Who can honestly say that they haven’t imagined what it would be like to control things with their mind? To be able to manipulate everything, and everyone, around them? To go to parties or go on dinner dates with a special someone? To become a part of the CIA? To take over the world in a fit of pure passion and desire to become the supreme overlord of the natural universe?! Whoa…calm down there Satan, you had me at being able to control things with my mind. Minus the supreme overlord business, such a concept brought to life in the form of Quantic Dream’s newest PlayStation exclusive title Beyond: Two Souls.
Beyond: Two Souls tells us the story of Jodie Holmes, a girl who has been linked with a spirit, or “entity,” since birth. The player is put in the driver’s seat and takes control of both Jodie and her entity, known as “Aiden,” during the game. The player experiences Jodie’s life in the form of an out-of-order timeline, jumping around from year to year. One chapter the gamer will be Jodie in her mid-twenties on a CIA mission while the next they will be sixteen-year-old Jodie going to a party. That’s already more of a social life than I have.
BTS is a unique gaming experience, playing as what I like to call an “interactive movie.” I call it this because the game puts more emphasis on the story itself rather than on action. You may be wondering, “But Elliott, that must mean there’s no gameplay. I mean come on, what’s a game without fighting and shooting?” Like any video game, there is gameplay and fighting sequences, but a different kind. The player will make choices throughout the game, in the form of dialogue, actions, and fighting sequences, all of which add to how the story will play out. Possible dialogue choices are presented on the screen and it is up to the player to choose which they want Jodie to say. Each dialogue choice will impact the conversation. Fighting and action sequences present very basic controls. Fighting sequences are truly unique, as the player controls Jodie’s actions by moving the analog stick in the direction Jodie is moving. Actions are carried out by either pressing or holding the corresponding button on screen or by moving the right analog stick towards an object to interact with it. In addition, the gamer cannot “lose,” meaning even if the player makes a mistake in action or fighting sequences, the story adapts to this “error” and continues. This feature makes BTS enjoyable for typical non-gamers, like your mom, sister, cousin, grandparent, or your girlfriend/boyfriend, if you even have one.
Beyond: Two Souls presents the most outstanding graphics I have ever seen in a video game. The game utilizes full body and face motion capture in order to present its characters and their actions in the most realistic manner possible. Quantic Dream signed Ellen Page and Willem Defoe to lead an all-star cast to portray the characters in Jodie’s life. Due to motion capture, the characters ARE the actors portraying them. Every step, movement, and blink of an eye is all thanks to motion capture technology, making BTS possibly the most realistic game, in terms of character portrayal, ever made. So if you have a crush on Ellen Page, or find Willem Defoe ravishingly handsome, you’re in luck and can stare at them all you want throughout this experience. Just don’t stare too long during cut scenes because the game will end up making decisions for you.
I have played this game and watched others play more times than I can count. The story is so compelling, so well done and can play out so man different ways that no two playthroughs are alike. I sat down with my best friend and played this game over two days and enjoyed every last second of it. I also sat down with my mom and watched her play this game from start to finish. Since the last game my mom played was Space Invaders, she was immediately blown away by the game’s stunning visuals. Once adjusting to the PlayStation 3 controller and understanding the relatively simple commands, she was able to navigate through the game with ease. She understood it so well that at one point she asked me to get her something from the table, I said, “Where on the table?” To which she responded, “L2!” Ahh, mom humor.
The one thing everyone who I have seen play Beyond: Two Souls have been amazed by is the story. All of these people have been so caught up in the story that they cannot stop playing. They need to know what happens next. Ellen Page’s portrayal of Jodie makes for one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen in both cinematography and video games. The emotion she captures and instills into Jodie’s character is enough to keep anyone, game or non-gamer, emotionally attached to the story.
Beyond: Two Souls is one of the most unique video games I have ever played. Never have I found myself so absorbed into the story line as I was with BTS. In addition, never had I had the urge to force others play a game as much as I have with this title. With easy-to-learn controls, simplistic gameplay, outstanding acting to create an emotionally gripping story on top of breathtaking visuals make it an experience both gamers and non-gamers must experience. Beyond: Two Souls has received its share of both high praises and low reviews. Opinions are opinions and I feel it is up to the gamer to decide how they feel about the game. So pick up a copy of Beyond: Two Souls and go experience the game for yourself!