Beyond: Two Souls leaves critics divided

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Depending on your own predilection Quantic Dream’s David Cage is either a visionary auteur, or a pretentious twit who wishes he had the talent to make actual films instead of games. Whichever side of that fence you sit on, you have to admit that he does have a certain flair for visuals, and his latest bit of interactive fiction, Beyond: Two Souls is a beautiful thing to behold.  Is it any good though?

It seems that it all comes down to your own preferences – because the critical consensus is incredibly mixed, with reviews ranging from perfect scores all the way down to frightfully dismal forties. Here’s what critics have had to say:

Polygon’s Justin McElroy gave it an 8, saying:

With Beyond: Two Souls, Quantic Dream has smoothed away nearly all the rough edges in how it presents its stories. The other edge of that sword is that it lays the stories themselves bare to be judged entirely on their own. With so many of the traditional elements of gameplay stripped away, like challenge and exploration, a tremendous amount of weight is put on Beyond‘s story to carry the day. While it’s exhilarating to see a team that has worked so hard to perfect a new way of telling stories, I couldn’t help wishing they had a perfect one to tell.

Making the inevitable comparison to Heavy Rain, Eurogamer awarded it a middling 6, saying:

Heavy Rain worked because it was a police procedural, a genre that’s all about narrow horizons and methodical reassurance. The tight confines of Quantic’s style suited it well. The same delivery just can’t contain Beyond’s epic scope, preposterous premise and high-octane action. You’re left feeling detached from it, and its component parts have nothing more than a frail spine of story holding them together.

IGN felt it was too much of a movie, and not enough of a game, giving it a 6 as well.

Scene by scene, Beyond: Two Souls is compelling enough, principally thanks to a remarkable performance from Ellen Page. But never before have I felt like such a passive participant in a video game, my choices and actions merely icing on a dense, multi-layered cake. Playing Beyond is a memorable experience, yes, but a good video game it is not; and while the credits were rolling I admit to thinking I would have been happier to sit back and watch a movie version that was eight-and-a-half hours shorter.

Gamespot was a little more impressed, giving it a 9

Top-notch acting makes the characters you interact with sound believable, and their faces are expressive enough that you understand their thoughts even when they remain silent. Beyond: Two Souls so easily melds story and mechanics that you become enamored with this young woman and her extraordinary life.

Destructoid was not particularly chuffed, giving it just five out of ten – mostly because it’s just damned boring.

For all the complaints that can be leveled at Beyond — and they can be leveled in feckless abundance — the overwhelming problem with it is that it’s just plain boring. Like a sociopath,Beyond: Two Souls knows how to act like it has a heart, while providing nothing of the emotional depth required to connect with an audience. Its characters can smile, and cry, and tell us they’refeeling all of these feelings, but their paper-thin presentation and the frequent narrative dead ends prevent any of their pantomime from becoming too convincing.

As with Cage’s other games, Beyond really seems to be a Marmite, love-it-or-hate-it affair. I’ve been playing it, and I feel I have to preface this with the fact that I loved Heavy Rain in spite of its flaws. Beyond: Two Souls though? I can;t say it’s particularly gripping or interesting. It’s not even the fact that it’s less of a game and more of an interactive movie; that would be fine if the story told was enthralling.

This one isn’t.

Last Updated: October 9, 2013

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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