Before Your Eyes PSVR 2 Review
Does your life really flash before your eyes in your final moments? It’s a notion that has always felt like storytellers taking artistic license, and yet here comes science to say that maybe, just maybe, it’s actually what we experience at the end of our days. Or maybe it’s the Ferryman from Before Your Eyes searching for souls with life stories worthy to tell to the gatekeeper to the afterlife?
Plucked from the waters of a dark sea, the Ferryman – a scruffy wolf fellow – explains to you what’s going on. You’ve a story to tell, but as an incorporeal soul of some kind, you can’t speak, you can’t move, you can’t do anything… except blink. Blink if you see where this is going.
Telling your story – the life of Benjamin “Benny” Brynn – will see you dive back to memories of a life, from the earliest formative moments, through childhood, school and up to adulthood. Great things lie before you, the Ferryman sees, he just needs to know what they are. Each blink skips time ahead, progresses and interacts with the glimpses into the world around you, lets you make decisions in the moment of what to do.
Originally released for PC in 2021 and using webcams to keep tabs on your blinking, but now the game has been adapted to PlayStation VR 2, using the built-in eye-tracking to detect where you’re blinking, the headset motion to physically look around and really get to embody Benny.
It’s a truly unique feeling for experiencing a story. You go into every scene – pools of environments and people that emerge from an inky blackness around you – literally wide-eyed as you anticipate the need to effectively stare down the game while soaking in every morsel of story that you can.
That’s easier than you might think it should be – this isn’t an intense and eventually painful staring competition with a sibling… unless you really try to stare down the Ferryman before heading into Benny’s life. Each scene is carefully constructed with interactive points marked by an eye icon, the points at which you’ll skip ahead to another scene marked with a ticking metronome, but even then there are often more things to look at and do, if you can keep your eyes open and refocus.
You can often blink quite freely, though that won’t stop the odd blink sneaking through your subconscious and jumping you ahead. Those are invariably followed by pangs of guilt at potentially missing a moment in the story.
Thankfully, you do have the options to replay chapters from the main menu, and to switch from eye-tracking to use defined button press on the controller. This does detract from the experience a bit, but is a welcome option for accessibility and being able to choose how to experience the story.
And it’s a beautifully told story at that, with simple, almost universal themes of life and death, ambition and hardship explored in a succinct 90 minutes runtime. Not blinking will be difficult if you need to hold back tears – and nobody wants to cry into a VR headset, do they?
There’s some oddities to how the game has made the jump into VR. Most persistent is the very central placement of the ticking metronome icon, which feels rather intrusive as it’s so central within your field of view. I’d also absolutely expect the scale of the world to change while going through childhood, but it often felt like my centred point shifted from one scene to the next. I’d be perfectly aligned in bed one moment, and then awkwardly lower and off to the right the next. With the still limited field of vision that PSVR 2 can provide, the simple act of looking at someone to the side required more neck craning and upper body movement than felt natural.
Alongside some characters clipping and other minor graphical quirks, it can detract slightly from a few moments, though not to the detriment of the story being told.