Saturday, 12 October 2013

Beyond: Two Souls - Final Round Review

When approaching a game like Beyond you have to understand what kind of game it is; it’s not an action game, it’s not a stealth game and it’s certainly not boring either.  Beyond exists in a world of its own, something only comparable to other games developed by Quantic Dream.  Nothing comes close to the scope this game offers, the many places, time periods, and people all serve a purpose; to help us understand exactly who Jodie Holmes is.

Quantic Dream spent a vast amount of time working closely with the games lead actors/voice actors Ellen Page and Willem Defoe to capture their performance precisely; from the way Jodie walks during a hot summer’s day, to Nathans anguished facial expressions.  Everyone in the game looks incredibly realistic and conveys a level of realism that is not bound simply by graphics, something that’s only able to be expressed through the brilliant writing and the talented cast of actors.  Ellen Page’s performance really brings together the entire picture, you really feel for Jodie and understand her as a person and as pieces of the puzzle slowly come together you begin to understand who she is; precisely what she is struggling to do.

While it is visually astounding, Beyond can suffer from some sporadic texture pop-ins and pixelated shading; these only occurs on objects at a distance, but are noticeable.

The game plays similar to Heavy Rain but is much sleeker and simple to use, there are less button prompts – which seems daunting at first but becomes second nature after a short amount of use –  and some remnants of the old tank controls do surface but it is a rare occasion.  The simple visual prompts and lack of HUD adds to the games cinematic feel and really engrosses you into the story. Combat and action scenes rely on Jodie’s body motion to indicate what to do, and thanks to the handy slowdown feature the action sequences flow smoothly like a film.  There is more freedom than in previous Quantic Dream games, curiosity and spending time investigating things are rewarded with bonuses and unlocks.

Interacting with environments is done in one of two ways: using Jodie as a normal person, or using Aiden as a floating entity to interact in a more poltergeist manner.  With these two characters and their varying abilities, gameplay has considerable variation; stealth and open combat are possibilities that only scratch the surface of their interactions with the world.

Jodie does not directly control Aiden which can lead to some funny or terrifying outbursts from him, especially when he doesn’t like a situation.  The relationship between the two is a difficult one; their souls are tethered together, unable to leave each other’s side is both a blessing and a curse equally.

Beyond takes place over roughly fifteen years of Jodie’s life, beginning with her as a very young girl and following her to adulthood.  During this time you follow her extraordinary life and help her make choices along the way that alter her views and decisions later.  The experiences Jodie has (whether for the better or worse I won’t say) evolve you as a player, the decision maker, which in turn develops Jodie as a character.  Quantic Dream knows how to get your adrenalin pumping and your palms sweating, weaving it into an incredible and unforgettable adventure where action and suspense go hand in hand with the story.

Beyond is not for everyone, but is the most accessible title Quantic Dream has created to date.  Those that take the time to play it will find a masterfully enthralling story with a likewise complete world to go with it.  To have a character who not only has a face and name, but a history and a personality is a refreshing experience from the usually emotionless killing machine.  Jodie Holmes history is complicated, that is why she is a marvel to follow, and her story is expressed through your gameplay choices and decisions.  It’s not about killing everything that moves, or fighting for some greater good; it’s about Jodie Holmes, to understand who she is and where her place in the world is. Beyond: Two Souls is her story.

Final Round Rating - 9.5/10

- Will Flynn

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