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COMMENT | The Crushing Disappointment of Beyond: Two Souls

Matt Gardner
Beyond: Two Souls, David Cage, Ellen Page, PS3 games, Quantic Dream, Sony Computer Entertainment

COMMENT | The Crushing Disappointment of Beyond: Two Souls

Beyond: Two Souls has proven to be a divisive and contentious title primarily because many have struggled to find a place for it when it comes to their definitions of what a game should be. When I sat down to write my Beyond review, I had to begin with a caveat because I felt that one's enjoyment of David Cage's latest opus would no doubt depend on whether or not the player was open to Quantic Dream's signature style, though even that might prove to be a fallible basis for investigation:

Your appreciation, or lack thereof, of David Cage and Quantic Dream's latest opus is largely going to be determined by how much you subscribe to many of the controversial statements that Cage has made over the last couple of years, not to mention whether or not you enjoyed his last QTE-'em-up: Heavy Rain.

And even then, given Heavy Rain arguably worked because of its delicately balanced mix of genre, form and function, you might not find Beyond to your liking.

Games are not reviewed in a vacuum, as we've stated many times on this site. Therefore, it's impossible to separate Beyond from the canon of experiential games, large and small, that have surfaced in the wake of Heavy Rain these past three years. The same tricks that worked in 2010 might not prove as effective this time around, and so it seems to have been the case, for this writer anyway.

COMMENT | The Crushing Disappointment of Beyond: Two Souls

I promised I'd go into further detail, expanding upon a few of the points I made in my review, and so here's a more personal, expressive take on some of Beyond's failures (in my eyes) to deliver the emotionally-connected experience that David Cage and his team have constantly espoused, and why I'm not sure if the team at Quantic Dream fully understand the enormous capacity for direct, emotional connection that this interactive medium can offer.

There's an opening here to cry hypocrisy given my very public adoration of Telltale's The Walking Dead series, but whereas each and every episode in that left me reeling after several plot-twists and momentous decisions, Beyond pushes me away, constantly keeping me at arm's length, and never threatening any sort of important, decisive moment of player agency, or any kind of real danger given Aiden's unexplained, inconsistent. seeming omnipotence. It's ultimately through Aiden, who's given a shrug-worthy explanation of his origins at the end, that Beyond falls down, as Cage and co. relegate their most interesting character and potential gameplay opportunity to being a mere plot device, robbing the story of any intrigue and us of any chance to make an impact.

Here, let my absurdly fuzzy face explain in more detail...

Add a comment4 comments
donttouchthehair  Oct. 17, 2013 at 13:50

Is that the ghost of Prince William at 01:07?

You have got to wonder who the target audience is - I can see the lack of control options being a winner for couples where one person is a gamer and the other person isn't - but both people can feel like they are having roughly the same cinematic experience with the game (even if only one of them has a control pad). The inability to die bolsters this idea - unlike the Lego games where you can't game-over because you may be 'carrying' either a child or a non-gamer in two-player, the lack of death in this game could be to avoid couples arguing too strongly with each other as things can't go pear-shaped. Maybe my girlfriend is supposed to relate to Jodie so much as I'm supposed to relate to Aiden (who is more of a gamer stock character)?

But then, that would make the game even more cliched and condescending.

X10  Oct. 17, 2013 at 13:58

Is the game 2 player?

MattGardner  Oct. 17, 2013 at 14:19

Is the game 2 player?

It is indeed. And it's still balls, though multiplayer does have the capacity to make most mediocre titles seem pretty ok.

pinkletits  Oct. 30, 2013 at 11:16

I was really psyched for this game but I was grossly disappointed, not because - as many people in the David Cage camp would say - because I wasn't into the concept of a game/story experience that was more story than game. I was totally into that. I was hoping it would be like The Last of Us' format only more story based - but what we got was controls that interrupted us every time we were trying to enjoy the story (not further immerse us). We also got a story that was stuffed with clishes and generally badly written. The lead actors did good jobs but too many of the other voices sounded like kids cartoon characters chronically overacting. This was such a shame. There were also some pretty poor bits of animation - I know this was on a budget but the wobbly heads of the zombie scientists was just bad.
The main problem though was the writing. The decision to jump back and forth in time was a huge error and, at times, I thought the whole thing may have actually worked if it had just been chronological. But as it is, you enter almost every scene with 0% emotional context and it means they just don't work/you couldn't care less.
I think the idea of having games that are more like interactive stories can work, but they have to take a format more similar to The Last of Us and be written with that level of care. Sure, zombie apocalypse isn't an original concept but the way that the characters reacted to it was so real and carefully written.
Beyond: Two Souls - you broke my heart... :(

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