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Review

Beyond: Two Souls Review

Above and beyond the competition?

Beyond: Two Souls represents a shift in the gaming medium, from standard visits to other worlds into story-driven spectacles, complete with Hollywood actors and incredible visuals, but does it hold it together long enough to be considered one of the PS3’s greats?

Jodie Holmes is a girl with strange and enigmatic psychic abilities, achieved through a spirit named Aiden, who has been tethered to her soul since birth. As well as creating interesting gameplay opportunities as you control both Aiden and Jodie, this paves the way for a plot sprinkled with mystery, intrigue and a heavy dose of the supernatural.

Perhaps the first thing to make note of is just how unlike a game Beyond can feel at times. With Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe in leading roles, alongside a supporting cast of lesser-known actors who still put on great performances, this is as close to Hollywood as games have ever reached. So, when you’re told to press a button on the controller, it comes as quite a shock at first, though you’ll soon get to grips with the gameplay.

Beyond truly is a stunning spectacle in terms of visuals; as we approach the eve of the PlayStation 4, it’s genuinely an awe-inspiring sight, with Quantic Dream pushing the PS3 to its limits, crafting something more believable than anything in gaming before it, and ultimately blurring the lines between CGI movies and video games. Solid textures, animation which is unmatched in the field and effects which will make every attempt to blow you away are all at the heart of the title.

While the frame rate may drop, and some sections might not be quite up to scratch at times, the visuals are easily the best thing that Beyond has going for it, representing Page and Dafoe marvellously across various points of their life, which is something that even movie studios may have a hard time replicating.

It’s just unfortunate that in almost every other way, despite the acting talent and visual grunt on show, Beyond either falters at points or fails entirely. With an incredibly jumbled story, almost amateur writing and some cumbersome controls among lengthy sequences which drag on for far too long, Beyond is a lesson in how a nonsensical narrative can make something with as high production values as this feel utterly average in its execution.

“The non-linear narrative is an extraordinarily and unnecessarily convoluted affair”

From the beginning, the non-linear narrative is an extraordinarily and unnecessarily convoluted affair, as you skip back and forth in time between points in Jodie’s life. You’d expect that as you progress, things would come more clear, but these constant jumps only serve to make the plot even less coherent, and it’s something that a loading screen which shows where you are in the grand scheme of things cannot fix.

This leads to a few sections that really do manage to shine on their own, but feel entirely disjointed from the rest of the game. There’s not much here that will hold your interest in the long-term, barely anything that isn’t predictable and forced moments of drama which often feel unnecessarily shoehorned in permeate the title.

beyondbig1

Beyond Touch App

  • Beyond is joined by a mobile companion app, allowing you to interact with the game without the need for a DualShock. It’s a novel idea, and one which is responsive enough, but leaves you having to look at your device’s screen to see where the face buttons are represented. It truly feels like an entirely pointless and counterintuitive venture.

David Cage’s shoddy writing is reflected throughout the dialogue too, with moments that feel entirely out of place. Despite the different environments, it pulls the same tricks far too many times, with Jodie and Aiden facing too many similar situations, where choices are often undermined by pre-set plot points, some of which you may have already experienced due to the disjointed narrative.

It’s not just that narrative, but the fact there are far too many discrepancies which really don’t add up in the end, with some real-world considerations thrown out of the window. It just doesn’t come together at any point, often throwing in even more unnecessary characters and mysteries for no good reason.

If you’ve ever played Heavy Rain, then you’ll know what to expect going into Beyond in terms of controls; there are the face buttons to select dialogue options when presented with an opportunity, and even frantic taps of those buttons during quick time event sequences. While there are some more traditional game mechanics to be found, as well as a lot of sections which require flicking of the right stick rather than your traditional button-based QTEs, the gameplay is marred by clunky controls, which really detracts from the experience.

Controlling Aiden is neat though, as you float around unseen, interacting with objects and being quite malevolent at times. Even though he’s an extension of Jodie, Aiden feels like his own character, and it’s ultimately you that controls them both distinctly, having to manipulate a situation based upon your own mood.

This creates the opportunity for a co-operative mode featuring both characters, allowing one player to play as Jodie and another to control Aiden. Essentially all this does is change the controller when you switch characters, leaving the other person to watch. It’s not anything particularly amazing, but when combined with the mobile application, it could offer the opportunity to extend the experience to those who aren’t particularly fans of games.

