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22 Oct 2013
By Beserker-Boy

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BB's review of Beyond - Two Souls

2 Replies 2,754 Views Created 22-10-2013
22 Oct 2013
By Beserker-Boy

BB’s review of Beyond Two Souls



Back in 2010, Quantic Dream stunned the gaming world with their take on interactive movie games with the acclaimed and wonderfully original, Heavy Rain. Now, 3 years later and with a bigger budget, game director David Cage and the French design team are back with Beyond - Two souls.

Beyond, was premiered at a movie festival, which goes some way to show the type of effort that has been put into marketing Beyond as a movie/game rather than just a game. It’s inspiring to see the medium of the gaming industry being played with like this and break out of the mould. For the most part Beyond does a stunning job of that too.

Very similar to the control system of Heavy Rain, Beyond, uses the minimum amount of controller input from the gamer to take you on this journey. Indeed there is practically no on screen clutter to distract you from thinking this is a movie. Items that can be interacted with are highlighted with no more than a small white circle, or sometimes an X, but all with the minimum of on screen fuss.

When you do get into QTE (quick time events) there are two kinds. The first is the QTE’s that show you what to press, the others not. Although that sounds strange the QTE’s that don’t require you to see the button presses here in Beyond focuses the gamer to concentrate on the on screen action and react to it. This is simple yet outstanding genius game play design! You know when these situations occur as the screen slows down and you react naturally from there on in. It’s wonderfully immersive and draws you ever more into the game.

The basis of the story is you play as a girl called Jodie, who from a young age is blessed / cursed with a special paranormal ability with an entity she calls “Aiden”. You never sure until the end if Aiden is there to help or hinder Jodie, but the journey of her life expands on a scenario that this power can be harnessed. The game then chops and changes between a young 6 year old Jodie, early teenage Jodie, late teens Jodie and a more mature woman Jodie. The thread and story of these ages of the main character are at first glance scattered incoherently together, but, like a good book with many threads, it all comes together later and makes perfect sense for it's grand finale! It’s not particularly hard to figure out what’s going on anyway, but is a little too clever for its own good in some ways, but is utterly fasinating none the less.

Not only do you get to play as Jodie, but you can have an out of body experience as Aiden also. This opens up gameplay situations and simple puzzles to sort out for more variety.

Jodie is played by Ellen Page, and the main supporting role is from Willem Dafoe, who plays the part of Jodie’s mentor, surrogate father and scientist looking into the workings of paranormal activity, Nathan Dawkins. To be honest, as much as it’s thrilling to see such heavyweight Hollywood actors take the parts of these games, Dafoe doesn’t really excel in his role. It feels it’s more a case of something to add to his CV than it is for his wish to present David Cage’s vision of a character. Dafoe is passable, but not wonderful.

What is wonderful, neigh, absolutely mind blowing is on occasion the graphics are indeed sometimes, especially later on in the game, pinch me please, uber realistic. Some scenes, especially of the older Jodie times, are breathtakingly lifelike. It really helps to convince the mind that this is indeed just a beautifully rendered movie. Trouble is, at times its most definitely not. The graphical standard is inconsistent. Young Jodie scenes look decidedly blocky and characters move and express themselves as convincingly as the Thunderbirds puppets!

However, for the majority of the time, the acting is superb, and the core story is breathtakingly varied, much more than you would ever think or indeed has been given away in any of the trailers. It’s a very surprising journey for its variety, and you will NOT be expecting what is to come.



To take you on this journey the audio is fantastic, with none other than Hollywood legend, Hans Zimmer, producing outstanding pieces of classical and modern music to deepen the movie like experience here.

And so to the crux of the game itself. Do the decisions you make effect the outcome of the game, seeing as there are 23 different endings? Well, yes but not in the way you would expect. In Heavy Rain, choices during the game directly affected the outcome, and it was explained thus at the end. In Beyond, the way it works is different. Each scene/chapter will play out differently and come to a conclusion at the end of the chapter, but ultimately the end of each chapter won’t dictate and affect the ending. The ending and what affects that is YOU, the gamer!

In short you’re not forced down a certain pre-determined path at the games end, it’s more a case of how you felt your experience went at the end of each chapter, and how YOU want the game to end based on your experience of how you got there.

Now that may sound like a risk, because, you could choose an ending that doesn’t really fit the dialogue you had within the game. But, where Beyond is special, is that the ride to the end is so emotional, so evocative and thought provoking, you can’t but help but be caught up in the whole experience and want to do the right thing to how your journey with Jodie went. When the credits were rolling I was literally sitting there, stunned, satisfied, and contemplating did I do the right thing and wrestling with my own thoughts and emotions. Then when you’re doing that you realize that a GAME has made you question your own actions right to the very core of your own soul!

The only way to truly satisfy the itch of would I have done something different, should I have chosen something else, can only be answered by playing the game a second time and seeing how you feel then at that time. No doubt a second play through will make you feel different to the first. There is basically no right or wrong choice, it’s dependent on the basic human emotions you have to think about during the game, and that can change day to day, hour to hour anyway.

Conclusion



Beyond blazes a trail of what can be done outside of the box with games on consoles, and it’s a shame no other developers have taken the plunge to the extent Quantic Dream have because these type of games are HUGELY entertaining to be part of. Maybe they haven’t because it is indeed a rather complex process to make, let alone to play. For the most part Quantic Dream have nailed it superbly here with Beyond.

It’s not a step up from Heavy Rain, more an alternative way to play the same process. What has been improved though are the visuals. I can’t express how utterly realistic some scenes and facial expressions looked,and how gripping the drama was to be a part of as it unfolded.

At the end of the day though, does the idea of an interactive movie/game really work though? In answer, YES it does and we should have more of them, but not without its drawbacks. The downside of things is at the end of the day this is meant to be a game to be enjoyed still, and it’s hard to be enthusiastic about the parts of the game that require the player to do the utterly mundane and normal day to day things that you know won’t have any effect for the final outcome. Too many times Jodie did things in game that had absolutely no consequence to anything at all.

Where it does succeed though in this wet nursing of a character, getting her through all these mundane tasks, is that it draws you further into the character your playing far more. So when you REALLY have to make a hard choice you know will have some ultimate effect, you struggle with your thought process hoping your doing the right thing. Ying and Yang!

Example here would be, you have to help Jodie on a dinner date. You spend 20 minutes of gameplay time doing nothing more than tidying up your apartment, choosing a dinner, cooking it, and choosing what clothes to wear, just so you can make the date and what’s to come during the date work. It’s not exciting to play this part, but you do it because you want to see the right outcome, simply because you CARE about the character you’re playing. If you sit back and realize how a game can make you feel like this and what’s just been written, it’s kind of disturbing a game can affect you like this but it is fascinating to experience all the same!

And that, in a nutshell is what the game actually is, an EXPERIENCE. How that experience moved you in your thought process will ultimately decide how you feel about the game when you’re finished. None can argue it’s quality of production, stunning artwork, superb graphics, settings, story, music and acting, but how that all comes together at the end, is really up to you, the player.

Either way, it’s something that will be hard to not enjoy by anyone; it certainly blurs the line between game and movie or movie and game, and is definitely worth a play through if for nothing else than to find out what can be accomplished by the current generation of console.

Rating 8/10

Unique experience, superb production levels, slightly chaotic story line, but wonderful to be part of.

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patty_rguz

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Thanks for your review!

 

I was pondering whether I shall buy it or not.

 

They won't do a version that supports move though, even heavy rain has one :catmad:

 

Regards

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xX-ArcticFox-Xx

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You should be the one making the games man you're so good at it!

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