Master storyteller, David Cage and developer Quantic Dream are at it again. Never afraid of towing the line with genre defining interactive properties, Quantic Dream presses the video game boundaries further, with their latest heart tugging and emotional adventure. With a touch of Hollywood flair, Quantic Dream has boldly taken players on an engrossing journey of discovery with Beyond: Two Souls. Completing this masterfully told interactive story, Quantic Dream once again proves that video games can be so much more than the mundane or common denominator of gameplay experiences.
In Beyond: Two Souls, we follow the adolescent years of Jodie Holmes played by Ellen Page, as she is linked to an invisible entity that in many ways defines her life. Unable to live the life of the ordinary, Jodie’s attachment to this entity steers her life in a direction that becomes miraculous for mankind, as well as a manipulative tool for those seeking to pursue their own self-indulgence.
Known simply as Aiden, Jodie’s hovering apparition plays a major part in how Jodie is perceived. Players are able to take control of both Jodie and Aiden throughout the experience, enabling players to have two perspectives for any given situation. The game also offers the option of playing cooperatively with Jodie and Aiden, a sort of duo gameplay that lends exceptionally well at narrowing each players perspective, viewing the world through their eyes, while keeping the ride closely centered to the perspective of the games two key players.
For the majority, this compelling ride will have players dancing back and forth between Jodie and Aiden with the push of the triangle button of the dualshock 3 controller. As though unrestricted by the laws of matter or gravity, swimming through the air as Aiden, players gain almost limitless reach the games surrounding areas, just as long as Jodie is in close proximity. Aiden can gain access to unreachable areas, move through walls to listen to closed door conversations adding to the plot, manipulate select objects in a given environment to grab your attention, as well as take control of select human targets for extreme measures or simply absorb their life essence leaving them for dead.
Beyond: Two Souls is far from your conventional video game affair and I would encourage players to be as curious as they can imagine while playing, in order to gain the wealth of insight tied to the games plot. Aiden’s perspective gives Jodie more information of her undiscovered life, as well as encouraging players to reach for those obscure nuggets along the way. While Aiden displays obvious signs of aiding Jodie throughout her life, the life to be ordinary is a constant graving for Jodie who desperately wants to be normal. Yet, as Aiden seems forever bound to Jodie, she is crying out for human relationships without the distraction of Aiden. As though born with a severe case of tourettes, struggling to keep it in check, Jodie oftentimes finds herself pleading with Aiden not to ruin first dates, to stay out her business and to stop getting her in trouble with the less understanding humans. In due time, clear signs of jealousy and unspoken compassion become evident in our unknown entity, with bread scrums of insight of our sometimes unwelcome guest.
In the same vein as Heavy Rain, Quantic Dream manifests players in the Beyond: Two Souls universe, giving them the option of choice and consequence. Not as heavily noted as Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls offers players the option of response upon questioning from NPC’s which is made up from answering with lies, truth, and sincerity, to sarcasm, aggression, anger and so on. Depending on how you progressively mode Jodie with answered responses will determine which situations players ultimately find themselves in. However, those all important story elements of this engrossing plot still remain. Beyond: Two Souls could be criticized as a cinematic heavy animation movie that is quite absent of the dire consequences associated with your typical video games. To such a criticism, sure, there is certainly room for an adequate debate. However, this critic has always favored quality and memorable experiences over the prosaic gaming offerings set forth by the unimaginative. With Beyond: Two Souls, you have quite the exception as the production value and memorable experiences exude from every encounter.
Adding a bit of flair to the direction of action sequences, Quantic Dream adds a slow-motion aided fight/action choreography which does just enough to add more tension to Jodie’s particular circumstance. During these sequences which are mostly performed in a form of CQC (close quarters combat) scenario, Jodie is given a little more than a split second to execute an evasive and or combative maneuver in an effort not to take too much punishment while dishing it out. Personally I found myself taking quite a bit of punishment as enemy movements and attacks gradually increased. Jodie’s evasive dexterity does get tested by other elements far more dangerous than CIA operatives. Added to the challenge of executing your attacks and evasive moves, the tap of the toggle in the accurate direction is challenged by varied camera angles. This effect made for more believable encounters as Jodie. While Jodie does become a formidable young woman in her prime years, expecting Jodie to go unscathed is a pipe dream. Jodie can get punished, while certainly dishing out much more than a few take-downs with her signature face strike.
While Beyond: Two Souls may not offer any mnew and innovative ways to engage the enemy or traverse a given environment, the total package vibrantly shines with simple gameplay and intuitive mechanics, eye-pleasing visual fidelity that oftentimes rivals facial photo-realism and a story narrative told in 20 vignette ‘Momento’ sequences.
Beyond: Two Souls is all about the uninterrupted ride. Whether your missed step which got Jodie arrested or inaccurate toggle direction gets Jodie knocked senseless, there are no campaign respawns. The game continues to associate each encounter to the next pre-determined story outcome aggressively pushing the plot forward. Because of this, the world of Beyond: Two Souls becomes plausible, gripping the players imagination of discovery. Sure, Jodie can enter a given room for exploration which in itself is limited or she may be unable to traverse the many hallways of the place she has called home for most of her adolescent years, yet the game intelligently engages the player with enough intrigue, making each vignette memorable and distinguishable from the last.
At the core of this experience, character development and the amazing plot are the pillars keeping it all together. Beyond: Two Souls starring Ellen Page, William Dafoe and Kadeem Hardison, portray characters which are sincere to their video game disposition at a level that is surreal. As though objectively positioned with motion picture ambitions, no two characters are alike, as character expressions are both distinguishable and organic. Characters express compassion and sincere loss of life as well as moments of triumph and appreciation. Much of this is communicated in facial expressions and realistic body gesturing far beyond the common expressions of today’s video games. While some of the known characters in the story such as William Dafoe and Kadeem Hardison bring an amazing level of balance and top-notch acting which is vividly portrayed in each of their sets, this has to be the greatest performance by Ellen Page I have ever seen and that is certainly saying much for the young and acclaimed actress. With multiple movie credits and awards associated with the talented young actress, I believe her greatest work to date is illustrated as Jodie. To say see nailed the role would be a gross understatement.
In an effort not to spoil any of the games mouth-dropping plot reveals, it is highly encouraged that you experience Quantic Dream’s latest adventure. Beyond: Two Souls is the perfect mix of blending both gaming and movie quality cinema as an unforgettable interactive experience. From her childhood years you want the best for the innocent and vulnerable little girl named Jodie. You might even hold back tears as she screams from the terrors which are unseen yet haunt her sleep, leaving our little princess oftentimes bruised with visible facial scars. In spite of it all, our little princess grows into an accomplished and formidable young woman with an extraordinary story to tell.
Beyond: Two Souls is one of the most captivating stories I have experienced in the form of a video game, easily rivaling the great works found in literature, theater, and movies.