Aiden is certainly an interesting concept, and one of the better mechanics of Beyond, with possession, distraction and plenty of other ghoulish traits coming into play. Ultimately, this plays straight into the more horror-inspired sections of the game, which are great in their own right and at times downright scary; it feels as though the game would have worked much better as a dedicated horror title.

But these great moments are few and far between, and at its heart Beyond is all about the drama. Emotionally, the game fails to engage at crucial moments, and doesn’t feel as impactful as previous efforts, even Cage’s work with Heavy Ran. Despite the great performances from a suitable cast, the poor scripting really detracts from the experience, and will lead you to question a lot of the design choices; even slightly picking apart the game will lead you to seeing that there isn’t really much special about it.

beyondbig2

The choice system doesn’t work very well, either, as selections that you make within the time you’re given don’t always match up with what the character says, or what you want to say. While wrong choices may have led to consequence in Heavy Rain, the nature of Beyond means that there’s no real penalty for selecting a “wrong” option, and the pre-set plot points often mean that outcomes lead nowhere, with only choices towards the end of the game really making a difference to the story.

That story is a puzzle missing a lot of the pieces; it’s as if Cage had a great idea in his mind, but when pen came to paper, he left a lot of gaps in the plot. While this may not have been apparent to him, when presented to the player it becomes an  incoherent mess of ideas thrown together in the wrong order, completely missing the mark.

It’s just such a shame that there are genuinely good aspects surrounding the poor core, as the music from Hans Zimmer shows. This is used perfectly at times to create tension, ramp up the action or evoke emotion, feeling completely realised in comparison to the shoddily crafted story and clumsy gameplay, which are essential in the development of a great video game.

What’s Good

  • Great acting from a Hollywood-worthy cast.
  • Incredible, almost PS4 level visuals.
  • The few moments of coherency and structure really shine.

What’s Bad:

  • Discordant plot never manages to come together.
  • Poor writing and dialogue.
  • Gameplay leaves a lot to be desired.
  • Doesn’t have the required emotional impact.
  • A lot of it fails to make sense.

Beyond is a tale of squandered potential. With acting talent such as Page and Dafoe on board, music from legendary composer Hans Zimmer and visuals that give the PS4 launch line-up a run for their money, it’s such a shame that when it comes down to it, the incompetent story and poor gameplay mechanics leave a lot to be desired.

Score: 6/10

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43 Comments
  1. matthangzhou
    Member
    Since: Sep 2010

    To be honest I’m strangely happy to see such a low review score. This will mean gtav is my last ever ps3 purchase.

    Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:03.
    • Tarbun84
      Member
      Since: Feb 2012

      Ditto. I was kind of hoping this was not going to be a 9 or 10 score. I would have had to buy it then and I really need time to finish GTA before PS4

      Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:20.
    • StealthAssassin2009
      Member
      Since: Jul 2013

      I think this review is a little unfair, its the best graphics seen on the PS3 to date with a gripping and moving interaction with the character Jodie, as you try to save her. There are very few games that can provoke any feelings towards a game now days,

      and anything that can is something special. I Challenge everyone reading this to go download the demo from PSN and give it a go. If its mindless killing and running and gunning and you have the attention span of a gold fish go play CoD or BF.

      And Relax, Take care everyone ^^..,,zzZZ

      Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 21:47.
      • SpikeyMikey23
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        I guess a ‘lot’ of people have the attention span of a goldfish then according you to. Myself included.

        Comment posted on 10/10/2013 at 09:53.
  2. Stefan L
    Community Team
    Since: May 2009

    A shame that Cage couldn’t craft something which improved upon the interesting route he went for Heavy Rain, but at the same time not too surprising.

    Of course, I really enjoyed Heavy Rain in spite of its flaws, so I’ll still be getting and playing this.

    I wonder if there might be some way that a Phantom Edit of the story could be sketched out by the community into something more coherent? (Although, unlike with film, having it turned into something playable would be a different challenge altogether!)

    Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:07.
  3. Greg Turner
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    This is a shame.

    So do we think it’s David Cage that is the problem? I mean the team obviously know how to craft a fantastic set of characters and settings but if his direction/writing is holding them back, perhaps it might be time to let someone else there take the next title?

    Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:12.
    • Blair Inglis
      hisnameisblair
      Since: May 2009

      It’s the writing and directing, as well as Cage’s need for interaction as opposed to a more traditional game, I’m sure. Everything else is fine, and even great at points.

