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Beyond: Two Souls review




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Beyond: Two Souls
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Our Score:



  • Fantastic central performances
  • Next-generation graphics
  • Powerful storytelling
  • Choices that matter


  • Sense of limited control
  • Not much scope to do your own thing

Exclusive to PlayStation 3

Like Heavy Rain before it, Beyond: Two Souls pushes the boundaries of what a game can be. At times it’s barely a game at all. It's more a work of interactive fiction where you can influence the direction of the narrative without really feeling in control of what is happening to your protagonists inside it.

Yet as an experience it’s both richer, more affecting and more coherent than Heavy Rain. It's Quantic Dream’s best ‘interactive drama’ yet. Even when Beyond: Two Souls's gameplay as such isn’t 100 per cent convincing, the storyline always pulls you on.


Beyond: Two Souls - Story

We won’t dwell too long on the plot, for the simple reason that it’s much, much better if you discover it for yourself. Beyond: Two Souls's protagonist is Jodie Holmes, a young girl with mysterious psychic powers.

She’s linked to an unknown, unseen entity known as Aiden, who is constantly hovering around her. But Aiden is capable of venturing through walls and floors to go where she cannot, and can influence the world around him through classic poltergeist tricks and the occasional possession.

Beyond: Two Souls follows the pair through Jodie’s childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, though the scenes you play through aren’t necessarily experienced in chronological order. The more you play, the more you discover of the truth behind Jodie and Aiden, and how they got into the situation you witness during the opening of the game (no spoilers here).

Two Souls is an odd mix - part supernatural drama, part espionage thriller, part action film, part horror movie, but it’s never less than compelling.


Beyond: Two Souls - Graphics

As you might already know, Beyond: Two Souls's Jodie is played by a motion-captured Ellen Page. With the aid of some pretty dazzling graphics tech she puts in what might just be the best performance we’ve seen in a video game.

There are odd moments where you catch a glimpse of the old uncanny valley, but everything from the close-ups to the walking animations seems to have been captured with a fierce eye for every nuance, every detail.

The result is a heroine you can root for, some really heart-wrenching moments, and a story you can believe in. The same goes for a fine supporting turn from Willem Dafoe, and the vast majority of other characters. We won’t say that people watching you playing Beyond: Two Souls will be convinced they’re watching a Hollywood movie, but on a dramatic level Beyond: Two Souls works incredibly well.

Beyond: Two Souls

Beyond: Two Souls - Gameplay

We weren’t always quite so convinced by Beyond: Two Souls's gameplay, at least to start with. Strip away the drama, and Beyond: Two Souls can sometimes feel like a stream of quick-time event sequences. It’s a series of dramatic scenes and action sequences, but the former don’t give you an awful lot of room to explore, while the latter veer dangerously close to Dragon’s Lair timed button tapping territory at times.

Here's an example.

On the screen you can see Jodie racing through the woods, jumping logs and ducking branches, but on the controller you’re just whacking a thumbstick up, down, left and right when prompted, while occasionally hammering the face buttons.

The prompts have been minimised, with some clever use of slow-motion to help you anticipate movement and react, but there’s still an odd feeling of disconnection between what you’re watching and what you’re actually doing – as if the game weren’t really bothered if you were there at all.


However, this feeling fades the more time you spend in the game, particularly as, mid-way through, the scenes open out, giving you more to do, more to investigate, and even some light stealth and combat. Most importantly, Beyond: Two Souls has Aiden.

At most points in the game a single tap of the triangle button switches control to your invisible friend, and you can float around within range of Jodie, affecting the specific objects you’re allowed to affect.

Aiden can push or smash them to cause a distraction or move an obstacle from Jodie’s path, or he can physically affect certain people highlighted in red, sometimes possessing them so that they’ll act in Jodie’s interest, sometimes strangling them with a nasty-looking death grip.

The best scenes in Beyond: Two Souls, gameplay-wise, are those that let you switch between Jodie and Aiden at will, transforming each scene into a puzzle that the two working together can solve. Or an action sequence where quick-thinking will get you out of danger (though the game seems even more forgiving than Heavy Rain of fatal errors – your path might change, but you won’t see the Game Over screen).

The best scenes drama-wise are often the quietest – a heartbreaking farewell, a moment of kindness – or the most tense, as in some knuckle-whitening spots of espionage. Throughout, Page’s performance is key, glossing over occasional bumps in the script to keep you rooting for Jodie, all the way.


Beyond: Two Souls - Issues

If there’s any frustration it’s not in the difficulty level, but in the lack of what you might call agency. Where a game like Dishonored or Bioshock: Infinite is all about giving you a range of tools and a range of opportunities to craft your own solution, Beyond: Two Souls only makes a few elements in the scene truly interactive, leaving you thinking you could try a different approach if only the game would let you.

Even Aiden seems oddly limited in what he can and cannot tamper with. In a way, this doesn’t matter. Beyond is a different type of game, and more about how your choices affect Jodie and her story than experimenting with the scenery.

