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Review | Beyond: Two Souls

by on October 17, 2013
 

Beyond-Two-Souls

Jodie will get scuffed up on occasion. Well, on very frequent occasions.

“There’s nothing you can do.” a man tells our heroine, Jodie Homes – about halfway through this interactive drama; and that’s partly true. Most of the legwork and sometimes brutal acts are carried out by something connected deeply to our character. Aiden (pronounced Eye-din) is an entity that has been “linked” to Jodie since birth. Quickly associated with being a “monster”, or the spirit of someone who has passed away by brilliant supporting actor and paranormal activity investigator, Nathan (Willem Dafoe), Aiden becomes somewhat of an anomaly.

Until his existence and secrets are revealed during the course of this 12 hour journey, he becomes a symbol of the afterlife: making the player truly wonder what awaits us after death. Sometimes we hate Aiden, sometimes we love him and thank him for his actions — while sometimes we cant help but simply fear him; his ominous powers becoming the focal point of some of the many set-pieces throughout this memorable adventure. Such conflicting emotions towards a non-corporeal being simply by the actions it takes and without uttering a single word is truly a testament to the skill of writer/director David Cage (Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain).

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Trying to make a living on any tips she can.

Having been thoroughly versed in Quantic Dream’s previous game, Heavy Rain – Beyond: Two Souls can’t help but feel like a field day for the team – a way to disregard all the normalcy of Heavy Rain and do things on a bigger and grander scale. Fight scenes are more intense in Beyond: Two Souls and the storyline is bigger in scope, spanning across the entire world — and over fifteen years of Jodie’s life. Told out of chronological order (so the player is not swamped with child sections for the first 3-4 hours of play), the story pieces together like a puzzle right until the very end. Should you want to, you could replay the game a second time in chronological order, but the way the game presents itself is much more intriguing.

Never knowing where the game will jump to next, and questioning why things are happening when they are until you play a section that took place earlier in Jodie’s life to explain it – is quite a rare experience, and even confusing to ponder. It’s not so much flashbacks and flashforwards, it’s a wildly hopping adventure that makes sure you only know as much as you need to in order to understand what’s going on and continue the story with comprehension. It’s not on the caliber of films such as Memento or Pulp Fiction , but it does what it does very well and the experience is all the better for it. It should not be experienced as a point A to point B story, simply put.

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Willem Dafoe gives a stunning performance that shows genuine care for Jodie. Can games win Oscars?

The gameplay has also been streamlined in comparison to Heavy Rain. You aren’t making dialogue choices every few seconds – instead, choices are presented during key moments in Jodie’s life. While homeless, will you use Aiden’s power to hack an ATM machine so you can eat for the night? Or will you earn it the old fashioned way, by begging at the corner while sitting on a cardboard box and risk going hungry? The choices, when they do present themselves can be hard – and only need the press of a button or the flick of an analog stick to activate.

Gone are the troublesome QTE’s that had you playing twister with your hands – instead, when Jodie makes an action during a fight scene, we only need to move the right analog stick in the direction her body is moving. This can be hard to gauge at first, but when you get the hang of it, fight scenes flow flawlessly and you actually feel like a part of the brawl, moving in tandem with Jodie’s body. The same is done out of combat and even in mundane situations. Objects that you can interact with are painted with a white dot when you walk near them, and all you need to do is move the right analog stick in the direction of the dot to have Jodie seamlessly interact with that object. The animations are very fluid and always believable, having been entirely mocapped.

 Only one technical issue was experienced in the entirety of my multiple play-throughs. There was a point where the camera would not move, and I was unable to continue the story. I had to exit the game and restart – losing some progress. Other than that, my experience was perfect. A riveting musical score with the involvement of Hans Zimmer and some of the most impressive sound design in gaming history truly immerse you in this world that Quantic Dream has created. But not just this world, also of the world Beyond ours. You will become invested in Jodie Homes and care for her. My heart was broken when I had to see some of the things she endured, and all because of Aiden. All because of something she has no say in. I can only help but marvel when I start to think of what Quantic Dream has up their sleeve for the PlayStation 4.

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One of the most pivotal moments on Jodie’s life; and one with the most ramifications for herself.

With a memorable and poignant story, a deep and stunning character study and brilliant performances from every actor – Beyond: Two Souls blurs the lines between films and video games. With it’s easy and concise controls (you can even use a tablet device to control by downloading an app), and an interesting co-op component (one player controlling Aiden), Beyond: Two Souls should not be missed by anyone with an appreciation for beautiful stories; regardless of the medium. Save for a drawn out section that takes place in the desert about halfway through this game, the flow of the story couldn’t be better. The multiple endings and branching choices make the replay value substantial.

Final Score: 4.5 out of 5

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