Beyond: Two Souls
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Quantic Dream
Genre: Interactive Drama
Release Dates: 8 October 2013 (NA) / 11 October 2013 (EU)
Price: 13.32£ (Amazon)
Beyond: Two Souls, like Heavy Rain before it is all about the story, developer Quantic Dream managing to create a beautiful and believable world in which that story takes place, making the entire experience a visual treat due to the high level of detail put into each and every corner of the game. The story takes place over a long period of time, telling the story of Jodie, a girl born with psychic powers, being able to connect with Aiden, a spirit attached to Jodie that can hear, see and change things around her and the physical world, even thought he is stuck in the Infraworld, the place where all spirits of those dead end up; not only is the Infraworld populated with the spirits of the dead, but also monsters that can harm those in the material world, including Jodie once they have the right passage.
Jodie's story is presented almost entirely marking the important events in her life, beginning with her birth and following her through her youth, her teenage years and up to her adulthood, making you a witness to every important moment in Jodie's life and automatically emotionally attaching you to her story and the problems she has to deal with. The game's story is told in nonlinear narrative, with chapters being presented out of order which may be a little bit confusing at first, but Quantic Dream thought about that too, adding a narrative line to the loading screen, pinpointing each chapter on that line, allowing you to sort out the events in your head as you wait for the next chapter to load. Writer and director David Cage's vision transcended into the game perfectly, making Jodie's life a personal experience that each player will feel attached to thanks to brilliant acting by protagonists Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, who bring their respective characters to life on your screen and manage to deliver a high quality story that will leave you thinking for days.
Beyond: Two Souls is a psychological thriller, a better one than most movies out there, bringing well known notions such as the ability to talk to the dead or moving objects around you with the power of your mind alone and explaining them in a logical and believable way, Jodie's abilities being tied to the presence of Aiden who will protect and help her throughout her adventures. At first, Aiden is an annoying presence, that ruined most of Jodie's childhood by doing bad things at the bad time, but as she grows older, she learns to control Aiden, being able to tell him when to do something and why.
The gameplay in Beyond: Two Souls doesn't want to be a distraction from the story focused experience and to accomplish that developer Quantic Dream came up with an intuitive system that is based on the natural movement of Jodie inside the game, using the left and right sticks to move, dodge attacks or interact with different objects; pointing the right stick upwards will grab an object that you can interact with, while pointing it down will put it back into its place.
The flow of action feels so natural that you will almost forget you have a controller in your hand; following your character's movements on the screen will guide your hands on the controller, whether it's about some button mashing quick time events or the dodge and fighting mechanic that will have Jodie moving in the right direction in slow motion, requiring you to complete that action by pointing the right stick in that direction. Even with all the quick time events, Beyond: Two Souls doesn't take the freedom of exploration away from you entirely as almost each chapter will have large open areas in which you take full control of your character and decide which strategy you're gonna go with; sometimes switching to Aiden will be the fastest and most efficient way to reach your objective, while other times you will have to combine Jodie's movements with Aiden's powers in order to succeed.
Controlling Aiden feels just as natural, using the left and right stick to control him, ascending or descending easily as if you could really fly. Sure, there are moments when you'd wish the game would require more of you, as sometimes entire minutes will pass without you having to press a single button, but that doesn't ruin the intuitive and easy to use mechanics that are already present during the moments when you have to use the controller. Conversation options are handled in the same manner, having up to four options to choose from using the action buttons and even if not all conversations lead up to a decision that will impact the outcome, at first you won't know that so intuitively you will have to pay attention to each word in a dialogue and choose the option that best fits your interests.
Without filling up your screen with useless objective markers, health bars and such things, the game manages to be simple and feel natural; you will always know where you're headed even in large open areas while you're ridding a horse through the desert and you will always know how to escape a quick time event, something that few games managed to do this well.
Using motion capture technology Quantic Dream has managed to transpose real life animations and natural interactions between the actors into the game, adding a sense of realism that tops almost any video game released to date and making Beyond: Two Souls' story more soulful, as you can clearly see the sadness and trauma on a character's face when something bad or unexpected happens, and actors Ellen Page (Jodie), Willem Dafoe (Nathan) and Kadeem Hardison (Cole) make the game's vision as an emotional journey a reality.
Beyond: Two Souls is designed to be a striking experience that will remain with you for a long time, adding little elements such as band posters on the walls during Jodie's teenager years, detailing further what Jodie is going through like any other girls her age. The visual effects are just as impressive and the view from Aiden's perspective is spot on, making you feel like you were truly a ghost, able to move through physical objects and fly without restriction.
Not only have the actors been transposed into the game using motion capture, but their voices have moved over as well, Ellen Page voicing her character Jodie and Willem Dafoe voicing Nathan Dawkins; of course those are only the main protagonists, but throughout the game you will encounter many more characters that will contribute to the overall story and make their voices heard as you see them in different situations, ranging from sadness to anger or happiness, and no matter the situation or the character, the lines are always delivered perfectly, truly making you believe the story the game wants to tell and making you a part of it by often allowing you to choose how you want to respond to a question by giving you different speech options from which you may chose the one that best suits your intentions. The soundtrack is absolutely amazing, always playing that perfect tune at the right time during the story, adding drama or joy to your encounters, depending on the situation.
Beyond: Two Souls' campaign is around 11 hours long, but believe it or not, there are 11 different endings to Jodie's story, so there's a lot to look forward to if you're looking to replay the game afterwards. Apart from the endings, choices you make throughout the game will trigger different reactions and even thought those will not change the long-term outcome, there will always be something new to see as even after your third playthrough, there will still be cutscenes you haven't seen before due to the high amount of decisions and conversation options you can choose from.
Aside from that, you also have collectible orbs found only when you're playing with Aiden that will unlock extras such as behind the scenes videos or design packs that showcase how Beyond: Two Souls came to life. Even though there is no multiplayer, you can choose to play the campaign cooperatively, giving the second player full control of Aiden, allowing you to focus on Jodie's movements while the second player does hit bit.
Beyond: Two Souls is no less than a masterpiece, taking you on a journey unlike anything you have experienced before, while delivering an intuitive game experience that's relaxing and constantly refreshing. With ground-breaking visual and audio achievements, Beyond: Two Souls manages to deliver David Cage's vision in a beautiful and memorable way; this story will undoubtedly remain with you for a long time and even inspire you to ask some questions about the Infraworld yourself.
This psychological thriller is a must try for anyone as it creates an unique and worthy experience; this game isn't about scoring points or killing as many people as you can, it's about changes, psychology and repercussions, so do not be disappointed when the game does not deliver on a relentless killing level and before you take control of Beyond: Two Souls, make sure you have the one soul needed inside you to begin with.