These choices really do matter, too. You decide whether to let a slight go or take revenge. You can choose to be truthful or evasive, and whether or not to let people get close. All these choices can and will add up in Beyond: Two Souls. Yet you can’t help thinking that this would be an even stronger interactive fiction if you were allowed to write a little more of it yourself.

It also has to be said that Beyond:two Souls’s attempt to implement two-player action doesn’t really hold together. One player can play Jodie while another controls Aiden, but as you still have to switch between the two this means that one player is always sitting waiting.


Still, these minor issues are part and parcel of the way David Cage and Quantic Dream are pushing against the limitations of their medium and technology, and endeavouring to do something new. It’s a stunning technical achievement in terms of graphics and animation, but also a real artistic triumph, with writing, art direction, lighting, sound and music that wouldn’t disgrace most films.

Beyond isn’t perfect just as Heavy Rain wasn’t perfect before it, but in some ways it’s struggling with the same question as Bioshock: Infinite and The Last of Us have this year: how do you push gaming as a storytelling medium and still cram in all the stuff that makes it a game? Sometimes it’s a question that Beyond fails to answer, but we can let that go when the storytelling works so well.

Check out our round-up of the best games to buy


With great performances from Page and Dafoe and technology and artistry to match from Quantic Dream, Beyond: Two Souls is another big step for cinematic gaming. At times it might be a step too far, constraining the gaming elements so that the player doesn’t quite feel in control, but there’s more than enough compensation in the strong story, great characters and interesting situations. Beyond: Two Souls isn’t always a game you feel you have to play, but as an experience it's practically unmissable.

Overall Score



October 7, 2013, 5:42 pm

Not sure if I'll get this or arkham origins...


October 8, 2013, 4:50 am

Meow! What time will the embargo be lifted!?!?!
Is the game just average that'd be really disappointing.


October 8, 2013, 12:17 pm

arkham origins i'll say.

Tim Sutton

October 8, 2013, 7:48 pm

That's a MUCH higher score than all the other reviews I've seen.

Obviously entertainment is subjective, but everywhere else thinks the underlying graphical tech is amazing, but wasted on a dull, leaden and unrealistic script and an experience where you as the player have very little impact on proceedings whatsoever.

EDIT: I'm genuinely not trying to be 'that' guy, but if anyone only reads this review I seriously think they'll have unrealistic expectations of the quality of the game. For balances sake, here's the end of review summary from Ars Technica

"The Good

- Beautiful environmental design and character animation
- Ellen Page proves she can salvage bad material

The Bad

- Disjointed story that barely holds together through time-jumping structure
- No sense of agency or ability to meaningfully change the story
- A parade of overwrought, clichéd plot points straight out of high school creative writing class
- An utter lack of tension or anything resembling real drama
- Characters that can't hold together coherent motivations
- Insultingly easy quick time events
- Gameplay mostly boils down to "find the dot to continue the story"

The Ugly

- The fact that, somehow, David Cage took the lessons of Heavy Rain and created this

Verdict: Stay far, far away."

Matthew Bunton

October 9, 2013, 8:35 am

A typical PS3 exclusive game, technically impressive but, you spend more time watching it than actually playing it.

Stuart Andrews

October 9, 2013, 9:09 am

I knew writing the review that the scores were going to be all over the shop for this one, and I've done my best to be open about the major issue - the feeling that you're not always in control, and the rather artificial limits on what you can and can't do. For the first three or four hours I oscillated between really liking it and really not liking it, and I have to say that it's more of an 'experience' or 'drama' than an actual game. For me, though, and for plenty of other reviewers the experience works. I found the story held together - certainly much more so than with Heavy Rain or Fahrenheit - and I found it gripping, interesting and affecting. Some people don't and some people won't, just as some people don't and won't like an album or a movie. All I can give is my honest opinion, just as the guy from Ars has given his.

Tim Sutton

October 9, 2013, 10:43 am

I completely agree with you, entertainment is entirely subjective.

I didn't mean to insinuate I thought you were wrong in your opinion, I absolutely don't think that.

Its just that a 9/10 review score on TR on any product makes me think I can buy it without any worries whatsoever, and since this game is clearly extremely polarising I thought a balancing viewpoint might be helpful!

Stuart Andrews

October 9, 2013, 10:52 am

Thanks for the considered reply, Tim. It's always the difficulty with games, and I hate to post up a 'you might like it, you might not' verdict, partly because it smacks so much of fence sitting. What I always try to do is say "I like this, this is why I like it, and this is why you might not" (or the opposite), so at least it's clear where the negatives are.

I'll admit I spent a lot of time on this one worrying about the score, and whether to go with an 8 or a 9. In the end, I had to go with my gut verdict. Interestingly, other members of my family who aren't necessarily big gamers have really got caught up with this one. A lot of your response seems to relate to how closely you sympathize with Jodie and get into the story.


October 10, 2013, 8:41 pm

" I'm genuinely not trying to be 'that' guy, but if anyone only reads this review I seriously think they'll have unrealistic expectations of the quality of the game. For balances sake, here's the end of review summary from Ars Technica"

In contrast of saying that you still go ahead and post one of the worse reviews out there instead of something more balanced.

