After completing my playthrough of Beyond: Two Souls, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. This disappointment wasn’t the game’s fault, but rather with the people who had reviewed it. No one is ever going to see eye-to-eye on everything, that’s just life. What was upsetting, was that these opinions didn’t feel like they came from a place where a reviewer’s focus ought to be. Rather than focusing on what a game is and, there seemed to be a lot of weight put into what it wasn’t. There is a difference between grading something in comparison to another subject, and then there is grading things by expectation. It is the need for an advocate when an idea has it right, and many of the reviews felt as if they were rating on expectation.
The key critique of critics is the simple expectation that this was going to be Heavy Rain 2. The people who had reviewed Beyond: Two Souls were expecting radical branching of story arch and complex narrative shifts up the “wazoo.” I’m sorry not every single movie can be Inception, but a director should be permitted to explore new areas. There was clearly an effort to give a similar feel to players who had played Heavy Rain, but as stated before, this isn’t Heavy Rain. While there are choices to be made that will affect the ending of the game in Heavy Rain, Beyond is less of a game choice and more of a directed experience with interactions in-between to keep players involved. Video games may be an interactive medium, but that doesn’t mean every single game has to have multiple outcomes. Even though Heavy Rain had more weight (no pun intended) to the decisions the player made, Beyond gives just the right amount of satisfaction dictating where certain relationships go.
While some may claim Beyond: Two Souls is a more passive experience, it is far more demanding when we talk about the new co-op feature. The mechanics are simple, but communication between player one and two is essential to completing objectives. This experience demands some role-playing that the solo experience only scratches the surface of. It’s understandable that this subtle change of pace is overlooked by reviewers because of the solitary nature of reviews. Typically when reviewing games in these days, multiplayer is expected to be online and requires little to no permission to interact. Playing single-player, one person will have control of both Aiden and Jodi, but when both characters are being controlled by two people. There is a much more surreal sense of these two characters being connected to each other. Because of these lack-luster reviews, it is saddening that this implementation of co-op will be lost when discussing games that did cooperative gaming right.
It can’t stress enough that there is no intention to sound like the immature gamer that has waited a significant amount of time to play a game, invested the initial $60, and then had a need to be validated by gaming outlets. That is a completely separate issue that can be addressed at another time, but for now it is simply the idea of shutting down what a game does right. The review that had lead to the writing of this article, was IGN’s Lucy O’Brien’s review of Beyond: Two Souls. Her opinions of Beyond are as valid as anyone else’s, but benefits from the IGN podium that, in a grander sense, determines whether a game is remembered or not. There are few if any games that scored a 6.0 that we still talk about to this day. It’s one of the biggest gripes that many people like myself have with scoring systems. We associate them with the academic grading system, where anything below a “B” or “80%” isn’t worth it. It had all the merit to be at least considered “Good,” with all the ideas and boundaries it pushes. Everything considered, Beyond may fall by the wayside in the minds of many people as the next generation approaches and it’s a damn shame that it would be put down.
Aside from the simple expectation of Beyond: Two Souls being Heavy Rain 2, the way the story is told through constant back and forth put a lot of people off. This is where it is people can have open judgement, so long as it is for the story’s sake and not in comparison to Heavy Rain. The story could have been told in a linear fashion, but Beyond does something that many games don’t, and that’s make it almost impossible to spoil. Showcasing the game to friends, one of them had pleaded that I don’t play for the sake of not spoiling the story for him. The beauty of it was, the only way it could have been spoiled for him was by playing the final act of the game. Each part of Beyond provides a better understanding of the story without directly telling players where each piece of the puzzle falls. This works on two levels, one being that they’d be hard pressed to have the story spoiled for them, and two being that the co-op experience is unhindered when a player decides to go it alone for a bit.
It has been difficult coming to terms with the idea that this game will be seen as both a disappointment and one of the Playstation 3′s swan songs. In the end, it comes down to the person playing the game. Games are never definite, even games with the highest of praise can be disliked. A game that comes to mind is the first Prototype. It received fairly mediocre scores, but the game had clicked with me on every level. I had an admiration for it, an understanding it wasn’t for everyone. That is ultimately what will happen with any game. Games like The Last of Us, BioShock: Infinite, and Grand Theft Auto V may successfully appeal to the majority of consumers that buy those games, but there will always be someone the game doesn’t click with. Beyond: Two Souls is one of those games. Beyond connected with me on an emotional level, and had changed how I see games as a medium. The ideas it had right will stay with me, but I will have to be the advocate for those ideas. It’s not so much that these people don’t agree with a position, it’s the lack of support for that claim when a game gets something right.