Game Title: Beyond: Two Souls
ESRB Rating: M
Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Overall Score: 8.5/10
Review Author: GrayGargoyle
Gamers of the world often find themselves in the predicament of having rope tied to spear and a homemade breathing apparatus in order to turn this hobby into a part-time job for seeking out the finest specimens of man-made game the world has to offer each and every year. Into the deep we'll press on until the scope is set and the radar has a bogey worth aiming for. If the game is worth getting up for in the morning, if we really must slip on a clean pair of underwear and some socks for a change then the journey to retrieve this delicate package and bring it on home will calm the hype jets and still all the anti pressure bubbling up against the product upon its release. Free yourself from the norm if you will and come forth for the year's most staggering cinematic incident. French developer Quantic Dream blew sweet somethings through our eardrums in the past three years. This time they intend to extract players from that everyday routine we've seen before with a supernatural experience the height of which takes its cues from dual roles in Beyond: Two Souls.
Specter. Spook. Apparition. A visitor from another dimension, perhaps? Claiming that she knows not who the entity is, for as long as she can remember Jodie Holmes has been ethereally linked with a being from an existence outside the human race. This paranormal entity referred to as Aiden meddles in Jodie's affairs whether by its own initiative or when Jodie needs it to. Past the many stepping stones of adolescence that climb straight into adulthood, Beyond: Two Souls details the timeline between Jodie and her otherworld companion with several events filling the pages of Jodie's story. Tested as a kid and tried as a CIA agent, Jodie Holmes has never been apart from her invisible pest whether she wants to or not.
Dreadful as ghosts are often depicted throughout history, Beyond: Two Souls is not at all like your conventional haunt. Extinguishing any comparison to other games with see-through inhabitants, Beyond: Two Souls pays much more homage to similar games designed under Quantic Dream's roof whether we're speaking about Indigo Prophecy or the product that came after it, Heavy Rain. Especially in the case of Heavy Rain's footing, David Cage (better known as the writer/director behind all Quantic Dream's projects) has fashioned yet another Choose Your Own Adventure-stylized game. With context-sensitive controls, multiple characters to lend influence to the tale, and all of this being captured across an extremely interactive cinematic scale, Beyond: Two Souls plays like you might expect it to if that is fortune shined upon you when three years ago many gamers were initially dancing in the Heavy Rain. Threats to Jodie often crop up whether she's on the run from lawmen, whether she's confronted by unsavory characters, or if a snowball fight escalates over dangerous grounds. Combat scenarios offer a mixture of things that might see Jodie on the run or differently will have her physically defending herself along slow-motion crawls. These instances are all laid out well enough. There is only a slight problem...
Distinction can spell out anything your eyes can't pinpoint of their own consciousness. It's with a lack of distinguishable on-screen prompts that the fight and/or chase selections in Beyond: Two Souls become something of an issue. When you want to do good or better than you can in a game like this, you'd be better off knowing when to press the button or what button to press when the timing happens. In Beyond: Two Souls the way that combat works is that an enemy will strike above, left or right, or from below. While sometimes the direction an adversary comes from isn't all that difficult to comprehend, this won't be the case for all events as sometimes you might misinterpret their stance from any angle and end up running into the red-flashing screen that impedes your progress in the game more than you might want it to at times. Should have made a left. Should have ducked down. Coulda. Woulda. Didn't. It's not the end of the world, lest the protagonist or someone she cares about happens to perish under these confounded roads. The same can all be said about when Jodie has to look to see where she's charging through a maze of destruction. The leaps and bounds, the ducking and dodging... again it's not always hard to tell which way you must flick the right analog stick to evade certain hazards, but regularly there's a chance you will mess up these sequences. Would it have been too much hassle inscribing an extra prompt so that players can avoid unnecessary bumps and bruises?
Concentrating on the main issues dealing with the controls in Beyond: Two Souls, one other minor annoyance deals with an element not under Jodie's will. Playing as Aiden is all a part of playing through the game itself. In fact, Beyond: Two Souls is a two-player game, this being the first time Quantic Dream has dished one out. Embracing Beyond's whims does not require a second controller in hand, even though the trophy list insists upon it. Have no second controller handy? For the iOS and Android users of the world they too can join in on the action with a specific app that lets someone else with you in the room, possibly toying with their iPhone all day long, to do something new with it by sliding their finger across the screen to play Beyond: Two Souls with you side-by-side. Whichever method you decide to play the game, with someone else or by your lonesome, at least speaking on behalf of the controller angle Aiden does not work as well as you might like when Jodie asks for his assistance in the spirit art of channeling. What is channeling? Why, it's when Jodie kneels beside a corpse or an object of importance and it's up to Aiden to direct the spirit energy toward Jodie's forehead. The problem here, at least with a DualShock 3 controller, is that the energy stream itself is like a gas leaking out of said object. With both the right and left sticks you're to hover them around the bottom of where the font is leaking from and try to direct the gassy substance so that it streams directly into Jodie's face. Given that swooshing the energy around can often miss and re-miss, and continue not splashing upon the desired target, it can be tricky getting this right the first time just as it can with several other attempts this particular game mechanic comes into play.
