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Beyond: Two Souls Review

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WHEN PEOPLE TALK OF “CINEMATIC VIDEOGAMES”, THEY NEED
LOOK NO FURTHER THAN THE WORK OF
FRENCH DEVELOPER DAVID CAGE. BE IT
THE FUTURISTIC WORLD OF THE NOMAD SOUL, THE PARANORMAL THRILLER FAHRENHEIT, OR THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CRIME OPUS OF 2010’S PS3 EXCLUSIVE HEAVY RAIN, CAGE AND HIS QUANTIC DREAM STUDIO HAVE ALWAYS STRIVED TO DELIVER SOMETHING UNIQUE. SOMETIMES, AMBITION HAS EXCEEDED CAPABILITY — FAHRENHEIT’S FINAL HOURS WERE LAMBASTED FOR A LAST-MINUTE SWERVE INTO NECROPHILIC ROMANCE AND AN UNLIKELY END BOSS — BUT EACH TITLE OFFERS PLAYERS DISTINCTIVE EXPERIENCES THAT CAN BE FOUND NOWHERE ELSE.
BEYOND: TWO SOULS COULD BE THE TEAM’S MOST AMBITIOUS EFFORT YET, AIMING TO TELL THE STORY OF ONE WOMAN’S LIFE OVER THE COURSE OF 15 YEARS. PITCHED AS AN INTERACTIVE SUPERNATURAL DRAMA, PLAYERS TAKE CONTROL
OF YOUNG JODIE HOLMES (BELOW RIGHT), POSSESSOR OF INEXPLICABLE PSYCHIC ABILITIES AND SOMEHOW LINKED TO
AN OTHERWORLDLY, POSSIBLY GHOSTLY, PRESENCE THAT COULD HAVE HORRIFIC CONSEQUENCES FOR HER. AS VARIOUS FIGURES BECOME INCREASINGLY INTERESTED IN THE GIRL AND HER QUESTIONABLE POWERS, PLAYERS WILL SWITCH BETWEEN CONTROLLING JODIE HERSELF AND THE MYSTERIOUS ENTITY. WHILE THE FORMER IS STUCK IN THE PHYSICAL WORLD, THE LATTER CAN PASS THROUGH WALLS, AFFECT OBJECTS THROUGH PSYCHOKINESIS AND READ PEOPLE’S AURAS. THIS WILL LIKELY FACTOR INTO THE DECISION-MAKING SIDE OF THE GAME, PERHAPS ALLOWING THE PLAYER TO GAUGE MOODS OR INTENTIONS BEFORE RESPONDING TO QUESTIONS.
WHATEVER CHOICES YOU DO MAKE AFFECT THE EVOLVING STORY, A FACTOR WHICH IS ABOVE ALL THE HALLMARK OF BEYOND: TWO SOULS. WHILE JODIE’S LIFE WILL SEE HER TRAVELLING
THE GLOBE TO ESCAPE HER PURSUERS AND UNDERSTAND HER CONNECTION TO WHAT MAY BE THE AFTERLIFE, THERE ARE NO PUZZLES TO SPEAK OF, NO BOSS FIGHTS, NONE OF THE TYPICAL ELEMENTS ONE ASSOCIATES WITH GAMING. EMOTION AND REACTION ARE KINGS HERE — CAGE CLEARLY WANTS PLAYERS TO CARE FOR THE CAST, GET INVOLVED WITH THEIR LIVES, START ASKING THE SAME QUESTIONS OF THEMSELVES THAT ARE RAISED BY THE DARK TALE.
IT’S ALSO SHAPING UP TO BE A TECHNOLOGICAL MASTERPIECE, UTILISING A NEW GAME ENGINE AND WITH JODIE HERSELF PLAYED BY ELLEN PAGE. HER ROLE IS FAR MORE THAN MERELY VOICING THE CHARACTER — SHE GENUINELY STARS IN THE GAME, HAVING BEEN MOTION-CAPTURED TO THE MOST INTRICATE DEGREE. A FULL RANGE OF EMOTIONAL REACTIONS HAVE BEEN RECORDED AS PAGE AND HER CO-STARS, INCLUDING KAREEM HARDISON AND ERIC WINTER, WORKED THEIR WAY THROUGH A SCRIPT THAT REPORTEDLY RAN TO 2,000 PAGES. THE RESULTS CREST INCREDIBLY CLOSE TO PHOTO-REALISTIC — WHEN THE ORIGINAL ANNOUNCEMENT TRAILER CHOSE TO SHOW JODIE SITTING NEAR-SILENTLY THROUGH A LENGTHY INTERROGATION, IT WAS THE SUBTLETY OF PAGE’S PERFORMANCE THAT REALLY STOOD OUT: THE SMALL FACIAL MOTIONS; THE DISTANT, DISTRUSTING EYES HIDING UNKNOWN, UNTELLABLE TRAUMA.
ACTOR-CAPTURE ASIDE, THE REST OF THE GAME ALSO
LOOKS IMPRESSIVE, WITH STUNNING DETAILING, LIGHTING AND WEATHER EFFECTS. A FRANTIC CHASE THROUGH STORM-SOAKED WOODS SEES RAIN SEEPING INTO JODIE’S CLOTHES, CLINGING TO HER SKIN, REFLECTING THE SCANT ILLUMINATION. CLOTHES AND HAIR BILLOW IN THE WIND, PAGE’S SCREAMING AGAINST THE ELEMENTS PERFECTLY RECREATED.
LIKE HEAVY RAIN BEFORE IT, BEYOND: TWO SOULS WILL INCORPORATE OPTIONAL PLAYSTATION MOVE CONTROLS IN AN ATTEMPT TO MAKE INTERACTING
WITH THE WORLD FEEL A TOUCH MORE ACCURATE. ALSO LIKE HEAVY RAIN, IT’S A PROUDLY
SINGLE-PLAYER EXPERIENCE, CHAMPIONING EACH PLAYER’S PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF JODIE’S LIFE OVER TICKING A BOX ON THE MARKETING CHECKLIST BY INCLUDING ARBITRARY MULTIPLAYER. AND LIKE ALL OF
ITS PREDECESSORS, BEYOND: TWO SOULS
MOST LIKELY WON’T BE FOR EVERYONE —
THE DEFIANTLY CEREBRAL APPROACH MIGHT
BE LOST ON THOSE WHO CRAVE HIGH ACTION. FOR THOSE WHO SEE GAMES AS THE ART
FORM THEY ARE, THOUGH, CAGE’S LATEST
WILL BE SOMETHING VERY SPECIAL INDEED.

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