Published on October 10th, 2013 | by IceCube
REVIEW: Beyond: Two Souls
Summary: Recognise these faces? Ellen Page (Juno) and Willem Dafoe (Platoon) both voice-act and motion capture their own characters in a video game that can only be described as an “interactive drama action-adventure game”. Made by the whiz-kids at Quantic Dream who pieced together Heavy Rain, this is similarly just as story-heavy, with familiar quicktime events that require tapping buttons and flicking sticks on-cue often.
Concept: We follow a deep story about Jodie, a young girl on the run from the feds who has an invisible, supernatural sidekick called Aiden, who protects her by intervening with the environment. You play bits as each character, depending on the moment. As Jodie, you’ll be fighting, driving, sneaking, answering questions and choosing actions. As Aiden you float from first-person perspective, nudging and breaking objects or even possessing people to control them. These two are spiritually connected, together guiding you through a great plot about physical survival and emotional ties.
Graphics: The character detail is first-rate. Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe’s characters look just like animated versions of themselves, down to the faintest wrinkle and slightest freckle. Lighting has also been captured to perfection, as if they noted every glimmer in a real video recording and rendered it into place regardless of how small or insignificant it would have seemed. Backgrounds are also great, though not quite as detailed as the characters.
Gameplay: Pushing buttons when they appear on-screen sounds simple, but the execution can sometimes get messy. For example, melee combat requires using the right analogue stick to match the direction of Jodies strikes, which is tricky and confusing (but admittedly quite fun). Movement looks realistic but has a lot of senseless, unnatural stopping when changing direction, as if the game designers didn’t want you to walk anywhere but straight. Exploration and accessibility is incredibly limited and linear, generally forcing you toward one direction only. After Heavy Rain we were hoping for a much more freedom to roam, but strtict paths denied alternatives or much sense of choice, as if we were getting told-off for “ruining” the story. In most cases (not all) we’re forced into playing sensibly.
Sound: Voice acting is brilliant. Not only do character mouths speak in time, but there’s high detail on subtle refinements like pursing lips and nostril flares that mimic extra character in conversations. Interactive conversations usually have four response types, but Jodie will not always respond in the manner intended. Meanwhile the music is hauntingly beautiful and ideal for the temperament the game makers intended. Mood-setting musical pieces are well-placed and vibrant throughout.
Final Word: Quantic Dream are telling a great story here and it’s so much like a film that it could be up for an Oscar. We truly love every step of the journey, and overall, consider this a solid evolution of Heavy Rain. The developers did provide some choice moments, but never let you make any key decisions or actions that could alter the path of your journey, making you feel like your decisions are ultimately of little consequence. Despite this, player engagement is strong enough to ensure you’re playing an overall fantastic video game, and not just watching one long video.
Score out of 5 bugs
Summary: 1 = Poor, 2 = Average, 3 = Good, 4 = Great, 5 = Amazing