Beyond: Two Souls Doesn’t Go That Far Beyond Heavy Rain

By Spencer . October 8, 2013 . 1:01pm

The interactive drama genre falls somewhere between visual novels and FMV games that sprung up on the Sega CD. Heavy Rain borrowed Dragon’s Lair’s quick-time event gameplay, but had a character driven story that players could change to a degree depending on their choices. Beyond: Two Souls ups the ante with Hollywood talent like Ellen Page as Jodie Holmes, who is linked to an Entity called Aiden, and William Dafoe, a paranormal researcher that looks after her.

 

The story chronicles Jodie’s life from a child to adult.

 

Aiden is a separate character that you can switch to by pressing triangle. With Aiden, you can survey an area and use his energy to blast open doors or strangle enemies. While Aiden is all powerful, there are a limited number of things the Entity can interact with. You can only possess certain characters, for example, and when Jodie is in trouble you can’t simply summon Aiden to solve all of her problems. When I controlled Aiden, I felt like I was playing a hidden object game in no clipping mode looking for a trigger to move the story forward instead of being Jodie’s omnipotent guardian.

 

If you go off the beaten path you can find objects that Aiden can interact with, that unlock bonus content.

 

There are times when you protect Jodie from other Entities and Beyond: Two Souls briefly feels like a light gun game without the light gun. Players “shoot” spirits by pulling both analog sticks back to charge energy and then release to send it forward. Usually, adult Jodie isn’t helpless. She becomes a CIA agent and Beyond: Two Souls has QTE combat scenes where you flick the right stick to punch or dodge. The underlying idea of moving the stick in the direction of Jodie’s punch is simple enough, but sometimes the correct action is unclear. The game registers commands in all eight directions, so sometimes you think you may have escaped an attack by pressing down, but the game really wanted down-left.

 

Beyond: Two Souls also fumbles with awkward cover shooting that uses the same QTE control scheme.

 

In fact, all of the combat is largely unnecessary. What makes Beyond: Two Souls (or any other interactive story game) interesting isn’t pressing the X button at the right time; it’s making impactful decisions that affect the story. Should Jodie pull a Carrie on teenagers that tormented her during a party or be a bigger person and leave the scene without taking revenge? Is Jodie the type of person that would steal when she’s starving? What happens to Jodie if she does? Beyond: Two Souls sets up choices for players, but these are sporadically spaced between forced action scenes designed to make the game feel like a big-budget Hollywood production.

 

On the other hand, Beyond tries to distinguish itself by interweaving slice-of-life scenes  like Jodie cleaning up her apartment before a date. Early in the game, players get to control a child Jodie who is bored and stuck inside her house on a snowy day. You can bother your parents or draw doodles of Aiden by mashing the X button. Later on, you can help a teenage Jodie can sneak out of the “house” when she’s grounded. Most of the slice-of-life scenes don’t involve Aiden as much, but I think Beyond would have been more interesting if Jodie lived an ordinary life with an Entity instead of toppling regimes and wandering through sacred Navajo land.

 

However, the story in Beyond isn’t really about Jodie’s life. It’s about the mysteries surrounding her. Who or what is this supernatural Entity following Jodie around? And is Nathan acting like a father figure because he has ulterior motives? To keep players guessing, Beyond skips around Jodie’s life each time a clue is presented. Beyond provides answers, but the conclusion may be unsatisfying, especially if you’re expecting your choices to have a large impact on the plot.

 

You can replay scenes and see how events play out if you made different choices at any time. However, if you decide to continue from a different story branch, you have to overwrite your save progress. I experimented with making different choices in Beyond and while these alter the story to some degree, players can’t deviate wildly from the path Quantic Dream set. The game acknowledges your choices by haphazardly referring to events that happened in passing no matter how serious they may be.

 

The feeling I got is I was a spectator that made suggestions on how the game should proceed rather than a player driving the plot. I suppose Quantic Dream had to lay Beyond out this way because the tale is about the lore and not the journey.

 

Food for thought:

 

1. Is it a requirement to have at least one superfluous shower scene in a Quantic Dream interactive drama? Beyond: Two Souls continues the tradition with two them.

 

2. Beyond tries too hard to scare players too with loud noises and Resident Evil-like shocks. Enough games have walking dead, Beyond doesn’t need to tick off the zombie box.

 

3. Beyond has at least one scene you wouldn’t expect to play in a video game.


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  • Tenshiken

    I’m starting to really appreciate reviews like these that don’t try to boil down a whole game’s experience to simple number.

  • Kintaro

    and this is the ultimate example that beautiful and detailed graphics don’t make a good ‘game’ if this can be called a game…it’s more like a movie with some QTE’s between some scenes…I miss the days when we had full control of the character.

    • Wtv

      Actually, I think the term “game” is already wrong, but we still will use it forever. Don’t forget that visual novel are considered games. The Walking Dead was more like a interactive movie, but still considered a game.

      And we have things like Journey where you can’t even lose, but it’s still a game.

      Games are already evolved from their basic meaning, but we still use it.

      So I think Beyond and Heavy Rain are valid “games”, just like the term is used today. But some people still don’t like it.

