(Watch the video after reading the review)
Beyond: Two Souls is an action adventure video game developed by French developer Quantic Dream. I was a big fan of Heavy Rain (Quantic Dream's previous game), so I decided to check this one out and see if it lives up to it's predecessor.
Beyond: Two Souls begins with a scene showing a young girl, Jodie ( played by Ellen Page), lost in the woods. She is saved by the town sheriff who begins asking her questions of where she has been. After a short line of questioning, she displays that she has some sort of super-human powers. A swat team comes to capture her and she somehow manages to take out the entire swat team leaving only the sheriff left alive.
You soon find out that Jodie has an entity named Aiden from another world tied to her. This entity helps her move objects, control other humans, and has many other abilities. You switch modes between controlling Jodie and controlling Aiden with the press of a button. When you run into obstacles Jodie cannot get past, you switch controls to Aiden where you can travel through walls, unlock doors, and perform many other paranormal activities. The concept behind using this entity to overcome obstacles is an idea I've always enjoyed ever since the idea was introduced to me back in Geist for the Nintendo Gamecube.
When I saw this, I got excited to see what Quantic Dream had in store for us. I was quickly disappointed when I played farther and realized that no matter how good some ideas are, if the execution is terrible, the game will be terrible. Quantic Dream has a problem with trying to make games too emotional. They create overly emotional scenes where you are supposed to feel a connection with their characters. Heavy Rain did this fairly well, but was still very corny at times. In Beyond: Two Souls, these scenes go beyond corny to just outright pathetic. I found myself literally shouting out loud, "Oh come on, can this game get any worse?".
As the game progressed, the answer became clear. Yes, it can and will get worse.
Where to even begin. First, the game has very little actual "gameplay". You perform very basic triggered actions to progress yourself through the story. In Heavy Rain, the actions you chose made significant changes in the later events of the game. In Beyond: Two Souls, you are left just pressing a button to open doors, interact with objects and occasionally you'll have a combat scene where you feel like you're part of the action. The choices you make have nearly no effect on the outcome of the situations. I even chose to not press anything, and whether I passed or failed the actions, the outcome was exactly the same. To give Beyond: Two Souls some credit, the idea and concept behind the entity Aiden were done pretty well.
Next, the game does not progress chronologically. You jump from scene to scene which is displayed on a timeline right from the start of the game. Generally, this is used to add effect once you have experienced all of the scenes and return to see them in order. It can be a useful tool and build quite a powerful impact toward the end of the game. Beyond: Two Souls, however, completely ruined this effect. As you completed scenes, the jumps in the timeline would completely take you out of the game. You'd start with Jodie being a different age, meeting new characters, and while the timeline did make more sense looking back on it, they sacrificed having a good first play through experience for a marginal end game effect.
Next, some scenarios you were placed in were just horrendous. The best example (video above) is very early in the game where you go to a friends birthday party. The scene transitions from you being shy and hoping to make some new friends to what may be one of the most poorly thought out scenes I have ever seen in a video game. It begins with a guy trying to seduce you (with VERY awkward romance scenes), then moves on to everyone hating you and calling you a slut, then they lock you in a closet, and it finally all ends with you tormenting the party until everyone is crying and you can escape.
I use this scene as an example because it is one of the first scenes in the game and I don't want to ruin any of the wonderfully terrible surprises this game will offer you if you decide to complete it. As you continue on through the game, things generally continue to get worse. Quantic Dream tries to create meaningful character relationships, but for some reason, most of the characters they wanted me to like I ended up despising. There were three scenes in the game that I felt genuinely created nice character development and honestly served as more of a bitch-slap saying, "This game could have been great, but let's throw them back into another terrible scene and remind them why it's not."
Overall, Beyond: Two Souls had some excellent potential. The ideas and concepts in the game could have really turned into something unique and meaninful. However, they did not and I was left with a contender for worst game I've played this generation. There are plenty of terrible games out there, but being a quick time event game with so little actual 'game play', this one should have been a movie rather than a game.
A few positive notes, the game does have pretty impressive graphics. Some of the final scenes had great visuals. Also, the ending of the game was actually quite good and is one of the best parts. It's such a shame to see so many good ideas gone to waste, but maybe they'll get it right next time. I'll stick by Heavy Rain and try to forget about this one.