" Quantic Dream once again puts out a story you need to experience, but it also some comes with some of the rough edges you'd expect from the studio."
David Cage is a very divisive talent in the game industry. Love him or hate him, there's no denying it's difficult to ignore him or his games, and Beyond: Two Souls is the latest release from his studio, Quantic Dream. While it never reaches the zenith of Heavy Rain or Indigo Prophecy, it still makes an argument as an absolute must play.
Beyond follows protagonist Jodie Holmes through a healthy portion of her life. Aiden, a ghost-like entity unwillingly attached to Jodie, is what makes her special. Special enough to garner the interest of paranormal researcher Nathan Dawkins, director of the very fictional Department of Paranormal Activity for the United States government.
As you follow Jodie through her story, you'll witness a varied and interesting life. You'll see her through highs and lows, through childish adventures and rebellious teenage years. As you watch this woman grow, you'll see just how different Aiden makes life for her. Neither one of the pair is always pleased to be trapped with the other, leading to a consistently interesting dynamic. The story of Beyond is told in a nonlinear narrative that makes little sense at first, but really does come together by the end. It keeps you on your toes to see what will happen next, as you never know what part of Jodie's timeline you are about to experience.
A lot of attention has been paid to the fact that Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe both headline the game. I'm happy to report that they're both brilliant, turning in genuinely riveting performances. While the story is constantly intriguing, the dialogue occasionally delves into the rough quality we've come to expect from David Cage. Thankfully, Page and Dafoe handle it with such aplomb you'll easily look past it. They are utterly and fully convincing. The side characters can be very hit or miss, but you'll stay drawn in by the two leads.
Key to a lot of graphic adventures of this type is the way your choices can impact the story. The decisions are absolutely brilliant here because of the way they're presented. It's rare for the game to actually acknowledge that you've made or are making a choice. They're disguised with absolute expertise, so much so I didn't realize how much could change until I played through a second time.
Beyond has significantly more gameplay elements than other recent Quantic Dream titles. You interact with the world in much the same way as Heavy Rain, using gesture based movements on the right analog stick. While this typically works in a convincing way, it runs into problems of occasional wonkiness just as Heavy Rain did. However, in Beyond, you're also in control of Aiden. He can float around the environment and travel through walls to solve occasional puzzles or help out in action scenes. These controls take a little getting used to, due to the weightless feeling of being a ghost, but work fine once you've become accustomed to them.
Unfortunately, there is a sizable point of complaint when it comes to playing as Aiden. The developers never convey a consistent rule set for the entity. Sometimes you can travel a large distance away from Jodie, but at other times you're stuck by her side. Some enemies can be possessed, but what makes these people more susceptible to possession is never explained in context. What makes this stand out so much is how story-driven the game is. It goes to great lengths to explain everything else throughout the campaign. Leaving out the specifics of what Aiden can or can't do feels nothing short of lazy and out of place.
Luckily, gameplay in other areas has taken an improvement since Heavy Rain. Beyond: Two Souls uses a slightly different take on the traditional QTE system. Instead of a constant stream of on-screen button prompts, you need only pay attention to the direction Jodie is moving in. Flick the right stick in this direction, and you have successfully completed the action. It also presents the timing utilizing a slick slow-motion camera that keeps the action scenes looking flashy. The system is certainly simpler, but it also feels much more elegant.
Quantic Dream once again puts out a story you need to experience, but it also some comes with some of the rough edges you'd expect from the studio. It never reaches the quality of Indigo Prophecy or Heavy Rain, but you'll be happy to put this game on your shelf nonetheless. If you enjoy a good story in your games and can look past occasionally wonky control, then be sure to pick up Beyond: Two Souls.