Beyond: Two Souls - PS3 Review
There is no doubt that French developer Quantic Dream's Beyond: Two Souls will polarize opinion - possibly even more so then with Quantic Dreams previous game Heavy Rain. Perhaps the hardest thing about this game is defining it - technically it's a game, however the lack of true "gameplay" may alienate some while many would probably put it into the "Interactive Movie" genre - a title which probably suits this release better than anything else.
|Ellen Page is superb as Jodie Holmes.|
In Beyond: Two Souls you live the life of Jodie Holmes, a young woman who possesses supernatural powers through her psychic link to an invisible entity named Aiden. Throughout the course of the game you will experience critical moments in Jodie's life with your actions, and sometimes those caused by Aiden, determining her fate and destiny.
One thing is certain, David Cage is a master storyteller. While this isn't the longest game you'll play with a runtime of 8- 10 hours it's a game which we'll return to several times over to see how decisions made affect Jodie's life. If you've played either Fahrenheit on PS2 or Heavy Rain on PS3 then you'll have a pretty good idea what to expect playing this game in terms of story structure, and gameplay. Admittedly though, we were a little concerned at an earlier trailer which saw Jodie as a soldier in a war-torn environment - did David Cage turn this into a "COD Lite" experience? Well thankfully the answer is no, and this mission is one of the most thought provoking in this game, or indeed any game, in recent times.
| S.W.A.T. team member under Aidens' control.|
This is indeed a third person action adventure game where the main character moves through a series of events and interacts with the world predominantly through QTE's (Quick Time Events). Where this game is different is the ability to switch to a second character - Aiden, the entity that is connected to Jodie Holmes. With a single button press you take control of Aiden, and can then alter the real world; knock things over, open doors from the other side, or even take control of enemies such as police who can then turn the gun on their colleagues. By adding Aiden to the mix the developers have added in a gameplay element that gives a second perspective to the events in Jodie's life.
One of the more interesting aspects of Beyond: Two Souls is that it plays in a non-linear fashion with each segment of gameplay jumping to different points in Jodie's life from a toddler to a woman in her 20s and then back to her childhood. This technique keeps you wanting to know how Jodie got to her predicament, or wondering where it will go, but in all honesty there's a little too much jumping around in her life and it make it hard to know where certain events are placed. One thing I would have loved to see, even after completing the game the first time, is the ability to play through all the chapters sequentially.
|Beyond: Two Souls - a game or interactive film?|
Where this game falls somewhat is the lack of clarity to your choices and the subsequent results that may occur by your choice. At other times you will need to select all options before proceeding in the game - you may as well just put a cut-scene there with the entire dialogue. Needless to say, if you're after some deep gameplay you're not going to find it here. It also would have been nice for the developers to add some more "real gameplay" to sit alongside the QTE's. We also felt that the game was too easy, to linear and too scripted in places but in many regards that does make it quite enjoyable playing this game.
Somewhat surprisingly this game also supports 2-players in a duo mode which allows you to control the two main characters on a single console. Impressively Sony have even created a Smartphone App which allows you to control the second character via your phone as long as it's connected to the same network as the PS3 console.
After playing through this game a couple of times now it would be somewhat remiss not to mention the R18+ rating slapped on the game here in Australia with the advisory of "Threats of sexual violence and interactive drug use". Now we know the classification system is in place for good reason, but how, or why this game gets given such a high rating is beyond my comprehension. Sure there are mature themes, but there is nothing here that constitutes anything more than a MA15+ rating in our books, and a soft one at that. If this were a movie - and as we've discussed this is pretty close to an interactive movie - it would barely scrape an M rating. It seems that the Classification Board, with the new R18+ rating, isn't keeping it for the worst games, but has moved many up from what would have previously been permitted into a higher category. We're seeing inconsistencies, and we don't like it.
|Jodie Holmes is one tough young lady.|
As you play through Beyond bonus content is unlocked by finding Blue Lights with Aiden through the levels. This Additional Content is pretty impressive and includes Artwork Design Packs showing design of levels and characters from the game, as well as video clips showing off performance capture and the games creation, a video of Quantic Dream's "Kara" demo from some years ago and a trailer for the game. Perhaps the most exciting Additional content though is for Quantic Dream's rather amusing, and jaw-dropping, PS4 clip called "The Dark Sorcerer". Running in real-time on a PS4, and with near photo- realistic quality it's certainly one of the best PS4 tech demos to date and possibly gives an indication to David Cage's next (read: PS4) project.
When it comes to visuals Beyond: Two Souls nails it in almost every aspect thanks to an entirely new engine developed in-house at Quantic Dream. The main actors have been motion captured which allows the developers to get every nuance from their performances from body movement to facial animations and it's probably among the best we've seen on the PS3 in its long lifetime. Locations are varied from war-torn cities, to building interiors, forests to urban environments - it's all here and the game also has a wide range of weather and time of day to keep thing changing. Interestingly, and perhaps even making a nod that this is an "interactive movie", the developers present the game with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
|Beyond: Two Souls is a PS3 exclusive game.|
Still it's not quite perfect as we did notice the occasional issue - at one point I went to get on a horse from one side, but the game switched to a cut-scene showing Jodie getting onto the horse from the other side. There was also very occasional clipping or texturing issues too, but they are so minor they are hardly worth mentioning. Still, I did.
Naturally, just like the visuals, with several first grade actors providing their voices as well as the motion capturing and likenesses, the audio experience here certainly is not let down by the performances here which covers thousands of pages of dialogue. Of course Ellen Page and Willem DaFoe star in the game and given the massive number of lines of dialogue it always managed to suit the tone of the character perfectly at almost every moment. Secondary characters too may not have the "star" power but generally put in solid performances which keeps up the quality of the overall product. Orchestral music too is as cinematic as one would expect and has been superbly crafted to suit the game. It's just magic.
|Characters are stunningly detailed.|
There is one question about Beyond: Two Souls that everyone will ask; Is this a video game, or an interactive movie? It's a tough question to answer as despite multiple endings the path to these different outcomes is quite linear and the gameplay too is, well, not very taxing beyond the odd QuickTime Event. So do we recommend Beyond: Two Souls? Absolutely. Any media that has us sit down and go from start to finish in two sittings deserves attention (and it would have been one sitting were it not for starting the game late one night after a long day of work). If you loved Quantic Dream's previous titles then you will enjoy this, if you didn't then you probably won't.
Review By: Dave Warner
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|GRAPHICS||Stunning visuals, superb motion capture, gorgeous from start to finish.||93%|
|SOUND||As with the visuals, this is a wonderful audio experience, superb dialogue.||90%|
|GAMEPLAY||This is more of an interactive movie then game, but it's very enjoyable. Still, I expected more "advancement" from Heavy Rain...||83%|
|VALUE||The main story took about 8 hours to get through, but replayable to see what effect other actions take on the story.||80%|
|OVERALL||We guarantee that this will divide opinion, but personally I loved almost every minute of Beyond: Two Souls. The story is fantastic, the characters well fleshed out, technically the title is superb, but not sure if it's a game or movie. Definately an experience though...||83%|