Beyond: Two Souls follows the life of Jodie Holmes (Ellen Page), a girl born with an extraordinary power. Some call it a gift; Jodie might call it a burden. Jodie is a girl that has led a very different life in comparison to other young girls of her age. She’s had no friends, no school; she’s a child that has never had a childhood like some might take for granted. Brought up in an experiment facility, day in and day out she has been the tool of experimentation conducted by Nathan Hawkins (Willem Dafoe). Her ‘gift’ as some might say, is an entity known as Aiden; he is with Jodie every minute of every day and will never leave her side. He’s very protective of Jodie and will at times go to great lengths to make sure she comes to no harm both physically and emotionally. The man leading the experiments (Nathan), has also grown a strong attached to Jodie and is often a man caught in the middle of having to do his job to learn more about Jodie’s gift, to someone that has become a focal father figure to Jodie, and it pains him to see her go through any emotional distress.
From the government always seeing her as a lab rat to conduct their experiments, to the CIA using her power to their diplomatic gain. Many see Jodie as a tool to be used, yet some see her as an angel sent from above, brought into their lives to bring them back from despair. Jodie knows that she is no ordinary girl, but she just wants an ordinary life; to fall in love, have a family, but will Jodie ever find true peace? Join the emotional rollercoaster of a journey as you go beyond the two souls intertwined. This is an epic tale that you will not forget, this is Beyond: Two Souls.
Visually I don’t think I have seen any game that has set such a high standard on the current gen console, as much as Beyond: Two Souls. 2013 has been a great year so far for gaming, with such greats as The Last of Us, GTA V and BioShock Infinite. While Beyond: Two Souls may not be able to match these games in terms of varied and deep gameplay; in terms of eye candy, it certainly stands out from the crowd. The facial animation is a joy to behold and after witnessing previous games such as some of the titles that I have just mentioned and games like L.A Noire and Heavy Rain, it was tough to see how even those games could be topped. It’s fair to say that arguably Beyond: Two Souls has jumped to the top of the pecking order in the visuals department.
With Beyond: Two Souls, seeing is believing. Even if you should watch the many YouTube uploads of the ‘Lets Plays’, it simply will not do the game justice in comparison to playing the game first hand and witnessing the great work that Quantic Dream have achieved. They’re a team that knows how to push the PS3 to its absolute limits and that goal has been achieved and then some. Even though the gameplay mechanic is somewhat more advanced to the great Heavy Rain, it still has a clunky feel at times and the camera can often frustrate. However, the graphics of Beyond: Two Souls more than compensate to where it may lack in some other areas.
Moving around in Beyond: Two Souls, as I’ve mentioned, is at times very clunky and you can often find yourself turning back and forth as you attempt to walk through a simple doorway when the camera quickly changes angle. I don’t know how well it may have worked without actually being allowed to play it this way, but I kind of wish that Quantic Dream would have incorporated some kind of free flowing camera, rather than the somewhat fixed camera that features. If you‘re use to previous games from the talented development team (such as Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain), then you will already be accustomed to how Beyond plays. Even still, I would have wished that Quantic Dream would have made their game feel a little less heavy and have a less restricted camera, but these are very minor gripes and are the only real issues that come to mind, in what is otherwise a truly great game. After all, no game is truly perfect, no matter how amazing it might be.
With those small issues aside, Beyond: Two Souls is arguably the most evolved game to date from Quantic Dream. There seems to be less QTE’s in comparison to Heavy Rain, but while QTE’s still remain, the gameplay focus is far more towards the use of the analogue sticks with no real on screen prompts. There will be no arrows prompting you to flick the analogue in the instructed direction; instead you will have to rely far more on your own instinct. Chapters early on in the game will attempt to get you up to speed, and whilst you may struggle in the CIA training camp to begin with (at least I did anyway), knowing when are where to kick or dodge will soon become second nature and you will soon begin to wonder why there was ever a need for on-screen prompts in the first place.
This is not to say that there are not any on-screen prompts, because there are. As you walk around your environment there will be a lot of objects in which you can interact with. You will know when you can, because there will be white orbs above such objects. Beyond: Two Souls also uses a feature that I had long forgotten about until now, and that is the DualShock 3 motion controls. It’s a feature that doesn’t get over used thankfully, but it’s a nice reminder to know that the PS3 does have this function and can be a benefit when used well. Now you’re probably wondering where Beyond: Two Souls exactly evolved in comparison to previous games from Quantic Dream? Well I’ll get on to that now.
Jodie Holmes is a character that leads an extraordinary life; she has seen many things and been to places that not even the most inventive mind could ever think of. As you should already know, Jodie has an exceptional power, in the name of Aiden. Aiden can at times be a very protective and will not allow some to get close to Jodie, especially if he thinks she may get hurt. Is it jealousy or is there a sinister reason behind his actions? I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own. While Jodie see’s Aiden’s actions as a heavy burden, he can also be an incredible aid and can help Jodie in even during during the most helpless of situations. In this game you have two lead characters in Jodie and Aiden; you will be controlling Jodie a good 70% of the time, the rest of course will be occupied by Aiden.
Sometimes you have to control Aiden to progress further into the game and you will automatically switch over when required. You can also switch over to Aiden at your choosing by pressing the Triangle button. Aiden is a free flowing entity and he can pretty much go wherever you instruct him too. Through walls and doors, checkout what’s around the corner, and manipulate and move objects at your bidding. Most crucially of all, Aiden can possess almost anyone. Depending on your current situation, Aiden use people’s bodies to see through their eyes to help scope out an area that Jodie cannot perhaps see. If needs be, Aiden can even possess others to kill their own and kill the possessed there and then on the spot.
