Beyond: Two Souls Review: The Definitive Version Of A Masterpiece!

Beyond: Two Souls is finally available on PC through the Epic Games Store! This late-era PlayStation 3 title originally launched just 1 month prior to the release of the PlayStation 4 in October 2013. Like Heavy Rain before it, Beyond: Two Souls would eventually see an updated re-release for Sony's new machine in 2015. Unlike Heavy Rain, I came into Beyond: Two Souls completely blind. At the time of its original release, I didn’t have a functional PS3 and by the time I picked up my PS4, the game was well off my radar. Perhaps it was for the best because what I found was one of my new favorite narrative experiences in gaming made better on PC!

Story

PC code provided for review by Quantic Dream

PC code provided for review by Quantic Dream

Beyond: Two Souls tells the story of Jodie Holmes, a girl with a connection to a supernatural being. This strange entity has been a part of Jodie since she was born and as she grows up weird things begin to happen around her. Not knowing what to do with her powers, Jodie’s parents place her in the care of Dr. Nathan Dawkins and Dr. Cole Freeman of the Department of Paranormal Activity. Under their care, Jodie learns to harness the bond with her strange presence, named Aiden. Jodie’s tale covers many stages of her life and maybe even her death.

Gameplay

beyond-two-souls-combat.jpg

In signature Quantic Dream style, Beyond: Two Souls plays out like an interactive movie and might just be my favorite outing by the company yet! Each chapter in the game covers a part of Jodie’s life from her childhood to teenage years and young adulthood. Jodie’s life plays out of order with one chapter chronicling a moment later in her life and the next taking her back to childhood. There is a deliberate reason as to why the story unfolds this way but I won’t spoil that for you all here in case you have yet to try the game out for yourself. If you would like to experience Jodie’s story in chronological order a “Remix Mode” is available that has every event in the game take place chronologically. Being that this was the first time I ever played the game I decided to experience the story in its original intended form. 

Gameplay unfolds through a series of quick-time events and exploration. Whether you are playing as Jodie or her otherworldly companion Aiden, the basics of gameplay remain the same. Every interaction is performed by deliberate movements, or button presses, of your mouse or controller. Besides these prompts, the screen is kept completely clear of any types of HUD elements. Unlike previous Quantic Dreams titles, some QTE’s aren’t explicitly stated, instead relying on in-game characters body movements to indicate the right direction to press. 

This new system is great at keeping immersion, but I did frequently misread a motion and deliver a wrong press. For first time players of a Quantic Dream title, different difficulty options are available to better tailor the games quick-time events to your skill level with the easier option giving players more time to get the correct input. Beyond: Two Souls features more “combat” than previous titles by Quantic Dream and as such new stealth mechanics and a cover system have been implemented for certain chapters. I found these particular moments really enjoyable and they gave the game its own unique identity compared to what Quantic Dream has done before!

beyond-two-souls-stealth.jpg

Each chapter has a set narrative or objective and you are free to decide how to handle each situation to reach its resolution. Multiple dialogue options can be chosen for conversations, with each potentially changing how events can play out. Interacting with objects or people, or missing these possibilities, can also drastically change the way certain scenes resolve. One of the coolest things is that every choice you make at a decisive point in each chapter is documented at the end of the chapter and you can see how your choices stack up compared to how others have played that particular chapter. The game also keeps things spoiler-free in case you didn’t happen to find a certain decision, which really encourages multiple playthroughs to see every possible outcome. I had a blast seeing just how similar or different my chapters were compared to others! 

Now we can’t talk about Beyond: Two Souls without discussing Aiden. Aiden is Jodie’s otherworldy companion who has been with Jodie since birth and is one of the games key plot points. Exploring the bond between the two characters was a very enjoyable part of the whole experience, but getting to play as this ethereal presence was even better! Aiden plays very differently to Jodie, with the ability to go through walls and ceilings as part of the ways to explore. This kind of exploration is encouraged and reveals extra dialogue from characters who aren’t in the same room as Jodie or even unlockable bonuses. Aiden is also capable of possessing or killing certain characters as a means to progress through a chapter. Because Aiden is tied to Jodie, he can’t go too far from her at any given point without causing them both pain. Just as a heads up, things you do, or don’t do, with Aiden can also impact the results of any given chapter.

