REVIEW – Everybody has inner demons. Some have alcoholism, other cigarettes, drugs, or other addictions, maybe childhood traumas. Jodie Holmes, the young American girl’s inner beast is a little different: her demons are real, and it’s called „Aiden,” he can manipulate objects, possess people, and if needed he’ll kill, destroy, to defend his host. No wonder that the C.I.A. took Jodie and her „pet ghost,” but not even they can control them.
Beyond Two Souls reminds most of us of Stephen King novels but with spectacular graphics, where we get to control a girl that has supernatural abilities. The game was released exclusively for the PlayStation 3 as an action – adventure game with a non-linear narrative. The story tells the adventures of Jodie and these moments are sometimes scary, and disturbing.
The French development team Quantic Dream is a real veteran when it comes to the adventure game genre. As they released their first game was in 1999 under the title Omikron: The Nomad Soul. The game was a unique sci-fi adventure where even David Bowie appeared and sung a song. Fahrenheit was their second game, and it laid the groundwork for their respective media genre that they later perfected in their newer games.
Fahrenheit was not only original but an exciting adventure that sold 800.000 units that are pretty good. At the same time, Quantic Dreams broke into mainstream consciousness with 2010’s Heavy Rain that was a psychological thriller that allowed the player to control four different characters to catch the child killer only known as „origami killer.” The game’s graphics are considered to be one of the best, until now of course as Beyond: Two Souls can surpass it.
I am the Firestarter!
Those who live the master of horror’s books will enjoy Beyond Two Souls’ twists and turns, events, characters, as they will feel familiar. Jodie and Aiden’s relationship reminded me of The Shining where the little kid had its personal demon Tony „who lived in his mouth.” The plot point about the CIA recruiting Jodie reminded me of Firestarter, and there is even a scene (I won’t tell you which one), is familiar to Carrie. So Beyond is a real treat for Stephen King fans, but no need to worry all of this is dripped slowly for the player.
The game’s two main protagonists: Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. Two Hollywood stars who not only lend their voice to the character but they were also digitalized for the game.
Ellen Page simulator?
So what kind of game is Beyond: Two Souls? How do we control the two main characters? (As Aiden can be considered a separate role). Why do we call this game an „interactive movie”? Well for those played Heavy Rain will not be surprised regarding controls: we use the buttons and sticks on the PlayStation 4 at the right time. There is no dedicated go forward or punch button, as all of the movement controls are contextual. So if we’re arguing with somebody or fighting (Jodie does that a lot considering she is a CIA agent), then we have to move the right stick at the right time, but at other times, we might use that stick to open a door or get into a car.
Other buttons are also situation dependent: for instance, when climbing a mountain, we’ll have to hold buttons for a bit (Heavy Rain players will probably remember the part where we had to get up to the top of the muddy hill with the FBI agent). Well, Beyond has many same segments like that.
Players who got fed up with Heavy Rain’s complicated controls will be happy to hear that the developers turned down the pointless „movements.” Finally, no more five button presses just to get a glass of water from the table. Luckily the developers also skipped on the dull everyday life moments such as teeth brushing, showering, going to the toilet, and kite flying with kids – at least, we won’t have to do such things in this game
Another unique solution is that we won’t have to go in alone to experience Ellie’s adventures. The game allows two people to sit down, and one of them controls Aiden, and another person can control Jodie.
What is genuinely unique in Beyond is the ability to control Aiken. The soul living in Jodie can be summoned any time, in fact, there are points in the game where we automatically control him, as we cannot progress without him. We can manipulate items in some different ways, and we are invisible at the same time. Just a note that these actions are limited, so we can’t lift up Jodie’s skirt to take a peek… but let’s get back to Aiden
For instances in one mission, we have to sneak into a facility that has documentation that we need. We can do this by merely possessing an Arab soldier, walking up to the safe, opening it, and then through his eyes, we can write down the contents of the documents that the soldier / we see. Another time we have to escape from commando units and to hold them off, we can blow up objects around them, or possess one of them to kill the poor sods. Jodie has tremendous powers thanks to Aiden, but this leads to tragic moments in life as she is consistently on the run.
A few tough calls.
Thanks to Stephen King novels and from a few other horror stories, we can probably guess how much of a curse Aiden is. Jodie in her young and teen years gets bullied by her peers, and even her parents are afraid of her. „I see dead people,” says the little kid, but Jodie sees demons, so pretty much the average human would get a heart attack if they kept seeing those monsters every day. Finally, when she thinks she found her „family with the CIA, we all know that a lot of blood is on the hands of the organization.
I do not want to spoil the big twists, but Quantic Dreams wrote Beyond‘s story in a way that allows us to identify with Jodie. That leads to a much more shocking experience than compared to their previous effort Heavy Rain. As a bonus, the game has Hungarian subtitles.
Ellen Page „Oscar winner” CGI looks
We were awed at how excellent The Last of Us looked on the PlayStation 4, and just how powerful the machine is even at the end of its life cycle. Beyond Two Souls can one-up The Last of Us and Ellen Page in this game is not some mere Photoshop trickery, but a detailed model of Page.
Jodie is probably one of the most well-detailed characters in video game history.
Quantic Dreams reached this level of quality in Heavy Rain where the look and expressions of the characters were lifelike. All of the characters are detailed, and I had never seen such detailed graphics when it came to the human body, not just on consoles but the PC either If someone only looks at the characters they might forget to check how detailed and fascinating the textures look. One thing is for certain those that live and die for excellent graphics should not miss out on this game.
I can’t claim that everybody will love Beyond: for example, those that love TPS/FPS games, or point-n-click adventure games will not be satisfied by Beyond. As Quantic Dream used pretty much the recipe from Heavy Rain, the fans of that game will love Beyond, however, those who did not enjoy that game should probably skip Miss Page’s virtual acting.
For gamers that are not hardcore or just want some unique interactive game, I recommend them Quantic Dream’s latest „movie,” they’ll enjoy it!
+ Great non-linear story
+ Detailed characters, especially Jodie
+ Controlling Aiden is fun, especially with two players
– Some people might not like the quick time events
– A few of the CIA trainings are not fun
– If you do, not like these types of games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Quantic Dream
Genre: Interactive, Action-adventure
Release date: 2015.11.24