Aiden’s powers don’t stop there, as at times Jodie may need to investigate certain areas to see what happened before she got there. This is where Aiden will allow Jodie to see the last few moments of those that have died by touching the bodies and objects within that area. This will perhaps reveal vital clues as to what has gone down before Jodie stepped on to the scene. This is an ability that L.A Noire’s Cole Phelps would have been proud to have had. Also if you have a friend nearby, they can take control of Aiden by picking up the extra control pad or by downloading the Beyond Touch app for Android and iOS. This is nice of Quantic Dream to have an accompanying app with their game at launch no matter what your mobile preference; Rockstar Games please sit up and take note.
With Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe leading the cast of acting talent, Beyond: Two Souls was always going to standout with its quality of acting. It’s clear that both Ellen and Willem have taken this project very seriously, as they would do with any Hollywood blockbuster. Their passion seeps through as their characters engross you from the word go. With the amazing visuals and character animations that accompany this game, it makes it very easy to forget that you are actually playing a game and not a favourite from your DVD movie collection.
The previous game from Quantic Dreams, Heavy Rain, had an incredibly powerful storyline and as great as Beyond: Two Souls is, it just falls short in that respect to its predecessor. But where Beyond: Two Souls just gets piped with a photo finish in terms of having a powerful storyline, the quality of acting more than makes up for the minor deficit. It’s also not just Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe that should receive all the plaudits in this game, as the supporting cast at times match the two lead stars. Caroline Wolfson (who voices the young Jodie), Kadeem Hardison (Cole Freeman) and Eric Winter (Ryan Clayton) would also be deserving winners for any supporting actor award.
The original soundtrack is equally as emotional and powerful to any of its counterparts in Beyond: Two Souls. In fact it’s one of the most beautifully harrowing soundtracks that I have heard in recent times and at least matches in my opinion, the soundtrack to that of The Last of Us. The main theme music will forever remain in my mind and one which will go down as one of my all-time favourite theme songs in videogame industry. Beyond: Two Souls is full of sincere, emotional and thrilling moments and the soundtrack does all it can to keep you both sunk in your chair with despair and then at the edge of your seat with its gripping action.
You simply cannot complement the soundtrack without giving a word of thank you to the game’s composers. Normand Corbeli who had worked on both Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain had started on the Beyond: Two Souls soundtrack, but sadly lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on January 25th 2013 at the tender age of 56. Through extremely tough circumstances, Lorne Balfe who has worked alongside the likes on Hans Zimmer on Inception and The Dark Knight (and notably Assassins Creed 3 in the video game world), came in to help finish the work that Normand Corbeli had started. Last, but certainly not least, Academy Awarding winning composer Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, The Dark Knight, Gladiator, Inception) is also a part of the team that has worked absolute wonders in making Beyond: Two Souls one of the most compelling and beautiful soundtracks that we have come to know in the videogame industry.
In Heavy Rain, your actions could drastically change the way the game reaches its final spectacle, and for that reason it encourages more than one playthrough. Beyond: Two Souls does just that and perhaps more. Without giving anything away, vital decisions are not only made throughout the game, but right to the very end. One decision in particular that I had made instantly, made me think “perhaps I shouldn’t have done that?” which gave me the strong urge to hit the reset button. But despite the temptation I stuck by the decision that I had made and this made me think “what would have happened if I had done that differently?” So as a result, as soon as my first playthrough was finished, I was already thinking about my next playthrough and then after that and so forth.
So many games without multiplayer often have just one playthrough in them, perhaps two if you really enjoyed the game. Beyond: Two Souls encourages you to have multiple playthrough’s and I for one cannot wait to do that, just to see how differently events would play out. Normally Trophies and Achievements will give away plot spoilers, but considerately Quantic Dream has made all but two Trophies in Beyond: Two Souls ‘hidden’. This alone intrigues in thinking what actions unlock certain trophies and nothing will be given away by looking at the trophy list, other than then ones that you have already acquired.
You could easily just leave Beyond: Two Souls at the one playthrough, but you would be missing out on so much if for whatever reason, you decided to do that. For that reason Beyond: Two Souls will not only always remain in my games collection, on the basis alone of how much I enjoyed playing the game, but also because I will be returning to it for many moons to come.
Much like Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls will remain a required taste, a true Marmite of gaming. The chances are that gamers will either love it or hate it, I for one love it. While the gameplay may feel a little clunky at times and on the odd occasion the camera may frustrate some, I have not played many games that have pulled me in as much as Beyond: Two Souls. The journey that you take with Jodie from start to finish forms a strong bond between gamer and character, which is something that many developers have tried and failed to do over the years. It’s full of great moments that will stay with you, even after this generation has come and gone, and it’s these moments that will continue to pull you back in for one more go.
Gamers that cannot get on with this game or those that have never played it will see Beyond: Two Souls as nothing more than an interactive movie, in some ways they would be right. Though if Beyond: Two Souls didn’t have these ‘interactive’ moments then it wouldn’t have as much immersion and the player certainly wouldn’t feel all that in control of Jodie’s destiny, and the decisions that are made. Beyond: Two Souls is a game with some flaws, just like anything else, but it’s a game that allows you to be a part of its journey and for me, this is a game that will go down as a cinematic gaming masterpiece that will be remembered as one of these generations gaming greats.
+Encourages multiple playthrough’s
-Feels clunky at times