Would we recommend you go out and buy Beyond: Two Souls? Well, there is a catch to that. If you like well paced action games, like to feel the adrenalin rush while jabbing at your controller, then this isnâ€™t the game for you. This is a game for those that would like to sit back, have really simple onscreen controls and watch a story unfold in front of them. The only problem is that this story takes 10 hours to run through and there isnâ€™t enough entertainment in the gameplay to keep you hooked. The story takes some time to build up but most gamers will have put down their controller long before this happens. If you donâ€™t mind quicktime controls throughout the game and are ready to sit through a 10-hour long story that would be better narrated in a two-hour film, then go ahead and enjoy the game. If not, we suggest, you invest your money elsewhere.
With the advancement in technology gaming has become more cinematic in nature. You have characters in game show emotions and the graphical capabilities of gaming hardware makes these animations look believable. We have seen a lot of games bring characters to life with emotions that also give you a sense of being in control by giving you choices during the course of gameplay. Games such as Heavy Rain, Mass Effect and more give you the feeling of being in control of the story’s progression and that your choices matter in how the story plays out.
Beyond: Two Souls is the latest addition to the cinematic action game genre with a difference. Put simply the creators of Heavy Rain (Quantic Dream) have put together yet another cinematic masterpiece but in this case, the gameplay falls short. The story is gripping enough to keep you going towards the next chapter but the gameplay feels like a series of quick time events with sluggish combat.
Starting with the story of the game, you don the role of Jodie and play through a series of incidents in her life in a nonlinear chronology. You start off with her childhood, move to her as a young adult, back to her as a teenager, play as a child, so on and so forth. Jodie is a child with a gift. She has a strange psychic connection with a mysterious entity named Aiden. She is taken to the Department of Paranormal Activity where a man named Nathan Dawkins teaches her how to control the entity. She goes on to join the CIA, aid homeless people and even run away to try to live a “normal” life. The nonlinear storyline of the game keeps you confused in the beginning but as the story progresses; pieces of the puzzle start falling into place.
The story gives you multiple reactions and outcomes to the situations you are in. You can choose to be honest in a conversation, avoid it, or be rude, etc. The choices you make throughout the game affect the final outcome. There are multiple endings to the game and if you are interested in seeing how different situations play out depending on the choices you have made, then the game is worth a second play through and maybe even a third, but that depends if you are comfortable with the gameplay and controls.
Without spoiling anything, I would like to say that the story does start out slow and at times seems like a “B-flick” from Hollywood, but when the pieces of the puzzle start falling into place, you feel compelled to move ahead to see what twist lies at the end of the next cut scene.
If the story of Beyond: Two Souls is its strong point, then the gameplay is its weakest and that’s not a good thing. If you have played Heavy Rain (Quantic Dreams’ last venture on the PS3), then you will feel right at home with the gameplay. If not, then it may take some getting used to.
To start with you control Jodie with the left analog stick and this feels a bit sluggish. Jodie takes forever to navigate the environment, and it is only when the action begins that she starts to run and we wish we had the option to make her run during other gameplay scenarios. The right stick is used for contextual actions and combat. A prominent white dot appears on screen where an action can be performed, say to investigate a dead corpse, pull a lever here, and open a door there, so on and so forth. The thing is that it takes quite a bit of getting used to, to get the contextual controls right, so initially there is a feeling of frustration while playing the game.
The same can be said for combat. Here, Jodie performs the combat herself. When the players inputs are required, times slows down for a second and you need to push the right analogue stick in the correct direction to perform the relevant action. If you miss, then Jodie gets hit.
The rest of the actions such as breaking a window and climbing out or opening a door that’s closed or climbing through a broken fence, etc. are all quick time events. You get a button prompt on screen and you need to press it in sequence or keep taping that one button to perform the action. The game also makes use of the PlayStation 3’s Six Axis controller, which means that you will be throwing your arms up and down in the air to perform onscreen actions.
We have seen a lot of games such as God of War, Uncharted and many more employ quick time events, but that is just to give the player a sense of control during a cinematic events and it does feel fun. But in the case of Beyond: Two Souls, the complete gameplay is a series of quick time events with a series of analogue stick nudges to perform combat. This doesn’t have the ability to keep the player hooked for a really long time.
Jodie isn’t the only playable character in the game. You also have control over Aiden, the entity that’s ever present with Jodie. Controlling Aiden can take a bit of getting used to. You use the left stick to navigate and the right to steer, typical FPS controls. Since Aiden floats in mid-air, you have the ability to use R1 to move him up and the R2 button to bring him down. This is handy, especially during vertical gameplay.
Aiden also has a set of abilities that he can be performed with the two analogue sticks. You can pull both the sticks back to and release them to hit objects, open doors and more. You also have the ability to take out opponents by pushing the sticks inwards together and you have the ability to possess the enemies as well. These actions however are contextually sensitive and you can’t possess a guard at random or kill one depending on your whims and fancies.
Switching between Aiden and Jodie can be done seamlessly by the push of a button at anytime during the game. There are however story sensitive moments where you can’t take control of Aiden and some situations where you play as Aiden only for a bit. As Aiden, you can’t wander off into the distance as far as you’d like. There is a link between Jodie and Aiden and the distance you can travel is limited. If you ever get lost and can't find your way back to Jodie, there is a purple link, which connects Aiden to Jodie. You can follow this at anytime.
Overall, the gameplay mechanics are good at times, but they are too slow for a regular gaming session. Controlling Jodie feels clunky and you can fumble during combat by simply tapping the analogue stick in the wrong direction. Controlling Aiden can take a bit of getting used to and apart from the “possessing the enemy” sessions, there is little to keep you entertained here for long.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics of the game is where Beyond: Two souls really shines. You have Ellen Page play the role of Jodie and Dr. Nathan Dawkins played by Willem Dafoe. The voice acting and motion capture of the game is spectacular and during the cut scenes where relevant story elements are revealed, you can't help but put down the controller and watch the activity play through as you would in a movie. The star cast has really put on a show no less than what you have seen them do in their best movie performances.
The game is one of the best looking ones there is on the 8-year-old PS3, standing tall with the likes of God of War, Uncharted 3, The Last of Us and more. From the snow covered city, to a burning house and lab, to the suburban household streets, the game is great to look at.
The effort in the motion capture, be it navigating the environment, combat or sheer genera conversation between the characters, the game looks good.
Would we recommend you go out and buy Beyond: Two Souls? Well, there is a catch to that. If you like well paced action games, like to feel the adrenalin rush while jabbing at your controller, then this isn’t the game for you. This is a game for those that would like to sit back, have really simple onscreen controls and watch a story unfold in front of them. The only problem is that this story takes 10 hours to run through and there isn’t enough entertainment in the gameplay to keep you hooked. The story takes some time to build up but most gamers will have put down their controller long before this happens.
If you don’t mind quicktime controls throughout the game and are ready to sit through a 10-hour long story that would be better narrated in a two-hour film, then go ahead and enjoy the game. If not, we suggest, you invest your money elsewhere.
Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
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