Beyond blurs the lines between movie and game, writes John Walshe.
“I was born with a strange gift,” muses Jodie Holmes at the very beginning of Beyond, in a comment that’s a contender for understatement of the year. Jodie, it transpires, is telekinetically connected to a powerful entity called Aiden (pronounced eye-den), which allows her to do things that no other human being can do, like cheat at cards, play poltergeist-like pranks and destroy an entire SWAT team single-handedly.
Probably the last big game release on the PS3, before its newer, more powerful sibling is launched next month, Beyond blurs the lines between movie and game perhaps even more than the delicious The Last Of Us earlier this year. For a start it ‘stars’ Willem Dafoe (Spiderman) and Ellen Page (Juno). Dafoe, in particular, is perfectly rendered on screen and it doesn’t take a movie buff to recognise his craggy features. He plays Nathan Dawkins, a professor of the paranormal, who takes Jodie (Page) under his wing from the age of eight in a bid to find out more about her unusual talents.
Part psychological horror, part espionage thriller, part meditation on the afterlife, Beyond plays out through a series of chapters which flash backwards and forwards in time revealing tantalising glimpses of Jodie and Aiden’s connection and their powers. The missions, particularly the earlier ones, are probably too short to really get your teeth into as you skip back and forth through 15 years of Jodie’s life, from childhood, through adolescence and onto her early 20s as an international spy. You’re only really getting to grips with a teenage slow dance, complete with wandering hands, before you’re embroiled in a pretty dull montage of CIA training.
The graphics are gorgeous, the voice-acting superb and the X Men meets Alias plot is intriguing enough to keep you interested, but the problem with Beyond is that the stop-start game-play doesn’t live up to the rest of the package. The level design is very slight and the game-play far too easy to tax any but the most casual of gamers. The result is that the player ends up disassociated from the characters and the game itself. This is a real pity, because it looks and sounds fantastic and enjoys more than a modicum of genuine plot development. With a little more work, Beyond could have been superb. As it stands, it’s merely good, although, thanks to its cinematic nature and ease of play, it could well be the game that finally tempts the thumbs of your non-gaming partner…
Age Rating: 18