Sometimes I wonder if the very definition of a video game is too narrow and constricted. In an industry where flinging birds go hand in hand with offing zombies, there are somethings that appear off piece. If we were to go by conventional wisdom, Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls can barely be defined as one despite being an experience one can only have on a games console.
Why you might ask? Controls are minimal and you’re instructed to use them as they appear on the screen and in some cases, deft use of the right analogue stick does help your cause as the game teaches you to do so when needed (read: the moment you go into a slow-motion segment). Unlike the studio’s last outing, Heavy Rain, the controls are a lot more forgiving and work seemingly well with the action on screen.
You’re Jodie Holmes, a girl who has Aiden, an entity who is formless and shapeless to the human eye, like a ghost, tied to her for reasons that are explained as you make your way through an extremely detailed, atmospheric world.
In spite of the developers taking some liberties in adding a few segments that are completely unnecessary to the plot and could even be considered as needless padding by some, it still manages to hold its own. Concepts such as life, death, spirituality and the afterlife brilliantly feature with a healthy dose of sci-fi, horror and psychological elements. Without spoiling much it’s safe to say that Beyond Two Souls has one of the strongest and poignant stories in the interactive medium that I’ve had the pleasure of playing through.
The production values are second to none with fantastic character models, minimal texture pop-in, slick animations and pitch perfect voice acting. So much so that you’d be hard-pressed to believe that this isn’t a movie complete with a complementing musical score. Yes, it’s that well done. Even more so when you consider that the PS3 is almost a decade old.
Though the gameplay seems like an afterthought what with simplistic controls, the urgency at which you manage to provide the required inputs determines the direction in which the plot goes. What this means is you have control of where the story takes you but only when Beyond: Two Souls wants you to. Considering that it does have multiple endings, you’ll find yourself playing through again to see what might have been.
This adherence to story and lack of user freedom works well for most part, to the point where questions such as “is this even a game?” don’t even enter into the equation because everything is so damn enjoyable. The queries and problems stem from certain scenarios in the game that allow for stealth, riding (yes, riding) and melee based interactions that make you wish you had greater control.
Further more, the narrative takes you through a range of interesting vistas such as the depths of the ocean and the arid desert lands where you would assume (given how other games have conditioned us) that you’d have a little more leeway on what would appear to be sandbox styled areas.
Rather the moment you deviate from the game’s path that’s been set out for you, you’ll find the camera gently putting you back on the track you need to take. It’s during these moments that you wish the game allowed for just a little more exploration. This results in an uneasy pace of play that despite an overriding logic and structure, feels at odds with itself.
Nonetheless, this is one title you’ll find yourself playing till the very end simply because of the way it’s presented. You’ll find yourself in Jodie’s shoes from the ages of 8 to 23. Not in chronological order mind you. In stead you’ll be playing a seemingly random sequence of events which further convalesce into a stunning climax. Sure, once you’re done with it you can play it again in order but it loses the charm and impact that makes Beyond Two Souls so compelling despite of its issues.
Perplexingly high price aside (odd considering Sony locally manufactures PS3 first party titles like this)is Beyond Two Souls worth playing? Yes, if you’re a sucker for a great story and have no qualms about indulging in QTEs (that are suprisingly forgiving and dare I say, almost fun). However if your idea of gaming is defined by the freedom and exploration that we’re treated to nowadays then you might this a tad threadbare.