Please actually play the FULL game before you even try to give this game a review.

The story is in its disjointed state for a REASON. If you actually play the full game you will find out in the end. It is one of those "Oh my.. God.. is that why?" kind of moments.

"- The fact that, somehow, David Cage took the lessons of Heavy Rain and created this"

I do realize everyone has their own opinions, but ignorant stupid opinions made without any background or common sense is plaguing our internet community. Because one person deems it not what he wants to be, without TRYING to FINISHING the product they directly go to insult it and tell others to stay away from it. If you actually tried to see and play the story with an open mind, it would show you just how amazing it actually is.

I finished this game in 2 days 10~12 hours game play and was absolutely fascinated by the game/story by the end. The characters were absolutely easy to empathise with because of the chronological disorder the game play was set in. In the end you find out WHY the story is "disjointed" and it is there for a reason. Only if you actually tried it and finished it that is.

Joseph Blower

October 12, 2013, 8:14 am

Your mileage may vary, but for me, the game is transcendent.

It transcends both video games and movies to become something greater than either medium would ever be by themselves. I'm an avid gamer (I have 400+ Steam games, 400+ iOS games, and 100+ console games). Yet--to speak for myself--*I* found this game far more moving, thought-provoking, meaningful, and entertaining than many other games (including Super Mario Galaxy 1-2, Grand Theft Auto 4-5, The Last of Us, and others).

I can only compare it to Heavy Rain, The Walking Dead, or the Metal Gear Solid series: deep rich stories that have themes and messages that convey something of lasting meaning; something beyond the mindless (but fun) shooting and platforming of other titles.

I will remember this game for years to come. There are few works of fiction of any medium for which I can say the same.

If you like a rich deep story line and don't care about a lack of "agency" (it's always illusory in video games, anyway--there are always incredibly restrictive rules on game play), then this is *the* game of the seventh generation. The comparably minor errors in execution and direction can be ignored, when viewed in light of the whole.

Indeed, the question of whether this qualifies as a game is, like Dear Ester, a largely irrelevant and pedantic: It entertains. It provokes thought. It is emotionally moving. And it illustrates that games--like cinema or literature--can be taken seriously as a medium to both entertain and enlighten.

If judged solely as a film, or only as a game, I can understand the bad scores, but when you combine them, I think the effect is unparalleled and something we need to see more of. It seems to me that most reviewers of this game have profoundly and tragically missed the point.


October 12, 2013, 6:23 pm

beated the game in 2 days aswell. was about 12 hours. the story.. is just so amazing! the characters felt like theyr real. i know its more like a movie but you can make choices. i personaly would give it a 10/10 just from my own experience. and the endings are all great! after i beated the game it made me wonder maybe there are ghosts in the world xD (probably aren't but still.) anywaaaaays game was great loved it!


October 12, 2013, 8:52 pm

Retrospect: Do NOT stay far, far away. I've been more entertained in this game than with many other supposedly riveting games I've been told to play.
It is a disappointment when you even remotely try to compare it to Heavy Rain though.

My opinion is more on the lower-ratings side for this game, however it is still entertaining. So, things people should think about before buying:
-DO NOT go into this game with expectations based on the fact that Quantic Dream made it. Yes, they like to go outside the boundaries, but do not try to associate it with Heavy Rain like many (including myself) mistakenly have.
-It has a very rich story. But this means less gameplay and more story. If you want to watch an 11-hour movie, this is a great fit for you.
-It is not realistic. The plot gets a little extreme, but nothing horrendous. The graphics are beautiful, though.

Take every review you read before playing with a grain of salt, because the internet has proven that the experience received from this game varies GREATLY, and it's probably best to play it without any preconceived notions or expectations whatsoever. I know it's a little strange to say that, but then give my opinion on it anyway. I'm liking this discussion though... I hated the game at first because I was so frustrated and disappointed, but I'm liking the discussion it's brought up and I've found things that I can really appreciate within it.


October 18, 2013, 9:05 pm

I enjoyed the 'time-jumping' structure. A bit of a change as you actually had to piece things together yourself for a change. It was also nice to see how things linked together. I prefer it to getting every detail spoon fed to you like most games or films. This game required thinking to fully appreciate the story. Lack of tension...again I didn't feel that. Different for everyone though I guess

Cats Pajamas

November 25, 2013, 7:40 am

Never trust a game review from someone who says they "beated" it.


May 18, 2014, 9:06 pm

Seriously, this game underperformed and everyone knows it! In fact it was forgotten a month after it dropped. 9/10!? Really? For a game that was less than 12 hours?


May 18, 2014, 9:11 pm

Exactly! I find it funny how many people complain about that when it's not a Sony game or franchise, but have no issues whatsoever and call it "transcending" when it's a Sony game. Of course the grpahics can be much better when there is very little gameplay and even less enviornment to interact with. These "games" have a predetermined outcome based on the two or three choices you make so they can spend all their effort making an "interactive" cutscene.


May 18, 2014, 9:15 pm

His review was backed up by another review.

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