      I would love to see Quantic Dream work with an established Hollywood moviemaker, though.

      Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:17.
      • jimmy-google
        Member
        Since: Feb 2009

        Blair, what was your view on Heavy Rain (and how would have you scored it)? Just trying to see how your view of Beyond compares?

        Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 17:08.
      • Blair Inglis
        hisnameisblair
        Since: May 2009

        I really enjoyed Heavy Rain. Story was flawed, but not nearly as much as this, and overall it worked a lot better with the choices and outcomes.

        As for scoring, I can’t speak in the same terms as Beyond, but it’d be an 8 or so I think.

        Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 17:25.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Agreed. His ambition far outweighs his skill-set. Such a shame when you think about what he’s trying to achieve. He’s like a really pleasant version of Peter Molyneux.

      Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:20.
  4. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Will still be buying it.

    Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:16.
    • jimmy-google
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      Me too, well renting at least like I do with most game.

      I do wonder if this really is a game where if you didn’t like/rate Heavy Rain you’ll feel the same about this.

      Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 17:07.
  5. SpikeyMikey23
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    based on how much I value the opinion of TSA reviews and the fact that I have too many games and very little time, I’m cancelling my pre-order. I don’t really know anything about the game and only ordered because Amazon had it for £32.99.

    I’ll pick it up when it hits the bargain bucket, yet to pick up The Last of Us also……

    Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:18.
  6. wonkey-willy
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    only a 6…
    my biggest nuisance was the control system.
    heavy rain-esque button mashing and on screen prompts that were non responsive to what i was doing,especially the shake controller movement,was it up and down or shake like a Polaroid picture,(hey ya)
    who knows might bag this when it goes sub 20 quid then

    Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:18.
  7. Erroneus
    Wanted "Trophy Hunter" but was too late.
    Since: May 2009

    Review scores are all over the place, which is not a surprise, because it really seems like on of those games you either love or … dislike.

    I will properly love it, as I’m very fond of Heavy Rain and games which has such a heavy focus on story telling, that it ss not the gameplay, which is the important factor.

    Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:25.
    • Youles
      Member
      Since: Feb 2011

      Same, I’ll be glad to play something different and that is so story orientated, (I’m certainly not buying it for the gameplay) – although if the story does fly about I’m concerned I’ll get confused (which is easily done), but that’s more of an issue with me! :)

      Also, if it’s like a film them perhaps it’s more of an opinion thing, although at least that’s what I’m hoping given the average score.

      Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:36.
  8. XisTG
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    For the first time ever, I’m cancelling an order (pre-order) based on a review. In a game like this, I can forgive the not so good inputs on it, and I can well endure long-ass scenes; all because I am really focused on the story.
    As such, I will take a look at the game some other time, when the price drops.

    A shame, really, since the demo made it seem cool (except for the fact that Aiden can create a barrier around her to shield her from anything).

    Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:26.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Don’t be too quick, fella. Polygon gave it an 8 and Gamespot a 9. It seems that the scores are all over the shop and it’s worth absorbing a few. I’m far more interested in it after reading three reviews (this one and the aforementioned Polygon and Gamespot).

      Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:28.
      • XisTG
        Member
        Since: May 2010

        I just did what you told me; indeed, very different. I just read one with a 2 out of 5 score, so I guess this will be one of those that will split friends apart :P

        I still intend to play it, I’m just trying to decide if its worth paying for it day 1, or if I should play it further down the line…

        Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:53.
      • jimmy-google
        Member
        Since: Feb 2009

        Just had a look as well and they really are all over the place and even when you read some of the reviews the view on plot and emotion vary massively.

        Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 17:14.
      • HunterGatherer
        Banned
        Since: Jul 2013

        This comment is hidden.

        Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 21:05.
  9. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    That’s a shame but i’ll be picking it up all the same Friday.

    Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 16:46.
  10. boeboe
    Member
    Since: Feb 2013

    I’m not cancelling my pre-order, take the risk. I’m sure it’ll be at least as enjoyable as many of the films I’ve seen this year. Except Alpha Papa, that was special!

    Comment posted on 08/10/2013 at 17:10.

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Beyond: Two Souls
  • Developer:Quantic Dream
  • Publisher:Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Platforms:PS3
  • Release Date:11/11/13
19 hours ago
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