Beyond: Two Souls review (PS3)

GoldenRimz | 322d ago | User review
Reviewing: Beyond: Two Souls
Wow, David Cage really doesn't like game mechanics.
On October 8th, David Cage and Quantic Dream released Beyond: Two Souls in America. As someone who’d seen multiple videos on their last critically acclaimed project Heavy Rain, I strapped myself in for the action-packed, nonlinear rollercoaster that I’d been sold at E3. Some of the major selling points for me were the fast-paced hand-to-hand combat, Ellen Page’s voice acting and what appeared to be fantastic presentation. In short, I didn’t buy this game and expect to play it like a typical video game with fidgety movements, exploits, aimless wandering and screwing around for stupid laughs. I expected a guided narrative and a piece of art that was made to be played a certain way, and to an extent I could respect that – given that it was still a thrilling experience done right.

But in a lot of aspects it wasn't. The enigmatic start of the game did well in setting the pace for the rest of the story. You play the main character Jodie Holmes (Ellen Page) as a child, and she’s being experimented with in what appears to be a small laboratory. These scientists realize that she’s connected to an invisible, floating entity named Aiden that can traverse through solid objects and do multiple things. Given that she can see through his perspective, they start off with a simple experiment of having her choose cards in another room that's behind a solid wall, then having her move things inside of it with Aiden. I like the fact that you have the option of listening to them when they say the experiment is over or having Aiden basically go crazy. You get a different reaction either way.

As Aiden can be a mischievous entity, you’re allowed to wander around and pry, which may allow for some shits and giggles, but ultimately always comes with something new that can be achieved in the story. Aiden can be used for eavesdropping, moving things, healing people – he enables the player to do all sorts of crazy things. However, after you pass the first level, that’s when Beyond starts to go downhill. Their first mistake was creating this jumbled narrative; the idea was too experimental and, to be honest, it befuddled the story for me because the timeline was convoluted. They try to drop hints of where you are in Jodie’s life through dialogue and changing her appearance, but for me the story left a lot of loose ends and inexplicable changes of heart. (WARNING: Spoilers in the next paragraph. Skip if you don’t want to see loopholes in the story.)

The times we’re introduced to Ryan, a CIA agent, he’s portrayed as being this tough, insensitive, no-nonsense douchebag who only looks out for himself and the mission. There are distinctly three instances of him having hostile confrontations with Jodie or outright lying to her, yet for some reason she develops a crush on him. We’re never given any instance of his desirable qualities yet somehow we’re expected to go along with his role as a love interest in the story. The same with the taller Native American guy at the Navajo ranch. When Jodie first visits, he's rude, distrustful and acts reserved around her, yet when it’s time to leave you’re given the option to only embrace the shorter, less attractive brother who initially gave you a chance to fit in and make out with the taller one who only opened up to Jodie once. Wtf?

The gameplay of Beyond: Two Souls proves what David Cage has said all along: He really doesn’t like game mechanics. For one, the movements of the characters in the game are extremely rigid, stiff and artificial. There have been times where I’ve had trouble fitting Jodie through doorways, and with nearby objects that can be picked up with the flicks of the R3 stick, moving the camera is hardly ever a viable option. The hand-to-hand combat is tarnished by this weird “direction-fu” bulls***, which basically requires you to flick the stick in the direction that Jodie moves her body. The problem is that there are multiple interpretations to the movements of Jodie’s body; sometimes her foot will go up and you’ll be expected to move the stick to the right, sometimes Jodie will throw her hands down and flicking the stick down won't be the right option. It’s a majorly flawed method of gameplay and, like the rest of the game, it relies on your ability to generate assumptions and “shots in the dark” beyond anything else.

If I had to describe Beyond, I’d do so by comparing its voice actors. At times, the game was simply exquisite. Ellen Page, William Dafoe and Kareem Hardison brought this game to life through passion and realistic expression. There were ‘tearjerker’ moments that this game executed with an unquestionable excellence, but they were blighted but a prevailing feeling of things being artificial and manufactured. The voice actors of the kids at the party (more specifically the blonde-haired guy) and the black high school teacher who suddenly became uneducated and illiterate upon becoming homeless were sloppily done. Things like this perpetuated the artificial feeling of the game. If nothing else, this game’s entrancing soundtrack, beautiful graphics and wonderful eye for the abstract (the artwork of the entities, “black sun,” etc.) saved it from being an abysmal mess. Whoever designed the gameplay and the story has mostly earned my ire, and that’s why (for what it was supposed to be) this game is a hit and miss for me.

