Beyond: Two Souls Review
developer: Quantic Dream
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Oct 08, 13
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David Cage of Quantic Dream has been calling for more “mature” games than your average shooter, and he presented Heavy Rain in 2010 as an example. There was nothing like Heavy Rain in the gaming world. Part game, part interactive drama, Heavy Rain managed to suck in both gamers and non-gamers with its intense story, numerous endings, unpredictable climax, and unusual gameplay. As part of their continued push toward the more “mature” genre of gaming, Quantic Dream has been touting Beyond: Two Souls as their next masterpiece. They even brought in a $26 million dollar voice-acting cast with Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. While Beyond: Two Souls improves upon many gameplay mechanics over Heavy Rain, the story grossly falls short, and the experience overall was sadly too flawed to be considered great.
Ellen Page ready for war.
Ellen Page as Sinead o'Connor.
In this game we learn about Jodie Holmes (voiced by Ellen Page), a young girl with an “invisible friend” named Aiden who is a spirit of some sort but looks like a blue blob attached to Jodie by a spiritual cord. Aiden has the ability to move through walls, people, etc. and can physically touch or push things. Sometimes he does it of his own will, and sometimes he does it because Jodie asks. Because of these abilities, Jodie is being studied at the Department of Paranormal Activity, a division of the CIA, leading to her recruitment into the CIA itself.
The story is told in a Pulp Fiction format, constantly jumping back and forth between the present and parts of her past. One minute you’re playing what Jodie is doing now and the next you’re playing her when she’s a teenager, and then the next when she’s 7 years old, and repeat. It’s a smart move, because telling the story from the beginning would make it far more boring than it is. However, some chapters don’t feel like they’re part of the story at all. Instead they feel as if they were shoe-horned in to make the game longer. And then, any story element that is interesting gets beaten to death. Early on in the game, Jodie has to close a condenser that the Paranormal division built to open a passage to the “other side” – the spirit world that also contains horrific monsters. Jodie will also have to close condensers in the New Mexico desert, in a hostile Asian country, and once again in Washington, DC. How Jodie has to close each passage changes each time, but it doesn’t change the monotony of doing the same thing over and over. You can argue pretty much every game does that in some form, but since this is a story device used over and over, it grated on my nerves a bit more than it normally would. If this was a movie as it obviously wants to be, I would have rolled my eyes by the second or third time Jodie had to close a passage.
Even worse, the story had continuity issues. In one chapter, Jodie was made fun of at a birthday party and was shut in a closet under the stairs, kind of like Cole in The Sixth Sense (and this was not the only similarity to that movie). The player must use Aiden to break her out, and when she is out, the player is given a choice to either just leave the party or exact revenge. Seeing as I was playing Jodie as a shy girl, I had her just leave. A few chapters later, Jodie is a teenager and wants to go to a party, but her guardian, Dr. Nathan Dawkins (Dafoe), won’t let her after what Aiden did at that girl’s birthday party. I stared at my screen flustered. Aiden did nothing but get Jodie out of that closet. If you used Aiden to get back on the mean teens, he sets the house on fire, which is what Dawkins was referring to. Since I chose not to get revenge, shouldn’t Dawkins’ reason for not letting Jodie go to the party change? In my playthrough, saying “what Aiden did” made absolutely no sense.
Even one of the choices I could have made for an ending did not make sense. One of the choices Jodie can make is to be with a homeless woman she briefly friended and her baby daughter. Why would Jodie do that when she spent a considerable amount of time with the other people listed? I racked my brain for an hour after I finished trying to figure out why that would be a choice at all, and I still don’t know how that’s a logical choice.
I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I will say that the big reveal about Aiden is not as explosive as I expected. It’s actually fairly predictable, especially if you’ve read books by Stephen King.
6.9 Above Average
Vastly improved gameplay mechanics for the interactive drama genre, fun and unique method for puzzle solving and stealth sequences using Aiden, fantastic voice acting, and it has a great concept for a story;
The story is heavily flawed with continuity issues, choices that do not entirely make sense, repeated plot devices, and an ending that is less than satisfying.