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Beyond: Two Souls is, at its core, a cinematic experience more than a video game. It’s the spiritual successor to Heavy Rain, and if you’re a fan of David Cage’s earlier work then you should know what to expect by now. With a large focus on storytelling and the hiring of some high-quality voice actors, why was it so hard for me to play Beyond: Two Souls beyond two minutes? Let’s find out.

If any game were to drive home the point that a huge budget does not always guarantee the creation of something fantastic, Beyond: Two Souls would be my prime example. The term “cinematic experience” also makes me want to hurl a little.

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In Beyond: Two Souls, you’re in control of Jodie (voiced by Ellen Page); a girl who has been tethered to a spiritual companion named Aiden for her entire life. You’ll jump across the timeline of her existence in a non-sequential nature, which seemed to me as some vanilla method of creativity. Never once did this form of storytelling seem effective and I found it to be more bothersome than anything, but when combined with the extreme linearity of the gameplay, it morphed into something nightmares are made of.

Even the plot of Two Souls — its primary focus — is constantly predictable; M. Night plot-twist endings included. You’ll come across your fair share of interesting characters, like a group of homeless people barely scraping by or a family of Navajo knee-deep in their customs and spirituality, but their storylines didn’t really interact with the narrative as it played out. To me, they came off as spin-off side-quests that had a DLC feel, where no matter how important the issue at hand might have been, it was rarely (if ever) spoken about afterwards.

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For instance, I spent roughly two hours in the Navajo storyline and really enjoyed the characters I came across (not the gameplay), but they were never mentioned again until the very end when I was asked to select from a list of love interests. They were literally absent in every way, yet one of their faces popped up asking if I’d like to take him on as my life partner after the final cinematic as if it were some sort of choice with consequence hidden behind smoke and mirrors.

Other parts of the game, like the CIA missions (terrible cover-fire and terrain sticking issues included) seem implemented only to appeal to the shooter crowd, who more than likely would have overlooked Beyond: Two Souls from the get go. These “action” sequences were also constantly marred by clunky controls, terrain clipping, sloppy QTE execution and plenty of hand-holding as I made my way from Hallway-A to Hallway-B.

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During conversations you’re given multiple choices, but they always seemed to lead to the same outcome. Having an NPC come up to Jodie at a bar and asking if she wanted to play pool, I figured selecting “no” would have left well enough alone. The NPC, however, didn’t get the hint and we ended up playing pool together anyway. This is just one example, but seemed to be a constant trend.

I think the hard part is that choices are there, and I’m sure they alter the conversations in some way, but they were more like a mirage to give that fake sense of choice with consequence, or a “choose your own adventure” book where every choice asked you to turn to the exact same page.

Gameplay switches from exploration/QTE’ing as Jodie to using Aiden to drift between walls and interact with objects with a clunky control scheme. Controlling Aiden was much like I imagined trying to pilot a submarine while using the old wall-clipping cheat code from Doom. In short, it’s a complete mess and a pretty large portion of the game.

Interacting with objects as Aiden is done by holding down the L1 button while flicking both analog sticks back (my girlfriend referred to it as “rubberbanding”, which seems pretty accurate), pulling them apart to possess (should the option actually exist) or pressing them together to KO guards (again, should this option be decided for you by the game itself).

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As I just explained, Aiden can possess specific (emphasis on the term “specific”) NPCs to open a door or shoot down other NPCs before offing themselves and allowing Jodie to progress forward. Having the option to possess any NPC would have been a lot more rewarding, but there is literally one NPC in a large group that you can interact with, and they’re chosen for you by the game itself. It’s similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle, as there is only one way to put the pieces together.

While controlling Jodie, the game itself is one gigantic linear hallway littered with QTE’s. While in combat, the game will slow down and you have to tilt the right analog stick in the direction of Jodie’s body movement. Sounds easy enough in theory, but sometimes it’s impossible to tell exactly which direction she’s going. This isn’t even a big deal as Jodie cannot die at any point during the storyline. Nope.

Graphically, Beyond: Two Souls has some of the best character models and facial animations in a game to date.. when it works as intended. Two Souls suffers from constant texture pop-in (I would say it’s on par with ID’s Rage), occasional screen tearing and constant use of invisible walls.

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It was nice to see how Quantic Dream aged certain characters over time, but I was baffled when characters I met once or twice looked noticeably better than a pivotal character, such as Jodie’s adoptive mother who suffered from hair that resembled a created wrestler from a PS2-era Smackdown vs. RAW game.

For all of the money that went in to hiring a top-notch voice cast, it didn’t feel like a lot of their budget went in to fine-tuning the control scheme as I constantly got stuck on terrain, caused cut-scenes to repeat and endured absurdly frequent quick-time events.

