Beyond: Two Souls Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Beyond: Two Souls Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Beyond Belief

In life, we face many obstacles. Some give us strength, and some utterly defeat us. We face life with brazen resolve or complete contempt. We never half-ass anything. We are dead set on being in control of every facet of our own existence, and when we are challenged, it is in these moments we triumph or fail. How would you have done things differently if you could?

Or, more directly, how do you cope with death?

Figuring out how we, as people, deal with loss is one of the biggest parts of Beyond: Two Souls . It questions whether we triumph, emerging from our trials victorious, or fail, diminishing into the dark recesses of our minds afterwards instead. It actually took me about two days after completing the latest narrative of Quantic Dream to figure this out. Not that this is a bad thing; it is just that so often in gaming we are given a direct story with little to no lasting impact. This allows us to soak-in what we see, pick out our favorite sequences, and then decide if we will play the game again, insist our friends play, or never revisit it. Interestingly enough, Beyond: Two Souls is not like this at all.

While there are blatantly obvious comparisons to Heavy Rain , Beyond takes huge steps forward in nearly every aspect in relation to its predecessor. The voice acting reaches a new level, the graphics are, at times, too good, and the narrative stabs at you in moments during the game and then latches on for long after the game is complete. Simply put, if Heavy Rain is an experiment into the interactive experience, then Beyond: Two Souls is a tried-and-true application of the results of that experiment.

Beyond: Two Souls Screenshot

Telling the story of Jodie Holmes, players will experience fifteen years of her life: from the early beginnings, to some incredibly dark times of adolescence, and to, ultimately, the brink of what is beyond us all after our existence here on earth ends. Through the people Jodie meets, you discover more and more about what kind of person she is. At each stage of her life, it is the people around her who help shape her into the person she ultimately becomes. While this is nothing truly new in gaming, the amazing thing here is that it captures so strongly how relationships mold us in real life.

The most important figure in Jodie’s journey is the entity known as Aiden. Aiden is the one constant thing Jodie has. It has been there for her for as long as she can remember. Players will honestly find themselves feeling the same way Jodie does about Aiden. While controlling Aiden, you find yourself with the power of either ruining Jodie’s “life” (as she puts it) or saving her from death. I actually found the mischief I had to perform as Aiden increasingly difficult to do as the game progressed. To me, this is an accomplishment of Quantic Dream. You can very easily just be a rude ass while playing as Aiden all the time, but it starts to chip away at you. It makes you not want to cause trouble. It makes you want to let Jodie live her life the way she has it set, all while hovering, as Aiden, ready to choke the shit out of anyone who tries to hurt her.

Beyond: Two Souls Screenshot

There are several instances in the game in which you start out playing one way and then completely change due to the level of emotion put forth by the characters. This is another accomplishment by Quantic Dream, and it’s largely thanks to the way the game was developed. Having the actors, Ellen Page, Willem Dafoe, Kadeem Hardison, and several others perform their characters, with the next evolution of motion capturing, adds a whole new level to gaming as a whole. While having the voice actors perform their characters is nothing completely new, Quantic Dream has captured things about the actors I have not yet seen in gaming. Take, for example, Kadeem Hardison.

During the game, I kept thinking to myself, “I know that guy.” Try as I might, I could not figure out who he was based on his voice alone. So then I started watching his mannerisms and facial expressions; I was then able to figure his identity out. While many might recognize him from his later works, I will always remember him as Dwayne Wayne from A Different World . Thank you Quantic Dream for helping me remember just how old I am.

In addition to the actors going above and beyond the call in their performances, the score of the game is just as moving. The last work of Norman Corbeil is something that will be felt throughout the world. Having provided music for Heavy Rain and countless films, his presence resonates in the emotional score of the game. While the game is a technical marvel, and it has a beautiful, accompanying score, there are some issues most will have with Beyond: Two Souls .

Beyond: Two Souls Screenshot

The biggest issue will be a repeat offender from Heavy Rain . There’s not a lot of game behind the narrative. While, yes, there is more to do in this than what is present in Heavy Rain , there is still a very distinct absence you will feel. Also, while refined, many will see the visual cues on screen and feel they are still not as clear as many would like them to be. While I personally didn’t have issue with this, I know many saw it as a flaw before, and therefore, many will again.

As I stated before, this title is glorious to look at. It is eerie how close the character models look like their physical counterparts. It is probably the closest yet to controlling a cinematic experience. However, there are a few instances of texture pop in, aliasing, and mild screen tearing. They don’t ever truly take away from the experience of the game, but they do happen at moments in which you find yourself shocked by a flaw, minor as it is, in such a beautiful experience.

We all wonder what will happen when we pass from this world to the next. We all wonder what will come for us at the end–if there’s anything at all, or if there’s something beyond waiting for us. While I cannot say Beyond: Two Souls delivers the answer indefinitely, I can say this: You will walk away feeling differently towards the narrative direction of games in the industry. Quantic Dream proves once more that games are more than guns that go pew pew, criminal violence, and scantily clad women. The team at Quantic proves that if games are made correctly, players will have an experience they will feel for many years to come. For this reason alone, I love this industry and those who constantly want to bring the best gaming experiences available, and Beyond: Two Souls is a perfect example of this.

Technical marvel to be sure. 4.3 Control
While refined, the influences of Heavy Rain are present. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Moving, captivating, and emotionally brilliant. 4.4 Play Value
Multiple endings form a moving story you control more than you think. 4.6 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Dive into a gripping and unpredictable psychological action thriller starring Academy Award-nominees Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe.
  • Explore stunning and varied settings across the world in an epic journey through 15 years of a character’s life.
  • Take full control of Jodie as well as the mysterious entity in spectacular action sequences.
  • Experience cutting-edge technology from Quantic Dream in one of the best-looking games ever seen on the PlayStation 3.
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