BADGP Reviews: Beyond: Two Souls

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Beyond: Two Souls (Quantic Dream, Sony)

Released: October 8, 2013

Alex Linna & Zach Buzan

October 8, 2013

Review: Not a Game? Not a Problem.

Let’s nip this in the bud early on:  Beyond: Two Souls is hardly a game.  It is a lightly interactive movie at best, but we do not care.  It is a great piece of entertainment and it was released on what is primarily a video game system, so we are reviewing it. So, that is that.  If we do not allow the medium to expand in weird directions like these then things can get boring really fast.

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Beyond: Two Souls is brought to the world by Sony and Quantic Dream.  Quantic Dream being the notorious developers behind controversial and experimental titles like Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain, spear-headed by eccentric game designer/writer/director, David Cage.  Cage has been under fire; well for forever it seems, for what some might describe as pretentious and condescending.  I like Mr. Cage due to him making some of the strangest and most original games out there.  He might not be pushing the medium forward entirely by himself, as he likes to say, but at least he is trying something different. Beyond offers yet another hardly interactive experience from Quantic Dream and reeks of being a video game that desperately wants to be a movie.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/6945-Emotions-Polygons-and-Ellen-Page

This is okay, however, because Beyond: Two Souls is an engaging and hard-to-put-down experience much like Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy before it.  This makes it a hard game to evaluate.  As far as gameplay mechanics go… it is light and easy to critique, but there is so little out there like this it is hard not to laud and praise.  Hopefully, us at the BAD Gaming Podcast can find a balance and deliver a fair verdict.

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The story focuses around the life of Jodi and her entity Aiden. Through the eyes of these two linked characters we can see how difficult life can be. The game’s story is not presented chronologically but rather in fragments of memories. This can be quite confusing, but the loading screen sets up a timeline for the player making it easier to understand. The pacing throughout the story is done really well. The fragmented story never leaves you bored since the next chapter can be from any point in time. However, I felt like the game could have slowed down on some chapters than others. The story contains many different themes throughout the campaign. Some of these themes like horror, romance and action are all done very well throughout the game. Seeing Jodi’s life through Aiden and herself makes for an interesting experience. Their relationship is always tested and it usually gets stretched to a breaking point. With many heart wrenching moments and anger filled spats the story between this peculiar duo never becomes stale.

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What We Liked:

-Gripping Narrative-

One word: Enrapturing.  The first several hours of Beyond are completely enthralling.  The game goes to some weird places and might stay in some places too long, but overall it tells a gripping story that is hard to put down until the very end.

My personal favorite sections included a Homelessness chapter that puts a lot in perspective, a chapter where Jodie has to plan a dinner date, and a chapter where Jodie goes to a high school party.  There are not many games that explore the mundane and Beyond is at its best when it makes the player do everyday, more realistic actions versus the high-action and bombastic set pieces.

Beyond: Two Souls is deliberately disjointed and hops around Jodie’s timeline like a jump rope.  I am not sure if this is a positive or a negative. It certainly kept me guessing what would come next, but by not telling the story chronologically felt a little strange.

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-The Look-

My goodness, this game is gorgeous, and I suspect that this game will give many Playstation 4 launch titles a run for their money. Beyond: Two Souls is consistently visually impressive.  I really cannot emphasize enough just how good this game looks.

-The Acting-

Ellen Page, Willem Dafoe, and the rest of the supporting cast all delivered excellent performances that sold the experience.

-The Music-

The soundtrack is fantastic.  I was not surprised to learn that it was Hans Zimmer who orchestrated the music.  It always sets the tone and makes situations that much more tense and exciting.

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What We Did Not Like:

-Yeah, It’s Hardly a Game-

Interactivity is not a priority for Beyond.  It is going to tell its story and the player is along for the ride with minimal involvement.  There are multiple endings in traditional Quantic Dream fashion, but it is hard to see anything outside of the last two to four choices making any difference in the game’s conclusion. Beyond: Two Souls is somehow even less complex than Heavy Rain.  I did not even think this was possible.  Aiden’s powers present a real missed opportunity for some deep and potentially rewarding gameplay mechanics.  Thinking about it further will only make it worse. For example: Why can Aiden only use certain powers at specifically given times? There are some abilities that could come in handy, but unless there is a specific situation then the player is out of luck.  Again, Beyond is going to tell its directed, highly cinematic story without the opportunity for the player to mess it up.

-The Clichés, The Cheese-

Beyond: Two Souls contains a lot of movie references and incredibly played-out clichés.  The writing is also not exactly excellent all the time.  If it were not for the professionalism and top-notch acting talent of Ellen Page, Willem Dafoe, and the rest of the great cast the writing could have been much more of a negative.  Working with what they were given, the acting rising above the average-to-lame writing.

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-“Cliffhung”-

The game ends in a fairly brutal cliffhanger.  I feel as though this unnecessary.  Had it been more of a game, I might have been more excited for a sequel, but Beyond is quite self-contained.  Heavy Rain sold extremely well considering what it is, and if Beyond: Two Souls puts up similar numbers I suppose we might see a sequel.  I do not want a sequel.  I want Quantic Dream to keep doing new and interesting things that no one else would touch… like making a game about a CIA agent who has ghost powers.

Conclusion/Recommendation

Beyond: Two Souls might not exactly be “a game,” but it does give the audience a great experience. With great acting from the whole cast and a powerful visual experience, Beyond brings another emotional and action fueled ride. With so many quick time events involved with the characters’ actions, and a jumpy storyline, Beyond will unfortunately turn away a few gamers. I hope many people will look away from these negative points and give Beyond the recognition it deserves.

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Alex: 8.0            Zach:            8.4            BAD:            8.2

Image Credits:

http://b-i.forbesimg.com/carolpinchefsky/files/2013/04/BeyondTwoSoulsBehindScenes.jpg

http://iamplayerone.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/wallpaper-2235405.jpg

http://wallippo.com/wallpaper/beyond-two-souls-d2683325981d2bd9f5be4ff994729fcf

http://s.pro-gmedia.com/videogamer/media/images/ps3/beyond_two_souls/screens/beyond_two_souls_22.jpg

http://i1-news.softpedia-static.com/images/news2/Beyond-Two-Souls-Gets-Fresh-Series-of-Screenshots-381962-2.jpg?1378881783

http://i1-news.softpedia-static.com/images/news2/Beyond-Two-Souls-Gets-Three-Gameplay-Videos-New-Screenshots-2.jpg?1363967406

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http://static.giantbomb.com/uploads/scale_super/0/2840/2496286-beyond-two-souls_2013_06-11-13_018.jpg

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