Review – Beyond Two Souls

This game was one of 2013’s heavily anticipated ever since Sony wowed us as E3 with Ellen Paige, Willem Dafoe and Quantic Dream teaming up together to bring us a supernatural thriller. So it begs the question, did they deliver? Yes and no. Let me explain…but first the formalities

Beyond Two Souls follows the early life of Jodie Holmes (Ellen Page) who has a soul linked to her life named Aiden, an entity from another dimension. Jody can work with Aiden to move objects, see into other rooms, strangle people to death and possess bodies to help gain access to locked rooms. The game/movie follows Jodie’s life through her childhood with her surrogate family who turn her over to Dr Nathan Dawkins (Willem Dafoe) and Dr Cole Freeman (Kadeem Hardison) who continue to raise her and discover more about Aiden and the alternate universe.

Written and directed by David Cage and the team at Quantic Dream, it is no surprise that this game is pretty much easily summed up as an interactive movie. This could easily have the limited gameplay taken out and be shown as a movie, well it almost could…except for one glaring problem.

The story shifts between Jodie as a little girl, Jodie as a rebellious teenager, Jodie as a homeless young adult, Jodie as an army recruit, it is all so ridiculously scattered it is exhausting to keep up with. Normally I am ok if a story isn’t 100% cohesive but this is so rigid and has such glaring gaps it is hard to actually care about what is going to happen in the story. I found that in the final hours of the game I was so over it, I just didn’t care anymore. No game before has ever done this to me.

The game does have some good points, the graphics are eye droppingly gorgeous. I was surprised that a game so late in this console’s life could produce something this beautiful. The cut scenes and motion capture used are worth playing this game for alone. In addition to the graphics, the characters in the game are just as engaging. Ellen Page as Jodie is the perfect fit and Willem Dafoe work wonderfully together. The chemistry that the two of them have on screen is beautiful to watch and is the part of the game I enjoyed the most.

Parts of the plot did work, in particular the Navahoe chapter where a homeless Jodie stays at a ranch and helps work in exchange for a place to live. There she finds an ancient indian monster who is haunting the family. It was such a great hour of the game, and I was hoping for this to be stretched out as a bigger part of the game. You can ride horses, explore the desert and make out with cute indian teens. Other interesting parts were the homeless Jodie who gives the player the option of blowing a junkie on the streets for $10 for food. That’s right, a blow job for money…it really wasn’t what I was expecting from this game. There are a couple of awkward rape attempts that seemed inappropriate and out of place.

Another large part of the story is Aiden, while he has no voice, he does give you access to his abilities from time to time to possess guards that are blocking Jodie’s way, open doors, move objects to solve unnecessary puzzles. Aiden is probably the easiest part of this game to control. There are a couple of times in which you can provide a telepathic link to Jodie to explain how things happen so you can move forward in the game. It sounds ridiculous and yes it kind of is, but it is how it’s done.

That being said this game was still a great experience on the Playstation 3, in the times that I did care about Jodie and Aiden, the feelings were intense. There is a beautiful scene in which you have to clean Jodie’s apartment and cook dinner. It was so simple, yet provided such an insight into this character and was one of the most touching things that this game had to offer.

Some of the best fun in this game are definitely the choices you can make. In the early hours of the game Jodie attends a party, and when her peers label her a freak and turn on her, you can use Aiden to get revenge and scare the absolute shit of them. It is incredibly satisfying and there are repeat opportunities further along in the game to do or not do similar things. No matter what decision you make, the game still goes on, it just impacts on the relationships you form and what trophies you unlock.

The fighting controls are a little odd, basically the whole game turns into super slow motion mode and you can either turn left, right or duck to avoid an attack. It is a little touchy on the Dual Shock controls and when you discover that even if someone beats the crap out of you and you still don’t die, it really isn’t worth wasting your time attempting to control. It couldn’t be a big Playstation title without trying to incorporate the damn motion sensors in the Dualshock controllers. Flicking the controller up, down and sideways to jump up and down or swerve was incredibly annoying and I will be happy to see the last of it.

Further into the game you can start controlling vehicles, by far the best one was the submarine. Using the lights as a guide to steer your way through, you can use the sonar map to make sure you are on the right track and I sat back and thought…hmm when was the last time I controlled a submarine in a game?

This is the last great title on the Playstation 3 and is a great send off to this generation’s console. If you enjoyed Heavy Rain you will find some familiarity in the game play, although this is much more interactive movie than Rain, there are some outstandingly epic moments that make up for some horrendous pacing issues. Beautifully detailed graphics with some stunning motion capture work and voice acting help make the characters easy to relate to and care about.

Beyond Two Souls is out now and exclusive to the Playstation 3 console.


Review by Alaisdair Dewar

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