The Sony PS3 exclusive title Beyond Two Souls proves that Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain was no fluke. The French game developer under the guidance of game director/writer David Cage, has released a worthy follow up to their iconic game Heavy Rain. Two Souls is a fully immersive game and follows a similar formula as the previous game.
Cage has always maintained that he loves movies and that he wants his games to provide the perfect blend of interactive cinema. Heavy Rain was his previous PS3 creation and it was the first game that featured character who would not respawn when they died, effecting the remainder of the game. The entire game took place in “quick time” and it won several Game of the Year awards after its release.
Beyond Two Souls goes one step further in the interactive movie stakes. It even goes so far as to say starring Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe on the game’s cover. While Heavy Rain felt like cinema, Two Souls feels like television. Not in a derogatory sense though, the gameplay feels like an expensive “mini-series” but with effects that feel cinematic.
The game does not follow a linear path. The player jumps around different times in the lead protagonist’s life. Jodie, played by Ellen Page, is a girl with an entity connected to her since birth. After being taken away from her birth mother, she is given to a family who is aware of her “differences.”
As Jodie gets older and her entity more powerful, the entity’s name is Aiden, she is taken to live at a research institute where she is looked after by Nathan Dawkins (Willem Dafoe) and Cole Freeman (Kadeem Hardison). As players bounce back and forth through Jodie’s journey, they are able to bond with all the main characters almost effortlessly.
David Cage has the ability to tell a story and create characters that evoke feelings of empathy and a certain level of protectiveness of the protagonists. The gameplay in Beyond Two Souls has evolved from the complex and sometimes tedious mechanics of Heavy Rain.
But the mechanics in the previous game worked as it made the player feel as though they were in the middle of the action. That total immersive experience is smoother in Beyond Two Souls. Like its Quantic Dream predecessor the game also offers different endings based on decisions or actions the player makes as Jodie.
The actual gameplay has been simplified so that shooting a gun, for instance, only requires hitting R1 which allows Jodie to draw, aim, and fire with no other help required from the player. In that instance, it is very like Telltale Games shooting mechanic in The Walking Dead.
This Sony PS3 exclusive title from Quantic Dream has the same amazing quality that Heavy Rain possessed. It is no fluke that both Beyond Two Souls and the previous David Cage title has a similar feel. Even if some reviewers have not realised just how well the game works on so many different levels.
Thus far, aggregated reviewing websites GameRankings and Metacritic rated the game at 73 out of 100. The sites’ reviewers have lauded Ms Page’s performance as Jodie Holmes as well as a lot of the the other actors. They’ve also stated that the details and graphics in the game are superior.
IGN and Joystiq did not share the other reviewer’s enthusiasm calling the game passive, unrewarding, unbelievable and that the game had a lack of solid character interaction. After playing the game in one set down session, which allowed me to finish it in under 12 hours, it does make one wonder if the latter two reviewing sites actually played the game.
Initially upon playing the game, it is distracting to have Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe interacting with the player. But despite the awkwardness at the start of gameplay, it soon dissipates because of the acting skills of all the voice actors in the game. The direction also helps the player to become immersed in the game and to forget that the two main protagonists are big Hollywood “names.”
The only complaint that this player had with the game was the section that featured horses. Jodie gets to ride a horse at one point in the game. The horse’s gait was all wrong and it looked more like two people in a horse suit than an actual horse’s trot or gallop.
But horse movement aside, there are moments in the game – a lot of moments – where the graphics are so “spot-on” that the characters look real. The combination of the superb graphics and the excellent voice acting from all those involved makes playing this game an unforgettable experience.
Quantic Dream have managed to come up with a game that impacts the player as much as Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us or their own 2010 title Heavy Rain. Considering that the next generation of Sony console, the PS4, is due for release in November this year, it is impressive that both companies stepped up to the plate and made games that define all that is good about the current generation of console.
While a lot of players will continue to see GTA V and other games in Rockstar’s franchise as the cutting edge in video gaming, the crime based game cannot compete with either of the three games mentioned in terms of players connecting solidly with the characters in the games.
Developer David Cage said that after the uphill battle he had with developing Heavy Rain, that he would never again go so far “outside the box” in developing games. Thank goodness that he did not stick to that idea or the world would never have gotten Beyond Two Souls.
The Sony PS3 exclusive Beyond Two Souls has proved beyond a shadow of doubt that Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain was no fluke. It has also shown that David Cage can still deliver a mesmerising game that draws you close to its protagonists. The game comes close to Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us in terms of total immersion. A real 9 out of 10 game with a highly addictive quality that makes it hard to stop playing.
By Michael Smith