For all its promises of representing a change from the usual (supposed) shoot-bang zeitgeist, Beyond is just as nonsensical as any Call of Duty. It's a thriller without any intrigue, a character study bereft of character, and a game short of actual gameplay.
In fairness to David Cage, his decision to build a game around the life of a troubled young woman is a brave one, and Ellen Page's performance is good. But on the whole the scenarios he presents us with are so contrived, so boring, as to render all interest in what happens to Jodie – and the malevolent spirit that she is connected to – utterly dull.
Heavy Rain had problems, but its central conundrum was enough to pull users through the experience. Beyond has no such draw: there's no mystery to Jodie and Aiden's relationship, nor is there to her power: everyone seems to know about it. The motivations of your supporting characters – CIA spooks, shifty scientists – are telegraphed too early to surprise or excite.
So too with the decision to hop back and forth between different stages of Jodie's life: with no character building or conspiracy to work out, they become pace-sagging vignettes, exposition masquerading as interactivity. This is mostly due to gameplay being so uninvolved: you're oftentimes just guiding Jodie to the end of a 'scene' – by, say, opening doors, or rolling over in your bed – rather than making informed, influential choices. Combined, it makes flashing back a chore: you're not learning much, and you're actually doing even less.
The narrative's problems feed into the mechanics. Aiden's powers – and how they're exerted – are woefully inconsistent with the story, and the game is utterly straightforward in its moment-to-moment interaction with the player. Which would be fine if the game's narrative hooked you in. But it doesn't. There are bright moments, but when a game sells itself on a story, said story better be good. This one isn't, and anyone expecting Heavy Rain 2 is going to be sorely disappointed.
Completed the story in 12 hours.
4 / 10
- Some good scenarios.
- Excellent visuals.
- Doesn't feel like you're really participating in the story.
- Terribly clichéd.