Length: Between 12 – 15 hours
-Brilliant choice options
-Occasionally difficult controls
-Awkward fighting scenes
Beyond Two Souls is a masterpiece just waiting to be explored. Every moment of this journey is a well scripted, gorgeously detailed combination of video gaming genius and cinematic enjoyment. In fact, to call Beyond Two Souls a ‘masterpiece’ is perhaps an outright lie, for it is far more impressive than that. Having never played Heavy Rain, I had never actually partaken in a game which is less of a game, and more of a cinematic experience, which is exactly what Quantic Dream’s new title is all about; making the player a part of an interactive movie. In this sense, the player is responsible for all of the choices, and are forced to live with the repercussions, the emotions and the challenges that come with them as you shape the life of the protagonist, Jodie, all of this making the game even more emotionally potent as you continue through the course of her unfathomably unique life.
The game is not orchestrated in chronological order like many video games, and instead crosses from one moment of the character Jodie’s life to another, and although one may initially think this to be both convoluted and difficult to keep up with, this is one of the unique elements which makes the game so appealing. Say, the player goes through a moment in Jodie’s life when she is eighteen and there is mention of something that happened earlier; originally, the player will have no knowledge of this, which shall spark an assortment of questions, which will later be answered when the game travels back to this specific time, hence keeping the player intrigued and on their toes.
Jodie is an incredibly well rounded character, and where many women in video games are reduced to sex symbols with very little opinion of their own, Jodie is the exact opposite. She is almost always in a vast amount of clothing; she becomes emotional when horrific occurrences transpire in her life; she is anxious around strangers and slow to trust; she becomes envious of the opinions of others; spiteful of those who attempt to do her wrong, and has the want to be morally good. Jodie seems like a real, flesh and blood woman, and the acting of Ms. Ellen Page is beyond extraordinary in bringing this amazing character to life, which assisted me in caring not only about the game, but especially for her brilliant character.
Not only is Jodie gorgeous, but she is strong, in both mind and body, independent, romantic, adventurous and very capable. What sets her apart the most from other characters is her connection to Aidan, a ghostly aspiration who has been tied to her for as long as she could remember by an invisible tether. Aidan goes where Jodie goes, and over the course of the game it is questioned as to who really is the dominating figure in this obscure relationship.
The other pivotal character in the game is Nathan, who is a doctor that looks after Jodie for most of her life. Voiced by Mr. William Dafoe, much like Ms. Page, Mr. Dafoe’s acting is exemplary, and he helps bring his character to life on so many levels; as not just a professional individual, but on a brilliantly developed emotional level as well, and although Jodie is the primary character fixated upon, Nathan’s character and the pain he has been through is fabulously represented in Mr. Dafoe’s voice.
On top of this, the acting of all actors involved in developing their characters is just as outstanding, and goes to show that the talent must have been as passionate about the game as the developers were.
Moving on, at any moment in the game, the player can enter the view point of Aidan by hitting the green triangular button, and can then survey the world through Aidan’s eyes. Not only can Aidan see things that other people cannot, but he can travel through walls, interact with the world through telekinetic abilities, he can choke the life out of unsuspecting enemies, and he can possess certain characters and make them do all manner of things. Of course, there is only a certain distance that he is allowed to travel, for the tether that binds him to Jodie acts like a leash, and thus, it has a limited range.
While the player controls Aidan, at times, Jodie can provide him with advice, or tell him not to bother her or to halter his actions entirely, and the player has the option of doing what they are told, or doing the exact opposite. This can lead to quite nefarious occurrences, and the repercussions often affect the life of Jodie herself; you can, at one moment, ruin a date she is on, which will emotionally demolish her, and leave the player, well, me at least, feeling incredibly crappy with myself.
Unlike in other games, the likes of Brute Force, Fuse or Remember Me, where characters are bestowed with special powers and abilities which are unnecessary for the player to successfully complete the game, each of the mentioned titles predominately turning into shoot ’em ups, or, in the case of Remember Me, a continuous punching match, in Beyond Two Souls, Aidan’s ghostly abilities are a necessity in every single level. You may need to open a locked door; distract a guard; navigate an area filled with hostiles; knock items out of the way; the number of possibilities are endless.
