As a quick summary Beyond Two Souls is the latest game from the team that brought us Heavy Rain on the PS3 back in 2009. The game stars Ellen Page and Willem Defoe and is a Playstation 3 exclusive that follows Jodie Holmes (Page) as the protagonist. Jodie is a 23 year old woman who is psychically tethered to a ghostly entity she calls Aiden. The events of the game are not in chronological order and jump backwards and forwards spanning 15 years of Jodie’s life.
Straight off the bat it feels like Heavy Rain with the beautiful graphics, pitch perfect soundtrack, movie-like camera angles and, of course, the on screen controller prompts. Similarly, the character animations are simply stunning with the use of motion capture and really help the characters feel human which in turn makes us feel an emotional connection towards them as you progress with the game.
It may sound like a headache with levels jumping all over the place but it’s really not. The beginning of each level shows you a timeline and where in that timeline, in relation to other levels, the next one takes place. On top of which Quantic Dreams has done a fantastic job of subtlely making Jodie look older/younger as required in each level outside of the obvious height and hair style.
Due to the strong emotionally connection we feel towards the characters, in particular Jodie, when we see her mistreated or upset we want to help her. This is where Aiden jumps in, you’re given choices throughout the game on what to do with your entity friend and sometimes you’ll find yourself doing bad things simply because you want to get revenge for Jodie. You know you shouldn’t but you won’t be able to help yourself and that’s exactly what they’re aiming for in this game. You have the good side in Jodie who’ll always try to do the right thing whereas Aiden can simply do whatever the hell he wants. It feels good to have that kind of power and freedom to protect Jodie even if she usually ends up talking the blame.
The choices you make and the actions you choose to perform will affect the games direction, though as you may expect the smaller decisions like what to say will ultimately have you finish in the same place. This adds replay value to find out just what might have happened if you didn’t attack that person or you chose the stealthy approach instead of using Aiden to cause absolute chaos. On top of which there are also hidden bonuses on each level for Aiden to find. The experience isn’t broken up by trophy pop-ups either as they wait till the end of the level to show you what you’ve won. You’ll find yourself sucked into the world of Beyond Two Souls and just wanting to do one more level. And Another. And Another.
Occasionally you may be snapped out of the experience when animations jutter or you didn’t quite press the right stick far enough which starts and then quickly ends the animation in an awkward manner. These are rare and only last a second but it does snap you out of the world for a few seconds.
With Heavy Rain it felt like a movie except the on screen prompts that would pop up telling you which button to press. With Beyond, they’ve clearly tried to have less prompts on screen and those that are tend to be more subtle. For example, rather than telling you to push the right stick towards an object there is simply a white dot on the object meaning you have to push the stick towards it to interact. Similarly, quick time events no longer rely on a series of button presses. Instead, the animation will go into slow motion and you have to push the right stick in the direction that Jodie’s body is moving to complete the action. This is a nice addition but it can sometimes be a little difficult to work out which direction you’re suppose to be pressing. On the plus side to getting it wrong though it’s not game over just the fight, for example, takes a turn for the worse but you still have a chance to recover. This does make it a bit more realistic as the fight scene isn’t just one person beating on another there is a back and forth to it.
The level order is very clever also, you’ll rarely get two fast pace levels back to back as there’ll be a slower more story driven one in the middle. This helps to break the game up though those looking for a pure action game may be disappointed when a level consists of just talking or preparing dinner. Gamers that like to explore will often find themselves doing mundane tasks even on the higher tempo levels just to find out what happens when you interact with each object. The faster pace levels include stealth missions, now the stealth isn’t exactly Splinter Cell as it’s not that type of game but it’s very well done and is similar in the way you move between cover and take out your enemies. With the added addition of Aiden who can distract guards or even eliminate them himself given the chance.
Whether you liked Heavy Rain or not, Beyond Two Souls is a fantastic game for the Playstation 3’s swan song and worth a try for any gamer who enjoys a good story. There’s more supernatural elements to it than we expected going into the game but you’ll soon fall in love with the world you’ve found yourself in.