Overall, with the story being the primary selling point for Beyond: Two Souls, I didn’t find it engaging and, as I mentioned earlier, found it to be extremely predictable. The voice-acting, as expected, is top-notch, but the clunky controls of both Jodie and Aiden, the constant (albeit expected, as it’s a David Cage “game”) QTE’s, the mangled, non-chronological storytelling and being the apotheosis of linearity caused Two Souls to crash and burn for me at an early stage. I honestly think it could have passed as a CGI mini-series on the SyFy channel, but not as any form of “cinematic experience” masked as a video game.

Beyond Two Souls Review

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Written by CheapBossAttack

Freelance games writer, cat person, and horror enthusiast. I'm mostly a sewer-dwelling console heathen with a passion for RPGs, point-and-click adventures, and survival horror. Follow me on Twitter @cheapbossattack.

26 comments

  1. Arg. It doesn’t sound like Quantic improved upon Heavy Rain in the least. I was so excited for this game originally, and now I can’t bring myself to even buy/attempt it. Think I’d be better off just sending money to the voice actors…

    1. It’s generally in stock and any Red Box kiosk that I’ve visited, so if you enjoyed Heavy Rain at all, maybe give it a shot there? At least it’s only $2-$4 to rent for a few days. I wasn’t a big Heavy Rain or Indigo Prophecy fan as it is.

      1. Great idea. Think a $2 try is about all I will give it. I enjoyed Heavy Rain, but that was before I could really call myself a console gamer. Now that fps head-shots and 100+-hour rpgs are under my belt, I am afraid all the QTEs will get to me.

  2. I was also one who was really excited for this, but extremely disappointed by all of the negative reception it got. Seems like a case of hubris on David Cage’s part. Maybe I’ll finally play it when it launches with PlayStation Now.

    1. That or maybe you can rent it through Red Box? It’s easily beatable in 2-3 days, so you’re looking at $6 max for a rental if you still want to check it out.

  3. I agree 100% with this review. I actually didn’t even like the demo for this game but I had to buy it to convince myself that it was going to be as awesome as Heavy Rain. Beyond Two Souls lacks everything good and fun that made Heavy Rain special.

  4. I quite enjoyed Beyond Two Souls. True some sequences seemed to have little significance, but the game takes little snapshots of a life to tell an overall story. Some people or events in our lives might have a whole lot of impact on the future, and you may never see the people again, but that’s not to say it wasn’t worth experiencing.

    I’m glad I was able to experience the game. It may not blow you away, but it was worth the experience in my opinion.

    -avideogamelife.com

    1. Hey, I’m actually glad you enjoyed it and I’m happy to see a positive reaction to the game in general. I just found the whole experience lacking – especially the story. Controlling Aiden was agonizing, as was anything with any form of actual gameplay at all. If it were a comic book or a short mini-series, I would have dug it a lot more, but the actual “game” portions got in the way.

    1. Both did stellar jobs acting out their characters. The graphics and voice acting were the only saving graces for me, but the overall experience was beyond lackluster. Someone once said to me that anyone who played Beyond: Two Souls needs a cupcake and a tight hug, and I agree with them.

  5. I liked Heavy Rain so I was pretty excited for this, especially with such a good voice cast. Haven’t bought it though, as the reviews have been universally mediocre to bad. So disappointing.

  6. Totally agree on this. There were some cool sequences, but overall I didn’t enjoy this game much at all. Bad controls and some really boring scenarios. I struggled to finish it to be honest. Great review.

  7. I have never liked David Cage; always acting as if he knows everything about games even though his “games” show that he doesn’t. Pretentious is what he is. A pretentious “writer” who doesn’t know how to structure a decent story if it saved his life. Indigo Prophecy was a shambles and Heavy Rain was average, but still didn’t have a story to make it even considered good. Great review, however, for a David Cage game you focused on the “gameplay”, you do know it’s about the emotions and the polygons (sarcasm, just to be safe, twas a spot on review).

  8. I hate QTE’s. When are game devs going to realize that QTE’s suck? If i wanted to waste my time hitting color coded buttons like a trained chimp I would just grab my old ‘Simon’ game from my mom’s basement. Anyway, does this game at least have a bunch of different endings like Heavy Rain does?

    1. It has a few different endings, yeah, but the stipulation is suffering through the game first. Multiple times. I’d recommend checking Youtube instead.

      I don’t mind QTE’s when it’s sparse and effective. Even in Ryse, I didn’t mind the execution system at all, but there are no QTE’s during cutscenes or anything.

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