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Quantic Dream’s latest game, Beyond: Two Souls has a lot to live up to following the success of Heavy Rain. What Quantic Dream is able to do technologically is awe inspiring and shows us exactly what the Playstation 3 is truly capable of. The game centers on Jodie Holmes and fifteen years of her life. David Cage’s story has everything in it from government conspiracy to supernatural entities. It is this ambition within the game that sadly holds it back.
The game follows fifteen years of Jodi’s life and her interactions with a supernatural being that is attached to her named Aiden. From Jodie’s life as a child to her twenties, the player is given a wide array of events in her extraordinary life. One thing that truly stands out during her life is her interactions with other people and Aiden. It is these moments that have some of the best performances within the game, and allow the player to connect most to the story. When it comes to more action packed sequences, the game allows the player enough control to decide what will happen next within the sequence, but it never truly feels like the game is allowing the player to make impactful choices that will affect the entirety of the story. This is due to the non-linear progression of the story. The player will jump from the middle of the game, to the beginning, and to a sequence near the end. This approach could have worked if the story itself if it was described why throughout the entirety of the game. Sadly, the player if left to make sure that they are aware of where in the games timeline that that sequence they are playing takes place.
During the slower moments of the game, the characters and the story have the most impact. Performances are at their best from Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. During these scenes, exposition is allowed to unfold naturally and not feel forced upon the player. Luckily, these moments make up about half of the game and allow the story to be flushed out. Sadly, the other half of the game consists of action sequences that are hit or miss. Some left me wanting more, and others felt completely unnecessary within the story. These sequences are there to give depth and drive to Jodi, but they leave little for the player to decide.
The game has extremely minimal controls that allow the player to feel more like an observer at times. This allows for a more cinematic approach to the game and its story. It is this minimal approach to the controls that allow the player to fully experience that Cage and his team are trying to tell. Sadly, this approach leaves the player feeling more like an observer during the game. During the more action oriented sequences, I never truly felt in control of Jodie, it was more like I was on a heavily scripted path only moving forward, never left or right.
Controlling Aiden is jarring during the first few times that he is used, until the player learns how to properly adjust at an awkward control scheme. Sadly, his limitations are never truly explained during the game. At some points Aiden can venture through almost anything, and in the next scene, the spirit can only go through some doors and walls. This design for Aiden is limiting in the exploration of areas for the game.
Luckily for the player, the game is absolutely stunning to look at. The game gives detail to every texture that allows for one of the best looking games of the generation. From the sterile environments of a lab, a vast desert to a forest and a small town, every single detail has been looked at by the developer, and nothing was left out. This kind of detail is something that all developers should strive to reach in their games. This game will set the bar for performance capture for all other studios to strive towards. The level of detail in all of the characters faces during their performances is simply stunning to look at. Every single part of their performance can be seen by the player, and this allows for a truly human element to be brought to the performances, especially from Ellen Page.
The supporting cast leaves a lot more to be desired their characters seem one dimensional and are never fully drawn out, leaving a lot to be desired from them. Their backgrounds are never flushed out, and you are never given a reason to care about the supporting cast.
During my time with the game, I only encountered a few loading issues that resolved themselves within a few seconds, allowing me to stay focused on the game and not be drawn out of the experience. I never encountered any game breaking bugs that hindered my experience with Beyond and took me out of the moment. It is the stability of the game, despite having branching paths that shows Quantic Dream are masters of their craft, and are capable of delivering a technically sound game.
One of the major drawbacks for Beyond is the fact that there is no game over for the player. If they make a mistake, Aiden will revive Jodie and the story will continue. This gives the player the opportunity to simply enjoy the story, but there is no drive to ensure that mistakes are not made in order to avoid an unwanted death.
While Beyond: Two Souls is a technically sound game, it does have its imperfections. The non-linear storyline, the supporting roles and the lack of ramifications for player error leave some things to be desired from Beyond. With that being said, there is an allure to Beyond: Two Souls that kept me eyes glued to the screen. It is simply unlike anything else that is out on the market. This game's differences from other games like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed is what makes this game a true standout for the Playstation 3. While the game may not redefine a cinematic experience for gaming, it is something that every gamer should play in order to experience what Cage and his team at Quantic Dream are trying to do with the medium and the possibilities for story telling in game.