame critics and gamers alike for having very high expectations. Headlined by Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, two of Hollywood’s finest, I have to admit this was what initially drew me in. I never even knew Quantic Dream were behind this masterpiece. Heavy Rain was one of the first PS3 games I ever played and found myself captivated by its immense storytelling.
Voiced and modelled by Ellen Page, we enter our unique protagonist Jodie Holmes. However, she’s a little more than special; she’s bonded to a supernatural entity named Aiden and has been ever since birth. Naked to the invisible eye, Aiden can manipulate inanimate objects in a ghostly fashion, possess people and interact with Jodie’s world in numerous ways.
The game takes us on their deep personal journey that consists of themes of love, loss, hope, redemption and discovery. This begins when Jodie’s terrified and confused parents send her off to a CIA research facility, following a series of bizarre events occurring around her. The seemingly good-natured Dr Nathan Hawkins (Willem Dafoe) takes her under his wing.
One of the highlights for me in this game is their father-daughter bond. Nathan offers Jodie the correct stability and love that she needs. When she becomes of age, however, it’s not long until Jodie is sent off for CIA training and slowly begins to realise the government is creating her into a weapon for their own needs.
The story jumps around a lot in the fifteen years we’re given, but the overall picture becomes clearer the more you progress. One minute, you could be Jodie as a child in an experiment and the next, there may be a glimpse of the homeless Jodie as a young adult.
It’s hard not to feel like this could be an interactive movie instead of a game, but the gripping storytelling is what will take the player from one end of this emotional journey to the other. What’s also to be noted here is that the level of mystery and intrigue works well. The truth about Aiden and Jodie’s backstory is cleverly held back until the final moments, which could effectively flip the tables on what you may decide for the final choice of the game.
There were many scenes, if not nearly every one, that were filled with raw emotion – whether it’s Jodie sharing a moment with father figure Nathan, or running through the forests trying to get away from the convoy of police. Chilling psychological moments exist as well. Take the mission where a teenaged Jodie had to close a condenser with only Aiden as backup. Besides the really final mission, that’s where I couldn’t suppress the chills on the back of my neck.
Players take control of Jodie and Aiden, although they can be controlled at the same time in Duo Mode. A second controller and, surprisingly, a smartphone can be used as the second player. An app is available for the smartphone in this respect. Switching between them in single player mode can be enabled via the triangle button.
Jodie is mostly controlled through QTE’s (Quick Time Events), but throwing Aiden into the mix makes the experience all the more unique. You’ll need him to pass through walls and ceilings to aid Jodie in your current goal. He can hurl objects, break things, possess other characters that bring them under your control, form a defensive shield around Jodie, and even heal the injuries of her and others.
Most of the game’s situations require you to use both characters. For instance, Aiden can pass through doors to unlock them and take out security cameras, which allows Jodie safe passage and beyond. Sometimes you might feel like an observer and not in control, but Quantic Dream really have struck the perfect balance between emotive sequences and all-out action.
Beyond: Two Souls is more about the gameplay this time than Heavy Rain. Every little action and reaction that you make as Jodie can have an impact on her future. For instance, a rebellious teenaged Jodie can sneak out to a bar and almost be raped. An older Jodie in the CIA may almost sleep with her co-worker Ryan, but then backs out because of what happened some years ago.
It may seem like a somewhat linear experience, but the freedom is there to shape Jodie’s story from the choices you make no matter how small or large they come.
The graphic detail into the characters’ facial structures is staggering, with subtle faults and imperfections that make them all the more human like us. The sheer volume of animations in their faces helps to convey the feelings and that carries the story.
Quantic Dream definitely cast their characters right. They will have made their money’s worth from Page and Dafoe. You really can’t expect anything less from a pair of Oscar nominees after all. The pair is exceptional in their roles. It really has to be noted that Page blew her performance out of the water in one of the best characters she has ever performed.
It’s definitely worth buying Beyond: Two Souls for its fantastic and gripping story. Plots and cinematic are its greatest strengths, but combined with some of the most extraordinary graphics the PS3 has ever seen and the level of originality, it’s definitely taking the current gen out with a huge almighty bang on this masterpiece.