Format: Playstation 3 exclusive
WARNING: Mild Spoilers!!
Quantic Dream is the company who brought you Heavy Rain and Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy. Recently they released Beyond: Two Souls, which is a deep spiritual journey that spans the life of a young girl named Jodie Holmes. She has another soul linked to her for unknown reasons. Aiden, the soul, has various supernatural powers you can control. Due to this ability, and other elements in the game, you can make various moral choices that help change some of the endings of the game and various paths throughout the game. Each choice makes you think about the options before and after and usually allowed adequate time for anyone to think about them. Also depending on the choices you make the characters voice their opinion due to your interactions with them or choices you’ve made.
This is one of my new favorite stories of all time. I’ll repeat: This is one of my new favorite stories of all time. I know it can’t rank up there with Rear Window, or the newer stuff like The Dark Knight, due to its flaws but it comes really damn close. Yes it’s the typical reluctant hero kinda field that has seen a rise in the recent comic book movies, but a much of the way they handle it and let you choose the characters actions is unique. You can control most everything she does from being a good kid when she’s younger to cold bitch when she’s a adult. Aiden can aid, or hinder, all her actions along the way. You can have him/her kill people, rig ATMs, posses people, and even defend Jodie when she can’t. This is really fun due to the fact that he can’t die and the access to many of his abilities are usually all readily available. Yes the game tends to limit you sometimes on what you do, but I think that tries to enforce the idea that Jodie does have some control over Aiden.
I found myself really empathized with the characters, even the douche ones, due to how well script is written. They really take the time to develop each character or bring them on long enough to see how they are emotionally attached to Jodie. It eventually gets easier to grasp when you play whatever level multiple times. You can also use Aiden to see what others think of you, or your actions, which only adds heaps more depth to the story. Although it is irritating when important dialogue is missed sometimes because I didn’t switch to Aiden and wonder off to a room where other character are located. It shines even in simpler tasks like trying to help Jodie become romantically involved with Ryan.
With that being said there’s a wide variety of moral choices you can make from helping the homeless to strangling childhood bullies. The amount of choices are insanely large and many of them, despite doing something completely evil, will warrant a achievement. Regardless of achievement incentives to do evil things I found myself playing the same levels multiple times just to see what else I could do or what I missed the first time. So it was like a moving piece of art that you have to keep looking at in order to notice all the details. With replaying multiple levels it was also fun to see how it changed the people around her by the end of the level.
Also Jodies reactions to it all also adds more emotional stability and sanity to the situation which helps considering how fantastically strange things turn sometimes. It even helped develop her into a strong female lead while not making her look like a complete bitch. This is something kinda rare in story telling, because most authors tend to make the female leads too masculine and they lose almost all femininity to them. This played a delicate balance between both while still giving you control over what you wanted her to do.
The story structure threw me in multiple directions without warning. At one point you could be navigating Jodie through a wrecked closed security site and the dead would get posses and try to murder Jodie. Then the next scene she experiences her first love with one of her hunky boy toys in the game. While the jumps were often jarring I’ve seen enough of this style of story telling (See Memento and Pump Fiction) that it didn’t bother me. However I don’t doubt many would enjoy the game because of how disjointed it feels sometimes. Although I don’t think I could have picked a better way to display the confusion of a terrifying journey like this without jumbling it. I’ll admit I liked the change of pace because some levels were rather relaxing compared to say the previous two where Jodie was almost killed or raped.
The thing that really heightens the mood is the graphics. They are simply stunning. There were a few scenes where you run through a burning house and you can see burning embers float past your face. The fire, and a lot of the water effects, are some of the best I’ve seen in gaming. Period. One scene where it’s raining you could see it run down Jodie’s face, drop by drop and her clothes would slowly get wetter as it rained down. Also I don’t think I ever saw any noticeable glitches, which is rare for any game.
Sometimes the interaction is limited due to the game play elements. There are many quick time events and there are many times it has the same limitations of a 1990s point and click adventure. Like there would be a interactive object that would only prompt Jodie to comment on it or the interaction was bland. Also instead of pointing and clicking you wobble the joy sticks in whatever awkward way the game instructs you too. This, sometimes, isn’t fun, but I played along with it to basically see what happened next.
The action sequences, while super fun to watch, really posed no challenge. You, as long as you’ve played some kind of game in your life, will be able to run, dodge, fight whatever police, CIA officer, African militia, etc. with great ease. Which made me wonder why they even bothered with a difficulty option. It asks your video game skills, at the very beginning of the game, and basically gives you a choice between normal mode and normal mode with hints. This just trivialized the whole option considering it didn’t change the difficulty at all. This was also disappointing considering their previous games had some level of difficulty. Like with Heavy Rain you had to concentrate more then most games on what you were doing or going to do next and the choices that you were prompted to choose from. Then Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy was notably hard in some areas which would impact the story negatively, and sometimes get main characters killed for the rest of the story. Seriously, many levels were just made of pure keyboard snapping frustration and Beyond: Two Souls was a walk in the park compared to this.
However, I really only consider this game to have only one completely terrible thing about it: the controls. The controls are muddled half the time or the camera angles screw up the direction you want to go. There were multiple times where I wanted Jodie to go through a door and she’d kinda rotate left to right and got stuck. I couldn’t zoom out half the time to see what her character was stuck on or doing. So I kinda had to wiggle out of it and walk off. Also there are some blatant dead ends that the camera doesn’t pan out to show you so I would wind up in a corner searching for a door or hidden items (which there are plenty of) in a worthless empty space and that just blatantly wastes time.
Other times there will be something tremendously bad happening and the controls just flat out wouldn’t work. Like, you know, the building your in is about to explode. So instead of running like a normal person, Jodie kinda just jogs around the building. Also during certain scenes like this the run button will be disable. No I’m not joking. The run button, that you use MULTIPLE times in other situations, will be completely useless. I don’t see the point of that. It doesn’t build suspense or help the story. It’s just stupid.
The emotional impact of the story, and multiple endings, only made me want more. It does leave it open for a sequel, but all sequels depend on funding and if the script is good enough. Despite all the negative aspects of this game it is still something that can be deeply enjoyed if you have the patience and don’t mind a different kind of gameplay. This is truly one of the best stories I’ve seen in a video games. It may not be your kind of game due to the artistic gameplay style, or jumbled style of story telling, but I’d say at least rent it or try the demo.
71/100 – Metacritic Critic Reviews
8.1/10 – Metacritic User Reviews
8.0/10 – IMDB