My friends, I’ve played many games that have attempted to impact me emotionally. Some have succeeded. Beyond: Two Souls is one of those games that made me want to completely start over at the end just to experience the whole of the story and the small turns that could be altered in the main character’s life. The gameplay is very interactive, albeit a bit repetitive in the mechanics parts, and I definitely would play through it again, especially if I had about 10-15 hours straight with no distractions.
In Beyond, you plays as Jodie Holmes, voiced by the well-known actress Ellen Paige of Juno fame. Jodie is a gifted girl with a spirit companion who helps her see and do things that others cannot. Alongside Jodie is Nathan Hawkins, a paranormal scientist who nurtures Jodie throughout her younger years. (Hawkins is voiced by actor Willem Defoe.) As Jodie, you experience a non-linear view of 15 years in her shoes, ranging from her early childhood to mid-20s, giving the player an in-depth look at her struggles and story.
And struggles there are. What keeps the player going, in my opinion, is not necessarily the overall plot or the gameplay but rather the sheer sympathy that you develop for Jodie. Without giving anything away, I can certainly confess that her life is not an easy one at all. Thanks to the incredible graphics engine created by title developer Quantic Dream, the realism of the characters does nothing but heavily aid in the emotional settings and story-telling one experiences. I found myself drawn into the most random moments that were full of feeling and spirit.
As for the gameplay, it did everything that a good adventure game should, and it reminded me of the older adventure games on the PC back in the ’90s. A few of the quick time events became commonplace over time, and I would have liked to see more variety in the things that you could do in the game. Some of the tricks you could do with Aiden, your spirit friend, started off being pretty cool but later lost a bit of their allure. Of course, this is just me being very picky, as the whole concept of the spirit companion and what you can do with him is very interesting. Aiden is a sort of playable character as well, especially when you take advantage of the Duo game mode, using another controller, Move device, or smartphone to be able to control one of the two characters. This gives a new take to the two-player control scheme, which offers a fresh approach to classic game mechanics. The last critique I could find with it is the occasional jerkiness you encounter when controlling Jodie. Getting her from point A to point B can sometimes be more of a chore than is necessary, because of the older turn and walk control layout of old Resident Evil lore. But these instances are few and far between.
Beyond: Two Souls is a title that made the twilight years of PS3 look just as good as when the console was first released. It’s proof that the last-gen console still has some exclusive tricks. The voice and motion capture acting quality is what I came to expect in having played games from Quantic Dream. When I spend ten hours in a game, finish it, and want to start over again, that’s a sign that I was heavily engaged in the product. Now with the next-gen consoles on the market, it will be interesting to see just how far Quantic Dream pushes the boundary between movie realism and video game interactivity.