Following the hugely successful launch of Quantic Dream’s critical darling Heavy Rain, Beyond Two Souls, an interactive drama action-adventure PlayStation 3 exclusive, is the French developer’s latest effort in capturing the love of gamers once again. It’s unfortunate, then, that the Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe game falls well short of expectations.
Beyond Two Souls isn’t a great video game, and that’s only if you can call it a video game. Although it has stellar storytelling, you’ll be left thinking if there’s any gameplay at all. It’s predominately based on executing timed events via the DualShock controller’s buttons and analog sticks. There has been no shortage of titles that qualify as an interactive movie, which particularly applies to Heavy Rain, but instead of elevating the genre into something more, Beyond Two Souls does nothing but question the credence of the genre itself.
The game’s story revolves around a young woman, Jodie. A companion who is largely mysterious, Aiden, has been with her since she was born. While Aiden protects Jodie, she doesn’t essentially know what Aiden actually is. Players are able to control both Jodie and Aiden, with the latter being carried out via a a first person view where he can interact with objects that are highlighted and travel through walls; this must be done, however, within a set distance of Jodie.
Via the psychic connection through Aiden, Jodie can carry out a variety of telepathic actions including manipulating particular objects, strangling a person to death and possessing other characters’ minds. Due to her strange bond with Aiden, her parents sought after psychiatric assistance, which ultimately leads to her being left in the care of Nathan Dawkins (Willem Dafoe) at the Department of Paranormal Activity. Due to the doctor’s care of Jodie, who is played by Ellen Page, she learns how to control Aiden and his actions.
The story follows how she wants to live her own life following her care from doctors. Unfortunately, as you play through the campaign (which is around 12 hours long), the story sees plot segments being thrown into the game from completely out of the blue. The story follows how she wants to live her own life following her care from doctors. Unfortunately, as you play through the campaign (which is around 12 hours long), the story sees plot segments being thrown into the game from completely out of the blue. The plot, however, does feel like a rip off from a really dire episode of any given TV series, and with the fantastic story from Heavy Rain, it really is a shame.
In terms of gameplay, characters can move around but other than that, Beyond Two Souls gameplay predominately revolves around quick time events. One QTE that will be mostly utilized by players is pushing the controller’s right analogue stick. Combat, meanwhile, sees players moving the stick towards the direction of an attack which occurs as a slow motion segment.
Objects and the subsequent actions can be initiated via a small white dot, which is blue for Aiden. However, other than that, there really isn’t much else in terms of gameplay. It’s particularly surprising that Beyond Two Souls focuses heavily on characters but interactive dialogue between them is scarce. The lack of gameplay could have at least be made up by activities such as puzzles, but each scene of the game forces the player to consistently carry out quick time events. Stealth segments are present in a few levels but you won’t actually aim a gun at an enemy. Instead, you’ll find yourself pressing a button to kill someone when you’re told that you’re in range to carry out the attack.
Still, there are some commendable aspects of Beyond Two Souls that cannot be overlooked due to the lack of gameplay itself. A stellar performance from Ellen Page as Jodie complements the sheer amount of performance capture that went into the PS3 exclusive. Accompanying that is beautiful graphical fidelity, still showcasing the PS3′s power while next-gen is around the corner. The facial animation in particular is nothing short of impressive.
While there is stunning dedication from the actors’ performances that is clearly showcased and the striking visuals, it’s hard to overlook the fact that Beyond Two Souls isn’t a game that is greatly enjoyable. As an interactive story, Beyond Two Souls doesn’t even reach the level of even a lackluster movie.
What We Liked
Stellar performance by Ellen Page
Graphical fidelity is impressive
What We Didn't
Extremely limited gameplay elements
Poor narrative isn't compelling enough
If Quantic Dream were banking on the dialogue and plot to carry the entire game, those two aspects have to be of a certain quality to justify such a video game experience but, this time around, it doesn't.