Beyond: Two Souls has a neat co-op feature that can let two people play through the story together with one player controlling Jodie and the other Aiden. Only one character is controllable at a time, which results in a turn-based approach to the feature, but it is still really cool. On PC players will need to have at least one additional controller to use the feature in combination with a mouse and keyboard. Unlike Heavy Rain’s PC version, I had no issues when it came to using an Xbox One or PS4 controller with both being detected instantly in-game.

Visuals

beyond-two-souls-Nathan-jodie.jpg

Beyond: Two Souls is an absolutely stunning game to look at! Everything from character models to textures looks amazing. Every character has been expertly modeled and motion-captured and the results are stunning. Ellen Page, who plays Jodie, and Willem Dafoe, who plays Nathan Dawkins, look incredibly realistic and life-like. Honestly, I can’t think of a single character or moment I felt was lacking in quality compared to the title stars. You would be extremely hard-pressed to find any of the games PS3 roots here on the PC version. 

This PC port is based on the updated PS4 version of the game with further enhancements. Frame rates have been upgraded from 30 FPS to 60 FPS with a selectable cap, in case your rig can’t quite maintain a constant 60 FPS. The resolution has been bumped from 1080P up to 4K with support for ultra-wide displays. Unlike Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls gets a proper implementation for the wider format screens. When playing on the wider screen, the letterboxing present on a 16:9 monitor is removed, giving the game that much more of an appealing presentation. PC players also have the usual assortment of graphics options available to change things like model, texture and shadow quality.

Audio

beyond-two-souls-Nathan.jpg

Just as in the visuals department, audio work has received a substantial update over previous Quantic Dream titles available at the time. Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe provide outstanding voice work with proper inflections that really bring the emotions of each scene to life. Likewise, the supporting cast also drives home solid performances that further elevate the whole experience. This might also be the first time I have played a Quantic Dream title that didn’t have any obvious localization errors, making it that much more immersive! 

The whole game is accompanied by a soundtrack from composers Lorne Balfe and Hans Zimmer, both of whom came in to complete the score after the untimely passing of the previous composer Normand Corbeil, to whom the whole game is dedicated. The score accents the scenes and acting well, but it is sadly forgettable compared to the work found in Heavy Rain that I still find myself going back and listening to.

Replayability

beyond-two-souls-lake.jpg

Thanks to the variety of ways you can play through a scene and the number of endings you can have, Beyond: Two Souls can keep players busy for a number of hours after their first 11-hour playthrough. In total there are 11 endings, each achieved by doing certain conditions throughout your playthrough. Finding all the hidden bonuses with Aiden can also take a bit of time as some are better hidden than others. The PC version of Beyond: Two Souls also comes with the advanced testing DLC that offers even more puzzle based gameplay to solve with Jodie and Aiden!

What It Could Have Done Better

As far as criticisms with Beyond: Two Souls PC version go, I have just a few things to say. First, the mouse and keyboard control still feels janky and imprecise compared to using a controller. Seriously, just save yourself a headache and use a controller. Second is the new combat QTE system in place that removes the direction prompts from the screen. This new system relies on watching a character's motion and following it with your input. The problem is sometimes you have no clue which way the game wants, resulting in a number of wrong inputs and your character taking more hits than they really should have. You can also fail certain things because of this. Neither issue is especially game-breaking, but it does ding the overall experience.

Verdict

I really enjoyed my time with Beyond: Two Souls on PC. This amazing narrative tale combined with great acting and visuals really delivers the full package. Of course, the game won’t be for everyone, due to its main form of gameplay being QTE’s. For anyone who wouldn’t mind this type of gameplay, Beyond: Two Souls is a must-play and the PC version is now the definitive way to do so. If you have never played Beyond: Two Souls, or even if it has been a few years since your last playthrough, Jodie’s journey is well worth experiencing and has easily taken one of my top spots for storytelling! Grab it today!

GT_Review_9.png