Review: Beyond: Two Souls

There are two things you need to know before I go into detail, here: First of all, I am a huge fan of both Heavy Rain and Fahrenheit- I even included the former in a previous article on Sony’s finest. Secondly, when I found out that David Cage had not only cast Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe in the main roles, but was using their likeness and developing his marketing around them, I was deeply disappointed.

Not because they’re bad actors- on the contrary, they are excellent and deserving of the meaty roles provided here- but because, for me, gaming is about total suspension of disbelief, which is much harder to accomplish when a person’s status is thrown at you from the moment the game was announced. It irritates me when a film is marketed using big names to attract audiences- it puts me off a game entirely when it’s used in the same way.

On this occasion, I will hold my hands up and admit I was wrong in this belief, because all the actors in-game did their job remarkably well, with what I would describe as very few slip-ups, if you can call them that, none of which are really worthy of mentioning here and certainly none that could be described as their fault. Indeed, compared to the acting in Heavy Rain (complete with…interesting accents), we’re practically spoiled.

Unfortunately, the game surprised me a second time by being disappointingly average from a gameplay perspective.

From previous experience, I was expecting a couple of issues with the gameplay; the first one being what I would call ‘Cage Teeth’, where the mo-cap is so heavily relied upon that the teeth look oddly out of place when a character smiles- or shows any strong facial expression- making them look like they’re about the sneeze (have a Google, it’s hilarious). Another would be the walking around in circles to bring back  that DAMN PROMPT- something that is made all the more frustrating because, for some reason, the characters are unable to turn on the spot and increasingly damned by the new control function used in Beyond: Two Souls.

The controls are something that are truly introduced during ‘Welcome to the CIA’, which is one of the better chapters and a brilliant example of how a game’s story and tutorial can be combined to great effect. The basic concept is that there are no obvious directions for the player to follow, meaning that gamers are to infer what action is needed based on the movement of the character. This is a lovely theory but not one that could be used to great effect here, since there are often times when a character will look like they’re moving in one direction, when actually it turns out they were going the opposite way and the camera angle had distorted this. Or I was just unsure which appendage I was following- there were times I thought our dear Page was going to duck, when it turned out she was actually trying to block and vice-versa.

This is all part of David Cage’s plan to turn gaming into ‘interactive movies’ which, to be honest, I already kinda believed they were. I’m starting to get the idea that, if Cage likes making films so much, why doesn’t he go and direct some films? His stories are brilliant, original and enticing, with enough explosions to appeal to the masses but in terms of the game? I kinda felt like I wasn’t playing for the most part. In fact, during ‘The Hunted’ I decided to set my controller down for a while and see what difference it made- which was none. The movements were carried out a little more clumsily than if I had made an effort but the result was the same.


This leads me to my biggest qualm of the whole experience- the game isn’t as fun as it could be because there’s absolutely no risk involved. Our main protagonist gets pretty beaten and bruised, but she seems pretty unhappy no matter which ending you get and there is such a lack of insight or development from supporting characters it’s pretty hard to feel anything whether you save them or not. In short, you never feel panicked or rushed, other than in ‘The Condenser’, when Jodie is being attacked by entities both in their own form and by possessing dead scientists- a moment that firmly places Two Souls into the ‘thriller’ genre and is guaranteed to wake you up, again.

I think I would mind this less if Beyond hadn’t had so much potential. The most interactive parts of the story involve Aiden (who I thought for most of the game was called Ivan), who you can play as evil or passive. Don’t like someone? Possess them or choke them-It never seems to hold any repercussions! In fact, of all the characters, I think I like Aiden the most- probably because he doesn’t talk, but actually gets things done. He’s closely followed by Stan in ‘Homeless’, who arguably shows the most humanity in the entire story- but seems to quickly be forgotten about, despite the fact that he’s the only guy who comes and visits you in hospital. Little rude of you, Jodie.

The non-linear narrative does nothing to serve the story, in fact it feels as though we’re missing vital parts of the plot. This is something that is enhanced by the odd combination of life-events. We have plenty of ‘why can’t I be like other kids?!’ moments and very few moments of actual development. I also felt that there were quite a few chapters that not only felt out of place, but almost entirely pointless- has anyone figured out why we have both ‘The Party’ and ‘Like Other Girls’ but only one chapter like ‘The Mission’?

The latter is truly the highlight of the game, for myself, arguably because you feel like you are actually contributing to the story. Aiden is put to good use and there’s an interesting turn of events, making this a pivotal chapter in the game. I’m also a big fan of having the option to sneak (or go in guns blazing, all-singing and dancing- a personal preference) so it felt nice to be given a little more free will, here. There were still some off-putting moments, however- like how Jodie suddenly develops a conscience, but not before taking a small child into the centre of a war zone- then telling him he needs to get somewhere safe.

I was also pretty perplexed by the position ‘The Embassy’ held in the story, since I felt that a chapter which showed Jodie’s place and importance in the CIA deserved to be a bit more central to the story- not shown at the beginning like some sort of teaser. Although, this could be the director’s reaction to criticisms of his earlier work in Heavy Rain, which took a while to get going, so it seems that story progression is still something that needs a little work from one of the most popular game creators in the world.

It’s true that these would all be unfair criticisms- if Beyond: Two Souls wasn’t being sold for upwards of £40. Even AAA blockbusters on blu-ray don’t go for that much, so you really have to bring something special to the table when creating something for that selling price. I also feel that the game would have done so much better if the designer hadn’t been trying so hard to match common cinema-seller techniques. The cinematics are beautiful, the graphics pretty decent (though that’s to be expected in the current generation of gaming) and the story wonderfully unique, if a little odd at times. The main problem here,I think, is that somewhere along the way, David Cage forgot his audience- and, that, dear readers, is how you lose two stars in a review from a keen gamer.




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