      • Josué

        Agree. People should start separating games from interactive movies and the like and stop expecting these kind of experiences to be games.

        • Rohan Viajar

          I don’t think that was Wtv’s point, Josue. (I mean correct me if I’m wrong)

          Wtv pointed out that he/she thinks that these are still called games, it’s just that some people will like it and some people won’t. You, on the other hand, said that they shouldn’t be categorized as games.

          I am not saying your opinion is bad. It just sounded like your opinion was conflicting with saying “Agree”

          • Wtv

            Well, It would maybe be better that way. But this reminds me so much about the whole JRPG/RPG thing. About JRPG not being role playing at all…

            I agree in fact. And I don’t care if they call it another name. But that won’t happen. JRPG are still called that even though it’s not really RPG in their literal meaning.

            And I think the same thing is happening to the term “Video Game”. I would accept a new term, but that’s not happening, so we can just accept it as a new genre and realize that “Video Game” isn’t just games anymore.

      • kthanxyousuck

        Exactly. Hell if flower can be considered a game this can as well.

    • Exkaiser

      This is why the people who make them don’t call them games, perhaps.

  • 60hz

    never dug these as a gamer, perhaps as a movie watcher i would like them, but i still have Attack On Titan catching up to do, so i’ll pass…

    • Max

      Out of topic but…your avatar rocks man! I love GR!

      • 60hz

        haha – thanks but GR is always ON topic so no worries! lol

  • Teepo 64

    Sometimes a good looking game is an opinion. An undeniably great looking game will rock rain and/or snow.

    Funny how people complain about the QTEs. I swear no one complained about Dragon’s Lair about being a game back in the day and people payed an entire dollar for a chance to play it in the arcades.

    • ChiffonCake

      Standards have gone up since then.

    • AkuLord3

      When its not boring QTEs and lame padding out scenes…and a guy who thinks he’s sooo great and well done in his work then sure

  • linkenski

    I’m just a bit anxious over how divisive the feedback has been in regards to the quality of the story in this game.
    …Aw heck! I’m buying it tomorrow and then I’ll just hope I didn’t waste 60 bucks!

    • Dagobert

      You should have pre-ordered it on the Sony online store a couple of months ago, they had it for 34.99$. That’s where I got my copy from which they haven’t shipped it yet for some reason.

    • Aoshi00

      I like VNs, walking dead, or heavy rain a lot, so I think id like it, in fact i’m trying to not read or watch much to go into the game fresh,I think it comes down to if u like this kind of point and click experience with more immersive graphics. I used to find it fun to carry out mundane activity in Shenmue lol.. I imported it so I would need to wait a bit.. Gonna play the story at least twice, once in eng then in Jpn like heavy rain..

      • Shippoyasha

        Shenmue did it right by making the world feel immersive with the mundane chores though. Shenmue 2 allowed more freedom to skip them if you felt inclined. That series is so ahead of its time, it’s scary.

  • NightzeroAX

    I’ve been watching a stream for about 3 hours and still watching it now. This game is “the feels” heavy. An excellent movie.

    • NightzeroAX

      I take back what i said about it being excellent.

  • leingod

    I’m OK with QTEs and shower scenes, so if the story’s good I’m in. Loved Heavy Rain and Fahrenheit.

  • kthanxyousuck

    This games aren’t for everyone and that’s fine. I absolutely loved heavy rain because of the dramatic story, even though you were watching a mystery being solved and not doing much of anything else.

    I didn’t understand the appeal of flower at all. So to each it’s own.

  • ZekeFreek

    Beyond is really about David Cage stroking his pretentious cock.

  • Juan Andrés Valencia

    I’m still probably buying it. I loved the demo and I love QD (Even Omikron).

  • Ryumoau

    David Cage spends way too much time trying to copy movies and not enough concentrating on what makes Games unique: the gameplay.

    • NimbusStev

      That’s the thing though, it’s not quite a game because of the heavy focus on cinematic elements. It’s also not a movie because it has gameplay. And that, in itself, is what makes it unique.

      • AkuLord3

        Not really no…its been done before but better (Shenmue, Metal Gear…but those games remember that…its a game)

        • Max

          Oh Shenmue…how I miss you :(

  • AkuLord3

    “Beyond has at least one scene you wouldn’t expect to play in a video game.”

    …Playing the game?! HEY-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO~, yeah not interested and no its not because i dislike QTEs or the watching/reading over gameplay (since i enjoy VN games and such). Nooo its just that David Cage and his horrible stories that make no sense but who knows it could be decent…i just hope to see what creepy things he does to Ellen Page and forced romance.

  • SerendipityX

    Im going to play co-op with my mom. I really like the option of using a touch screen instead of a DS3.

  • mixedfish

    “Is it a requirement to have at least one superfluous shower scene”

    I didn’t get a single ‘shower’ scene in my playthough, it’s why these games are interesting because the game will playout based on the players behaviour.

  • Max

    So I ghess it’s not a MUST play than?

  • Learii

    this game must have a nice story

  • mc3027

    This was such a great game!

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