7/10.
Ups
Emotionally powerful.
Choice-based and nonlinear.
Ellen Page's awesome voice acting.
Downs
Choices don't have a huge affect on the endings.
Confusing story structure.
"Direction-fu" fight mechanic feels broken.
Score
8.7
Graphics The graphics are insanely detailed at some points. What else do you expect for a game that's virtually a movie?
9.0
Sound This soundtrack was amazing and complemented every emotion that the story tried to convey. Kudos to Normand Corbeil and the Assassin's Creed composer who helped out.
4.0
Gameplay I'm sorry, but just no. The fighting mechanic was lousy, movements felt stiff, Aiden's movements including his R1 and R2 (float/descend) felt off -- just no.
7.0
Fun factor I didn't feel that your choices made a large enough impact on the ending, nor did I feel much backlash for my choices at all. Some scenes are introduced, others are skipped. With such a linear direction in non-linear endings, the fun factor and replay value are reduced. A lot.
0.0
Online There was no online worth judging in my opinion.
7.0
Overall (out of 10 / not an average)
Valenka  +   321d ago
Well written review. My only counter-argument would be your comment on the confusing story structure; it was confusing just because the narrative didn't proceed chronologically? I can name several movies that had similar progression. It worked in Beyond's fashion as we're given experiences in different parts of Jodie's life before everything comes together harmoniously.

Regarding the choices not directly affecting the ending; none of the choices you'd make in the game have any relevance on how the game ends, that's why. With most of the choices you make within the narrative, there's so much that happens later that the choices end up not having long term effects. That's natural and understandable. The choices you make toward the conclusion, however, obviously affect the ending, as those choices are more severe.

Like I said though, you've given a well written review; those were just two points that I didn't agree with. :)
#1 (Edited 321d ago ) | Agree(3) | Disagree(3) | Report | Reply
GoldenRimz  +   320d ago
True, I'll give you the fact that movies have done what Beyond attempted before. The problem was that a lot of necessary details were left out. With all of the random skipping between periods of Jodie's life, we never really understand why she develops crushes on people like Ryan, not to mention we directly transition from him practically cursing her out to them being on a date. You're pretty much spoon-fed her love interests.

Also, with the choices thing, that really bothered me because I feel like the selling point of a nonlinear game is to end it a certain way based on the decisions you've made and the path you've chosen. Take Way of the Samurai 2, an old PS2 game that some people liked and didn't like. One of the things I loved about that game was the fact that they crafted 7 or 8 different story paths and let your decisions constantly set you on one of them. Everything you did, from beginning to end, affected the way the game ended.

I don't mean to come down harshly on Beyond because at times it was a powerful game emotionally, but I just hold nonlinear games to a really high standard because they have so much potential for replay value like WotS 2 did for me. No, I don't expect every game to follow that structure, but making a game linear and selling it as a nonlinear game seems a bit disingenuous I suppose.
#1.1 (Edited 320d ago ) | Agree(2) | Disagree(0) | Report | Reply
Valenka  +   319d ago
WARNING: SPOILERS for anyone who hasn't played the game. Please ignore or read at your own discretion.

That's actually a good point there, regarding Jodie's love interests. I never thought about how she and Ryan ended up getting so close, especially after he basically forced her into the CIA. With Jay on the ranch for instance, I sensed a lot of intimate tension, but nothing was ever developed until the end of the chapter when you have the choice to let Jodie kiss him.

I can certainly understand your disappointment with the choices within the narrative not directly affecting the ending; it kind of feels like the choices were made for nothing, as they only end up affecting a later chapter, but not the narrative as a whole. It could be worse though; what if the choices didn't affect anything? :P

You didn't come down harshly whatsoever, that's what a review is for, my friend. I'm glad you at least enjoyed the game! I just wanted to share my differing opinion on the factors you highlighted. :)
from the beach  +   319d ago
The timeline was as such simply because if you had all the child stuff at the start it would have been too dull and uneventful to expect anyone to keep playing.
ILive  +   319d ago
If you play the game with a phone or tablet, it helps with the fighting.
Valenka  +   319d ago
I found that playing with a smartphone or tablet was just as much the same as the controller. It all depends on the responsiveness of one's phone or tablet though; high end devices like the iPhone, Galaxy, Acer or iPad will be easy to play with. But with devices without as decent responsiveness on the screen, players might have a bit more difficulty.
wishingW3L  +   317d ago
nice review man. Nice to see well spoken people on this site. I wish my English were better to be able to write reviews this good.

Although I agree with everything you say I'm more forgiving toward these kind of games because I know and understand what they are trying to do. So I enjoyed this game greatly.
blueindian  +   315d ago
I really loved this game and like what they are doing maybe this type of game is for older players who are tired of running in circles and jumping in cod. But I believe this game would have gotten better scores if it had longer action sequences . I still gotta give these cats props for making these type of games the next gen is perfect for this type of game
darkbluecrayon  +   310d ago
Great review. I really loved this game but to be fair, I went into it mentally prepared to ignore potential David Cage plot holes and cliches when it came to the script, having played Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy. And to be very very honest, I kinda put a lot of faith in Ellen Page. If she took to the script then maybe David Cage wrote a better story this time round, right? Ah well.
Still, it was a very emotional experience and it's the first game since the Uncharted series that I experienced that blockbuster feel.
Anyway, anyone feel the Jodie Holmes character similar to April Ryan towards the end? It really took me back, especially that very last cutscene.
#5 (Edited 310d ago ) | Agree(0) | Disagree(0) | Report | Reply

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Beyond: Two Souls

Average Score 7.7 Reviews(307)
Release Dates
PS3 Release Dates
AU 11 October 2013
EU 11 October 2013
US 08 October 2013
PS4 Release Dates
Xbox 360 Release Dates