Although Beyond: Two Souls isn't rightly cleansed of all scum right out the package, the game itself actually ends up registering more on the positive side than things may sound thus far. The game is for better or worse well-off. This adventure follows Jodie through her years along with Aiden, as has been said. What more is there to say about them? Well, how about those everyday mundane activities that will find Jodie attempting to scrape together money in her stroll down a city block. Navigating her household under diversity, she can take a seat to catch which cartoon's on TV or head into the bathroom for some "Jodie time." Having Aiden as an accomplice, swapping between the two of them at any time gives gamers a back-and-forth maneuver to concoct such amusing tasks as figuring a way into or out of somewhere without being caught. This can lead to Aiden's complete possession over a person's body, in which unlike his ghostly form he's not just there to upset people or choke the life out of them. Once a body has succumbed to his power he can lay murder to enemies around him, committing suicide in the process, or pull out a suspect's car keys and take a joyride with Jodie in tow. Much the same as Heavy Rain before it, in Beyond: Two Souls the gameplay controls will cover button-tapping segments while running, held button combinations while climbing, and variations on sitting, standing, dropping, and driving instructions - which with the specific button prompts aren't going to be encumbering on a player's progress.
By coupling itself with the sorts of gameplay niceties that were held in high regards through Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls doesn't stop there. A vision of unparalleled refinement, Heavy Rain could stun a player in a way that would take their breath away. Those in desperate need of a mint to swallow better open their eyes wide to yet another jaw-dropping, floor-soaking mess of amazement. Whilst your feet may have their own pool to swim in for a time, the effect of Beyond: Two Souls gives us a look at life from people of various shapes, sizes, and racial backgrounds. Natural and very believable, Jodie is depicted from early childhood up to a young and alluring adult figure. Posturing changes render her over the ages just as they will reconfigure those who follow along in her saga. Jodie's sullen face as a child will fade away as her angst will grow and her attire will surface with new territory. With cap draped over her long hair in snowfall, with a flashy red dress and eyeshadow to highlight her character's detail in a foreign embassy, and with the walk through a park in Autumn surrounded by multicolored leaves the scenery changes, the characters develop, and the game looks terrific. Galloping across a desert backdrop while the sun shimmers down upon the mountains and the pillars and the trees rustling in the breeze. Rain drizzles down during a darkened night as the locomotive passes by a murky forest. Hospitals look just as plain as they do in real life and a war-torn city in rubble has all the makings you'd come to expect from people being lined up for execution to vehicles on fire and barriers to provide cover in the streets. Beyond: Two Souls isn't exactly perfect but the game is completely picturesque.
Quantic Dream indeed delves deeply enough into the PlayStation 3's illuminating power on a graphical edge the likes of which we've seen only once before. But, how about Beyond's sound capabilities? Just like with its visual cues the actors in the game whether we know them all too well or their work is less common, Beyond: Two Souls etches out an emotionally intense story based around motion-capture technology. Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe are two such major Hollywood talents accompanying and strengthening the story with their key roles in the game. Lending their likenesses in addition to their voice, Ellen Page (who you might recognize from such filmography as Juno or Inception) has a range of vocal traits whether she's ticked off at someone, sobbing, or being mutually agreeable in the fact that she's just as satisfied to greet an old friend. Willem is no slouch either in that like with his previous works (such as in Spider-Man or xXx: State of the Union) you'll see his face and hear his voice as a sweet and sour personality that's collected calmly until a transformative power takes him into a heightened state of sensation.
Moving on, there isn't as much to talk about with other areas of the game's sound design. Audio bits formulate around specific situations where you'll hear the gurgling noise as Aiden chokes an enemy to death or the gunfire as he self-detonates the body he's captured. Drawers creak open and you can listen in as Jodie gulps down every droplet of every drink she's ever handed - if you opt to quench for this throat-guzzling anyway. Rather than looping the same song, the narrative in Beyond: Two Souls sticks mostly to tuning in music when it's appropriate, when it comes time to struggling through tragedies in the escape from a burning building or while on the run from law enforcement. The orchestral melodies cast upon the game's main menu is especially good, but as for what's floating around Jodie Holmes in her gameplay momentum (besides Aiden of course) is more of a moment-to-moment thing rather than persisting through your head. You get to strum your guitar or pop on some country listening for a time. The music that is available is all well and good, but it's not around long enough to be considered effectively strong for any kind of reward.
"Yes," is what you ought to tell yourself when asking one very important question. The question you've been asking yourself with increased regularity ever since you've learned of the game's existence. When E3 came, when the press wrote who was designing the project, when the day of arrival finally swung by. There you were asking yourself and others around you the question: "Am I going to buy Beyond: Two Souls?" Of course! Each year brings with it a delicious haul of must-play titles. Beyond charting a fantasy realm to save your mother in Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, beyond adapting to the origin story of Tomb Raider, beyond crafting your own toolset for an apocalyptic survival in The Last of Us, there is more PlayStation 3 gaming waiting to be discovered. Whether you have a PlayStation 4 on the brink or you're planning to stick around with your current system awhile longer, Beyond: Two Souls seriously is one of year's most intriguing arrivals. At worst you'll end up regretting at least a few of the design decisions, where at best you'll come away impressed by another compelling drama that in many ways carries genetic similarities as seen in Quantic Dream's previous works. Chances are you're going like this one too.
I recently put up a small blog about Beyond in the clan I am in. Someone replied pointing out how different it was that the main antagonist was a woman (for a change).
The content I've seen and read's been great and although I'm unsure how the gameplay itself might be, the plot sounds good.