David Cage and I have a strained relationship. He makes movies that masquerade as games, and I don’t play them. Beyond: Two Souls, however, is an exception. It is a game that seeks to do exactly what David Cage does, try to bridge the gap between film and video games. Although Beyond is clearly a flawed a game, it does have its merits.
Beyond: Two Souls is a Playstation 3 exclusive by David Cage and his development team over at Quantic Dream. Beyond follows the life of a girl named Jodie with a mysterious power, she has the ability to make things happen when she wants them too. At least, that’s what the people around her think. In “reality” Jodie is connected to a ghost-like entity named Aiden who also shares a psychic link with her. Whatever Aiden sees, Jodie can see, and vice versa. However whenever Jodie jumps into Aiden, she is left fatigued and her nose bleeds from the strain. The game spans fifteen years of Jodie’s life, from when she is about nine years old to when she’s twenty-four.
To people not familiar with the name Quantic Dream or David Cage, then perhaps you have heard of Heavy Rain, their last video game before Beyond. I tried Heavy Rain, and it was a fun game I guess, but I just had a few problems with the mechanics of the game. And I could not, for the life of me, get past the bad English voice acting. Granted all of the voice actors were French actors doing their best English accents but it pulled me out of the game too frequently. Luckily, Beyond: Two Souls does not suffer from bad acting.
Beyond: Two Souls stars two of Hollywood’s biggest names, Ellen Page and Willem Defoe. Both of whom are lovingly rendered into the game in stunning detail. Their character models are almost completely photo realistic without crossing into the uncanny valley. However at times, it feels as though Willem Defoe isn’t used enough in the game, and I found myself wondering “why is he even in here?” Although, that question gets answered later in the game, I still felt Defoe could have had more screen time. Ellen Page, on the other hand, plays the game’s ghost tethered protagonist, and she is absolutely phenomenal. Honestly, Ellen Page’s performance is the best part of the almost incomprehensible story in Beyond.
Much like Heavy Rain, Beyond has a fairly simple control-scheme. Use the left analog stick to move around, and the right stick to look around. Whenever you’re given control of Jodie to walk around and take a look at the world around her, you are given the choice to interact with various objects in the environment. A simple white dot appears near the object and you just have to simply move the right analog stick in a direction that would be appropriate. For instance, if there’s an object on the ground you want Jodie to pick up, walk up to the object and press the right stick “up” to pick it up. In terms of combat, the control-scheme works much the same way. Simply move the right stick in the direction that Jodie appears to be moving. The only problem is, the game doesn’t give you enough control.
In most scenes you get control of Aiden, allowing you to fly around semi-freely and interact with certain objects. When you’re given free reign it is fantastic. Flying around through walls, floors, or people, raising all kinds of poltergeist-like mayhem, and of course possessing things. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen entirely enough especially when it comes to possession. In fact the rules of possession are never explained. You can possess some people but not others, and you can out-right kill certain people. But again, it is never explained what kind of people you can do these things to, and why not anyone else. My theory, the person has to be largely distracted by one thing or another. For example, if someone is sleeping, they are free game for possession or death.
David Cage has a history of making games that are very cinematic, and that’s not a bad thing sometimes. Beyond: Two Souls is, as I said, flawed. But I enjoyed playing it a lot. Though I would have much rather preferred to watch it as a very long movie, it was interesting to play. The story is really not that special, but it is riddled with amazingly touching moments thanks to Ellen Page’s acting. You’re not given enough control of the game, though it is easy to play. It doesn’t, however, offer much of a challenge.
There are seriously a ton of things to complain about in Beyond: Two Souls, but I don’t want to get into all of them. Would I recommend this game to people who enjoy generic plots masquerading as something deeper? Yes. Would I recommend this game to people who don’t really play games, but really like Ellen Page? Yes. Would I recommend this game to people who believe that David Cage is a golden god? Yes.
If none of the above items apply to you, I don’t recommend you buy Beyond: Two Souls. Instead, you should maybe rent it and play it over a weekend with a friend or two watching it like a movie.