Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Playstation 3
Release Date: November 25, 2015
Have you ever been a fan of an actor to where just because they are in it, you have to see it or buy it? Willem Dafoe is that guy for me. When I saw the original TV spot for Beyond: Two Souls back in 2013, I instantly wanted the game, just because he was a part of it. I was not disappointed.
Beyond: Two Souls is a cinematic game, much like an interactive movie, starring Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe as Jodie Holmes and Nathan Dawkins, respectively. It is hard to find an exact definition for what Beyond really is, in terms of a specific genre. Sometimes, I was so scared that I wanted to turn the game off and go look at cats on the internet. Other times, the game brought me so close to tears that someone was about to get blamed for cutting onions. It is more than just a game; it is an experience.
Players are treated to a splendid narrative that follows the life of Jodie, a young woman who, from birth, has been inexplicably linked to a supernatural entity named Aiden. We watch her grow from a little girl into a rebellious teenager and then into a strong, mature woman. We share in her pain and her triumph and it is an absolute delight.
In the original release, the story was presented in a non-linear fashion, jumping between the many points and moments in Jodie’s life. With the enhanced version, we are presented an alternative and are able to play through the events in a chronological order, which is definitely nice for anyone who had problems following the chain of events. However, I HIGHLY recommend playing the game in the original order first, to get the full Beyond experience.
As she grows, Jodie experiences many different and at times, very trying, situations that many of us have found ourselves in before. Being bullied, dealing with abandonment and betrayal; many of the things that she faces resonated with me, fully investing me in her story, especially since I was able to decide the outcome of the situations through my own actions and choices. And that is what Beyond does so well. There are so many choices and paths and endings that this game offers which skyrockets its replay value.
In terms of actual gameplay, the entirety of Beyond: Two Souls revolves around two major mechanics; contextual commands and quick-time events. Jodie and Aiden are controlled using the analog sticks to move and rotate the camera and, in Jodie’s case, interacting with the environment. The QTEs almost always involve Jodie, either when she is manipulating her surroundings or when she is involved in an action scene.
With the QTEs, many involve tracking Jodie’s movements and moving the right stick appropriately which is pretty confusing at first glance. Granted, I’m pretty terrible at QTEs myself but eventually you do catch on to how to handle them, despite the game’s lack of an on-screen indicator. Other QTEs are pressing and holding buttons, hitting them in a specified order or within a time limit.
Aiden, however, is controlled with a combination of the sticks and the L1/R1 and L2/R2 buttons. As Aiden, players are given the freedom to float around, move through walls and hear/see things that Jodie cannot. Through Aiden’s “eyes”, players are able to see auras and interact with them. These provide effects like showing Jodie glimpses of past events, taking control of NPCs and occasionally, killing them.
The overall design for the game is amazing, especially when compared to its Playstation 3 counterpart. Beyond looks more vibrant, more beautiful and even more cinematic than it did before. While there are moments where the quality isn’t quite up to snuff, it does not distract from what is happening on screen and never truly breaks the immersion.
To sum things up, Beyond: Two Souls is an amazing piece of art. There is such an emphasis on choice and on story that is very rare to find, especially with one as well done as this one. The performance by Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe take it even further, making this game a memorable experience, even the second time around.
However, it is for a different kind of gamer. With an over reliance on QTEs and a focus on storytelling over player control, there are many who may not find the game enjoyable. I’m not one of those people but I can understand where they are coming from.
Beyond: Two Souls is a game for those who want a good story and don’t mind the way the game is played.