Review Round Up - Beyond: Two Souls

By Luke Caulfield , Updated Oct 09, 2013 04:37 PM EDT
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If all the commercials blasting on the TV weren't enough to remind you, Beyond: Two Souls launched yesterday, and as the developer's last game, the PlayStation 3 exclusive Heavy Rain, was well received, hopes were high that Beyond would score similarly. Unfortunately, even the adorable Ellen Paige just didn't seem to get the job done. Scores for Quantic Dreams latest opus are all over the place from a wide range of outlets (even The New York Times got in on the action). In the end, Beyond: Two Souls really seems to be a love it or hate it kind of thing.

Check up on a few of the scores below:

VideoGamer, 4 - "For all its promises of representing a change from the usual (supposed) shoot-bang zeitgeist, Beyond is just as nonsensical as any Call of Duty. It's a thriller without any intrigue, a character study bereft of character, and a game short of actual gameplay. In fairness to David Cage, his decision to build a game around the life of a troubled young woman is a brave one, and Ellen Page's performance is good. But on the whole the scenarios he presents us with are so contrived, so boring, as to render all interest in what happens to Jodie - and the malevolent spirit that she is connected to - utterly dull. Heavy Rain had problems, but its central conundrum was enough to pull users through the experience. Beyond has no such draw: there's no mystery to Jodie and Aiden's relationship, nor is there to her power: everyone seems to know about it. The motivations of your supporting characters - CIA spooks, shifty scientists - are telegraphed too early to surprise or excite."

Destructiod, 5 - "While Beyond has a cast of archetypal and terminally uninteresting characters, it has to be said the writing is noticeably better than it was in Heavy Rain. Dialog is slightly more believable, scenes are less awkward, and there are fewer glaring plot holes or embarrassing pseudoscience. However, the story is presented awfully, in a nonlinear fashion contrived to evoke the movies of Godard, Altman, or Tarantino. There's nothing wrong with the use of disrupted narrative, but it's a technique that requires more care than Beyond even comes to close to providing. One moment, Jodie's a child in a secret lab, the next she's a homeless adult, then a teenager, then a child again, then a member of the CIA. The narrative breaks seem arbitrary and deliver nothing of value to the actual story. Disjointed and only vaguely connected sequences occur without adequate lead-in, and regularly deliver moments that would have had far greater impact had they been presented in a linear story, where the appropriate amount of pacing and build could be achieved. Instead, we're supposed to deeply care about characters who have been barely introduced, while following at least three stories, and a handful of non sequiturs, that have very little to do with each other. "

Joystiq, 2.5 / 5 - "The freedom you display as Aiden has a chilling effect on the people in the room, almost as if the game itself is frightened by an entity with so much agency. Like Heavy Rain before it, Beyond: Two Souls is a restrictive game that sacrifices repeatable mechanisms and emergent scenarios for a cinematic structure, with objectives propelled by the needs of the scene more than the needs of the medium itself."

IGN, 6 - "Beyond: Two Souls takes the vision that writer/creative director David Cage and his team at Quantic Dream have held onto for so long - that interactive drama is the way to make gamers conditioned to meaningless violencefeel something in the depths of our brittle souls - to unprecedented extremes. But Beyond is a game that made me feel too much like a passive participant, which made "playing" it a very confusing and unrewarding experience. Indeed, if there was ever a game that suggested that Cage is a frustrated film director at heart, it's this one. Beyond is an opus - a muddy and unfocused one, but an opus - packed with so much plot it feels like Cage has indulged his every whim and want in a single project. Unlike Heavy Rain before it, which dipped into silliness but was at least thematically consistent, Beyond's only consistency is its focus on Jodie Holmes, the game's tragic heroine. She's a character wonderfully realized by actress Ellen Page, who proves to be much of Beyond's saving grace."

Game Informer, 7.75 - "The core gameplay mechanics will be familiar to fans of Heavy Rain. You experience the game through mashing buttons and quick directional presses on the analog stick. Quantic Dream has made the onscreen interface more minimal; instead of onscreen indicators, you have to observe the direction that Jodie's moving in a brief window of slow motion and move the stick accordingly. It makes the action both more challenging and more immersive. You also play as Aiden...It's thrilling but also limited; too many times you can't perform one of your powers simply because the game wants you to solve a puzzle in a different way. Still, the combination of characters makes this the deepest and most diverse gameplay experience that Quantic Dream has delivered to date."

Polygon, 8 - "On its third pass, Quantic Dream is closer than ever before to nailing a seamless interactive cinematic experience. AndBeyond: Two Souls is so refined in its technique, I'm actually able to write 'cinematic experience' with a straight face...the only frustration I had was having so little freedom to experiment when playing as Aiden. The spirit can only possess specific people or items, and they are almost always required to move the story forward. I craved more flexibility here, a sense that I was driving the experience rather than watching from the back seat."

Gamespot, 9 - "Beyond: Two Souls is a gripping adventure that doesn't get lost in its supernatural setup. It's Jodie's transformation from scared child to confident adult that's so mesmerizing, and you grow to care for her as you become invested in her plight. The story's biggest failing comes in how it handles dramatic sequences. Heavy-handed music often lays the emotion on too thick, which is a shame because the outstanding acting performances are more than able to invest you in the experience. Top-notch acting makes the characters you interact with sound believable, and their faces are expressive enough that you understand their thoughts even when they remain silent. Beyond: Two Souls so easily melds story and mechanics that you become enamored with this young woman and her extraordinary life."

Digital Spy, 5/5 - "Roger Ebert once infamously dismissed video gaming as a non-artistic medium, but even the legendary critic would have struggled to put together a convincing argument that Beyond: Two Souls is anything less than a work of great heart and creativity...one of the most poignant and enthralling stories we have encountered in a video game, capable of stirring up the same depth of emotion as great works from the mediums of film and literature. Plot and cinematics are its greatest strengths, but when you factor in some of the finest graphics ever seen on the PS3 and the level of originality on offer, Quantic Dream's masterpiece is worthy of superlatives."

Kotaku - Yes - "Mainstream video games so rarely explore the mundane. More concerned with the exceptional and the exciting-unlikely adventures, brutal wars, daring escapes-they ignore the commonplace experiences that make up the bulk of their players' lives. And yet placed against a backdrop of blockbuster histrionics, those smaller moments can feel fresh and even oddly exciting. Beyond: Two Souls succeeds, and fails, while vacillating between those two extremes." 

Sony seemed disappointed in the mixed scores, with SCEA Associate Product Marketing Manager Derek Osgood responding to the varying opinions by writing, "Many reviewers (both positive and negative) cited the difficulty in attributing a score to the game because it’s such a unique and different experience. Comparing the game to 'traditional' gaming experiences is just a difficult comparison to make. I do encourage you guys to try the demo, talk to your friends who have played the game, and read the reviews in full when you’re making your decisions."

Apparently, the game also caught some heat for not being offered in a digital version. I didn't know you could score a game less for lacking a digital version (how does that really take away from the experience?), but apparently you can.

Osgood said that such a version is possible, elaborating, "We're still working things out on if there will be a PSN version. There are technical details involved which limited our ability to go up with a Day 1 Digital release, but the team is still exploring a future PSN version. Again though, we can't confirm that there will/won't be a PSN version at a later date."

Beyond: Two Souls is out now in US and Europe exclusively on the PlayStation 3. It releases in the UK on October 11.

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