There will be no dry PSVR2 headsets among those who choose to try Before Your Eyes. This truly unique 90 minute narrative experience asks you to set aside your DualSense, and relies on the headset’s eye tracking as its primary form of engagement. Rather than using the controller, you’ll instead blink to interact with objects and progress through scenes, with your head enabling you to look around. You can turn off the eye tracking for a more traditional experience if you like, although we’d argue this strips the release of its USP.
The story is divided into a collection of different memories, each presented in a rudimentary, block colour art style. While its presentation is basic, the developer does more than enough to communicate information in each brief scene, whether it’s a birthday party or a first day at school. Therefore, it rewards you for drinking in your surroundings and piecing unspoken parts of the plot together yourself.
The voice acting is outstanding, and the 3D audio mix is among the best we’ve experienced on PS5 to date. This is perhaps aided by the fact that there are moments where you’ll be asked to close your eyes and keep them shut, allowing you to hone in on a single conversation or sound, which is used to poignant effect.
You play as a character called Benjamin, who’s brought aboard a boat by a wolf in an anorak. While it all seems quite fantastical at first, once you begin to relive your memories, it settles into the rhythm of a much more human tale. The story definitely plays for heavy emotional impact, and thus leans into some pretty upsetting themes, but it never feels particularly overwrought or preachy.
In fact, we were impressed with the brief sequences of levity interspersed between the truly heart-breaking moments: it’s all quite real, in a devastating kind of way. We also really enjoyed how the main mechanic, blinking, is a force of nature, meaning there are moments where you’ll try to cling onto memories – only to inevitably bat your eyes and be hurried into the next scene.
While the setup can be quite slow going, where you’re recounting your earliest years with your parents, it picks up briskly in the second half, and the pay-off feels earned as a result of the connections you form. The game also enables you to leave your own personal mark on the plot, with a selection of small decisions that help to make you feel involved in the story.
Not every mechanic works: there are moments where you’ll need to play the piano by looking backwards and forwards at illuminated keys, but we found this a little messy. And it’s only really using eye-tracking when you blink, which is mostly accurate but has the odd foible here and there. But it’s still a wholly original example of interactive storytelling, realised to a very high standard.
Before Your Eyes left a lump in our throat, which we weren’t expecting at all. The game starts fantastical, but eventually matures into a relatably human tale, which we imagine will touch the majority of people who play it. Strong writing, fantastic voice acting, and an outstanding 3D audio mix all contribute to an impressively poignant campaign, which helps showcase how impactful interactive media can be.