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Sony’s star-studded Beyond: Two Souls splits critics

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Beyond: Two Souls
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Beyond: Two Souls

If you're looking for clarity on whether Sony’s much-anticipated PS3 adventure game Beyond: Two Souls is worth picking up, you might want to try a psychic. The new effort from developer David Cage and Quantic Dream is splitting game critics right down the middle.

Cage has plenty of experience with polarizing pieces of work. His past two games, Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain, pushed gaming’s cinematic boundaries but faced some irksome gameplay issues. Beyond is cut from the same cloth, featuring virtual versions of Hollywood heavyweights Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe in a spooky tale about spirits, loneliness, and what lies on the Other Side.

Some are calling the game an emotional triumph. Others are ripping it apart, warning it’s an exercise in frustration and boredom. How big is the gap? The game currently boasts a decent enough Metacritic score of 74, though reviewers are all over the map.

Take, for instance, GameSpot's 9/10 review:

"Beyond: Two Souls is a gripping adventure that doesn't get lost in its supernatural setup," says writer Tom McShea. "[The game] so easily melds story and mechanics that you become enamored with this young woman and her extraordinary life."

But check with Ars Technica and it sounds like a totally different game:

"In Heavy Rain, I couldn't wait to see what happened as the story slowly moved toward its thrilling conclusion," writes critic Kyle Orland. "In Beyond, I simply couldn't wait for the story to end so I could get on with something else. The game represents a huge step back from its predecessor, and the lost potential could single-handedly set back the cause of interactive storytelling a great deal."

So which is it? That really depends who you ask.

Fans of the game include GamesBeat, which calls it "hands-down one of the most emotionally accomplished experiences I have ever had in a video game." Polygon digs it as well, claiming that "Quantic Dream has smoothed away nearly all the rough edges in how it presents its stories."

But IGN, Shacknews, Destructoid and Joystiq disagree, doling out low scores and lots of gripes.

Of those, Destructoid is the least forgiving.

"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,” writes reviewer Jim Sterling. “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."

If nothing else, critics mostly agree that both Page and Dafoe deliver solid performances thanks to (or despite) a smart (or dumb) script. Will that be enough to sway you to give Beyond a shot? Like the presence of the afterlife itself, it all boils down to what -- and who -- you choose to believe.

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