Beyond: Two Souls
Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: SCEE
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1-2
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Beyond: Two Souls comes to us from Quantic Dream, the studio responsible for the similarly genre –blurring psychological thrillers Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain. So is this really a game, or an interactive animated movie?

Born with the ability to see things that no human has seen before, Jodie Holmes is a troubled child with a troubling history. The game’s story covers 15 years of Jodie's life and is an extremely compelling tale of a child who can channel the dead and interact with a spirit named Aiden. At certain times in the game the player takes control of Aiden who, being a ghost, can pass through walls and allow Jodie to see things remotely, even briefly taking control of other people to perform certain actions. This gameplay mechanic obviously opens up all kinds of possibilities and although the levels are extremely linear, the designers do give you some opportunity to explore the immediate area. If you have a second joypad, a second player can take control of Aiden, but the game feels like it should be a solo experience, and should in no way be considered as a co-op game for prospective buyers.

The designers have done away with Heavy Rain’s screen cluttering quick time button prompts and given the player minimal interface and no HUD, health or ammo gauge. Other than a white dot that tells you that something can be interacted with or a blue dot to tell you that Aiden can manipulate or affect something or someone, the game is purely cinematic. Occasional button prompts and stick movements make up most of the gameplay, and the Sixaxis motion sensor gets an occasional workout too when you’re require to shake the joypad up and down to perform certain actions. But make no mistake, this is no cinematic action game like The Last Of Us, and if you’re coming to this straight from GTA V, Batman Arkham Origins or Battlefield 4 like me then the lack of actual action and interaction will be a bit of a shock to the system, albeit possibly a refreshing one.

Jodie is seconded into the CIA and you are taught an intuitive combat, stealth and cover system. This gameplay mechanic requires that you simply move the right stick in the direction that Jodie's on-screen actions would suggest, but allows for some extremely exciting and visceral hand-to-hand, and foot-to-testicles combat. It's extremely forgiving but miss the timing on too many blocks, ducks or blows and Jodie could die. There are a couple of fight scenes so violent that they literally had me cheering Jodie on when she kicked scumbag ass, seemingly against all odds. Once training is complete Jodie is sent on a mission in Somalia, a place that’s just as dangerous as you’d imagine, especially when you’re a lone white female. The mission, you are told, is to kill a warlord named Gemaal and this is where Beyond: Two Souls comes closest to being a traditional action game, with exciting stealth and combat sequences. The emotion runs high here and the events that happen with Jodie and a young boy named Salim will bring a lump to your throat.

The characters are stunning to look at, superbly acted and well lip-synced.

From cute and curious child, through confused and experimental teenager to highly-trained CIA killing machine through to vulnerable, depressed fugitive, Jodie's life is seldom boring and some of the typically mundane actions that Quantic Dream have you performing, while pointless and time wasting actually add a great deal of gravitas and contrast to the game’s events, some of which will actually affect the way the story branches and events turn out.

The production values and presentation are mostly excellent and Beyond: Two Souls feels like a big budget animated movie, albeit one that has plot holes and leaves more than a few questions unanswered. The gloss of the presentation dulls a little when you realise that a game that invites you to replay sequences makes it impossible to skip cut-scenes. You can’t even skip the end titles, so, if you want to see all five endings in a row like I did, this enforced, unnecessary viewing becomes a needless, repetitive, irritating, time-wasting chore. This was particularly daft on Quantic Dream’s part as, unlike many games that give you multiple endings, you will actually want to see all of the possible outcomes, whether happy, sad or sinister in Beyond: Two Souls.

Much publicised already, the characters are stunning to look at, meticulously motion captured, superbly acted and well lip-synced. Only L.A. Noire’s cast has better facial animation and I've yet to see better forthcoming on the next gen consoles. Jodie isn’t just a character model that looks a bit like Ellen Page, she is Ellen Page. The other characters are pretty damned good too, although I thought Willem Dafoe looked a bit distorted and bloaty-headed at times.

It’s also worth considering that Beyond: Two Souls is a bit grim and joyless, what little humour there is in the story is always a bit strained and Ellen Page’s innate humour, smart-assed sarcasm and cynicism toward everybody and everything on the planet rarely comes through. Thankfully, the game does allow for at least a couple of happy endings.

So is Beyond: Two Souls an animated movie with playable sections, an "interactive experience" or one of those video game thingamajigs?

The only real problem I'd have when recommending the game is its lack of actual interaction and genuine gameplay, and because of the nonlinear storyline (the way the game flits around with the chronological order of events like a Tarantino movie) sometimes the passage of time doesn't come across particularly well, and the friendships that Jodie forms seem unfeasibly close when you've only spent a few minutes in real time in the company of people who Jodie is supposed to form strong bonds and even feelings of love with. Some sequences seem light-hearted, pointless and even silly and others are heart–wrenchingly emotional. It's also highly questionable just how much effect your actions really do have on the storyline until right at the end.

So is Beyond: Two Souls an animated movie with playable sections, an "interactive experience" or one of those video game thingamajigs? Well, it's a bit of each, and it's probably for you to decide. I think players may find the plot a bit predictable when compared to Heavy Rain and its twists and turns, but this is often because of the nonlinear storyline. Whatever the case I think Beyond Two Souls is definitely an unforgettable, very playable game you’ll want to experience.

Best Bits

- A compelling, emotional supernatural story.
- Superb production values.
- Endearing characters and good baddies.
- Unique gameplay.
Worst Bits

- No PlayStation Move compatibility seems an odd omission.
- It’s a bit slow and action-lite.
- The inability to skip scenes is irritating.

by: Diddly

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