Not everything goes according to plan all the time though, but the game will compensate for this. There was a moment in the game when Jodie wanted to leave her accommodations and go out, even though she had been told repeatedly that such was against the rules. However, being the bad boy that I am (to this day I still refuse to eat my broccoli), I helped Jodie by using Aidan to sneak her out of the building, but was unfortunately caught during the process; brilliant escape artist I apparently am not. Instead of bringing up a ‘mission failed’ sign though, the game continued, with Jodie being lectured to about her actions and how everything could have gone hopelessly wrong.
There are a vast number of moments in the game when, if Jodie does not do something properly, the game will continue regardless down an alternate path which will still, inevitably, lead to the intended conclusion. At one point, Jodie was captured by the enemy, and instead of being killed, the cavalry eventually manage to mount a rescue before anything went terribly wrong.
One of the reasons why things may on occasion go wrong, could very well be the controls. Now, I admit, I am more of an XBOX 360 kind of guy myself, and when the PS4 comes out I will not be rushing out to my local game retailer to procure a copy; what I am saying is that perhaps my lack of experience with the PS3 controller partially lead to my downfall on a couple of occasions. When it comes to Aidan interacting with the environment, the player will, more often than not, pull back on the left and right thumb sticks for something to happen, and additionally need to move them in a certain direction. Depending on the occasion, this may include moving an object, healing either Jodie or another character, or even physically moving the memories of an object or a deceased individual into Jodie’s mind so she can glimpse what they witnessed. Some of these occurrences can be downright annoying, for not only does the player have to fight the awkward controls into the right position, but then has to maintain them in that same position for a set duration of time for anything to happen. On occasion, there is a time limit, and if the player fails, then the game will simply take over.
On that note, the game will on many an occasion do everything for the player, including fighting. Fighting in general is another issue with the game; the camera is often in a difficult location as it follows Jodie and will constantly change from being on her back to being on her front. Additionally, in most games, the player needs to pay particular attention to enemy combatants to see what attacks they are doing so the player may avoid them; in the case of Beyond Two Souls, the player needs to keep their eyes predominantly on Jodie. Depending on the direction Jodie moves in, the player moves the camera stick in that particular direction for Jodie to successfully attack or block, and if she fails, this does not result in her demise, for the game will eventually have Jodie beat her opponent regardless of the outcome when the player was at the helm. Safe to say there was more than one occasion when the game saved my sorry ass, however, there were other times when even I managed to surprise myself by helping Jodie kick ass and take names with ease.
This is adjunctively made easier by the fact that the game in general is not terribly difficult. There are two skills levels; one for novices to games, and one for veterans, and even on the latter difficulty, the game posed very little trouble for me.
Moreover, although Beyond Two Souls is at its heart, a ghost story about a young woman haunted by a spectral entity, the game is more of a drama than a terrifying thriller, and it is several hours into the game before there is even any hint of something spooky. The first time we see Aidan I admit, I jumped into the air because I was not expecting anything creepy to go down, which is one thing that sets the game apart from other titles which have horror elements within them; instead of initially introducing Aidan as this scary creature, he is illustrated as an actual, understandable, recognisable being, rather than a monster, which helps the audience not only adjust to having him around 24/7, but even like and care for his character as well, so by the time a creepy occurrence happens, we do not resent Aidan for it; he cannot help being what he is, and by that time, we have accepted him regardless.
After the first jump there are some other scary moments, and these are just as well managed as the first. Although at times the spooky moments seem a little odd as they are few and far between for the most part, they are beefed up by the continuous mentioning of ‘monsters’, suggesting that there are other ghostly creatures out in the world, and not all of them are as nice and homey as our boy Aidan, and the occasions when Jodie is unfortunately forced to face them are delivered beautifully upon the screen. I will say no more about them, but although they are rare, they are an awesome highlight of the game and remind the player that Beyond Two Souls is just that; a game, one which is deserving of being played.
Beyond Two Souls is a fantastic, unique experience which is not only emotional and passionate, but is is brilliantly written, intelligent and continuously entertaining. I will say this though; if you intend to play Beyond Two Souls, you may want to have a box of tissues handy; many scenes are delivered to such an emotionally high caliber that I for one was deeply affected by the emotion dripping forth from the screen, the ending especially is a real tear-jerker, and one that will stay with you long after the game is over.
Quantic Dream’s new title is, without a doubt, one of the best games I have played all year. Will I play it again? You can count on it!
Rating: 11/10 (even with those occasionally irritable controls)
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoy the Beyond experience as much as I did!