The lights are on
Beyond's lead, the Ellen Page-modeled Jodie Holmes, doesn't
love life, but I desperately want her to. For all of Beyond: Two Souls'
storytelling foibles, empathy is one aspect David Cage draws out of players.
Jodie is called nasty names, abused by the government, and treated like an
experiment – all
because she has the gift of being connected to an entity on the "other side."
The cost of Jodie's connection to Aiden is ever present,
damaging or corrupting just about every relationship she has. So often, Jodie
expresses that she just wants to be normal. Her life will always be complicated
because of Aiden; it will never be any easier. She'll never know who she can trust,
and she has to live in fear of what not only Aiden may do, but also what
might happen if she's not around to fix the government's messes. Something hit
home when I played Beyond, and it came in the form of one of the game's most
haunting scenes, completely absent of supernatural elements.
Note: Major spoilers
ahead involving the ending
Life is hard. At one point or another, I think we all tend
to fall out of love with it. Either we face some unexpected hardship or see the
ugliness in the world (you don't have to look far these days, thanks to the
Internet's 24/7 news coverage). When you reach the homeless portion of the
game, you see a different Jodie. She's always suffered from despair, but this
time it's enveloped her entire soul. The toll of being attached to an entity
and being robbed of any normalcy has beaten her down, and for the first time, the game challenges her to come back from it.
The depressing tone of this section is hard to ignore, but
what jarred me the most was a simple action. I saw a knife in a tire. I went to
interact with it because I thought it would be a weapon to help me survive in
the harsh streets. What followed was something that still sends a chill down my
spine, and Cage built up to it wonderfully with all the scenes showing the
burden of Aiden (having Jodie's father call her a monster is as heart wrenching
as it gets).
Jodie picks up the knife and places it against her wrist and
then the game gives you the option to press down via QTEs. I dropped the
controller and thought to myself, "I don't think I can play this." I've known
that hopelessness, and the emotions flooded right through me all over again.
However, I didn't stop playing, since I wasn't forced to complete the action,
but then I walked outside and when I was near the roof's edge, the game
presented me a new, just as disturbing, option: "Jump." Jodie lost her ability
to see anything worthwhile about her life. It made sense, but it was also
horrifying to know that she no longer felt like fighting.
The chapter may end with a glimmer of hope, as Jodie helps
deliver a baby, and for the first time, sees her abilities in a more positive
light, but what I wasn't expecting was how this suicidal moment would impact
how I felt about Beyond's ending. Jodie once again gets pulled into another
task to help better the world; she must approach a rift into the Infraworld.
During the task, she experiences all the lost spirits' sad thoughts about
wanting to live again. She prevails through their despair, but then she begins
to morphs into different versions of herself, almost like her life is flashing
before your eyes. After fighting through these painful memories to reach the
condenser that links both the spiritual and living worlds, she makes a choice:
To live or go to the beyond.
Both choices hang before you, the beyond shines brightly,
while the living has a dark aura, representing the ugliness of the world. The
easy choice is right in front of her; if she picks the afterlife, she's with
those she's loved, like her real mother and Aiden and a slew of other people,
depending who died in your playthrough. But something about this choice seemed
too easy for me, as she says when you view the grimy life option, "Living.
Feeling. Being in love. Growing old. So many things I still have to do..."
Remember: Jodie Holmes doesn't love life, but I desperately
want her to. Cage provided me all the storytelling parts, now it was my turn to
combine them into something special. At one point during Beyond, in the
homeless section, Jodie was presented with the choice of life or death. She
kept leaning towards death, so when she was given the choice once again, I
wanted to give her what she always desired: a normal life. I needed to give her
a chance to see the world without having Aiden. For to truly have a life of her
own, she needed just that – to be on her own.
Depending on your choices, Beyond has many different ending
variations, but making that choice between beyond and life is a big moment. It
let me have a say in how Jodie developed, and I wanted it to say something
strong: that she could triumph over the suicidal thoughts and build a life on
her own. We all can relate to losing excitement over life, but powering through
the pain and making something better of ourselves? That's powerful. And that's
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.