Beyond: Two Souls

Developed by: Quantic Dream
By Matt Ross
Nov 05, 2013

There’s a strange feeling of déjà vu during Beyond: Two Souls’ opening scenes. A young girl, who bears a striking resemblance to Ellen Page looks forlorn and anxious, terrified of the world around her. It could almost be a cutscene from this year’s brilliant The Last Of Us. However, unlike Naughty Dog’s critically acclaimed apocalyptic masterpiece, Beyond has Page onboard in an official capacity (rather than The Last Of Us merely purloining her likeness), as both she and Willem Defoe ‘star’ in the latest title from David Cage and his studio, Quantic Dream.

Unfortunately, this is where the similarity to The Last Of Us ends. Beyond, though beautiful to look at – not least thanks to the remarkable motion capture and emotive performances from the game’s two Hollywood stars – is ultimately a passive and unrewarding experience. There’s an intriguing concept at the heart of the story. A young girl, Jodie, is linked to a sentient entity, Aiden. Players can switch between the two, using Jodie to navigate the real world while Aiden floats around the spirit realm, able to control people and objects to a limited degree. The non-linear narrative, though bewildering at times, is vaguely entertaining – if massively over-written, confirming once again that Cage doesn’t know how to edit himself. But the style of gameplay, and the overly interactive nature of the interface, which has now become one of Cage’s trademarks, wears thin very quickly. Often, you’re required to control Jodie through such mundane tasks (cleaning up her apartment, cooking a meal, getting changed) that the experience is more akin to playing The Sims. And when the action ramps up, Beyond quickly devolves into little more than a series of quick time events, when all the player is required to do is press the right button at the right time and watch the flashy visuals play out.

There is such potential here, which makes Beyond all the more disappointing. The possibilities inherent in controlling a character and an ethereal entity are almost endless, but Beyond does little more than scratch the surface. This is more of an interactive movie than a true game. Doubtless, it’s an incredible technical achievement, but the very essence of a truly great game – an immersive experience for the player – is conspicuous by its absence.

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