Before Your Eyes on PSVR 2 is rare in this day and age; this is a game that plays unlike anything else and manages to wrestle eye-opening gameplay from a genuinely new technology.
Making use of PSVR 2's eye-tracking technology, Before Your Eyes gives a physical act an emotional response. This is a choice-led narrative game where decisions are made by simply blinking your eyes and there really has been nothing quite like it. (Read more about how eye-tracking works in my feature PSVR 2: everything you need to know.)
The setup sees you at the gates to the 'after life' and asks you to remember your life, your choices, and reflect on your actions in an honest way. And so the camera darkens and you wake as a baby and play through the life of Benjamin Brynn; blinking cuts short the memories and forces you ever forwards through the character's life.
Before Your Eyes makes tech emotional
When prompted by a ticking metronome you can blink to move the story on days, weeks and even years – it can feel random at first but you soon realise there's a story arc at play. You grow up in a family fraught with common tensions between work and home life, ambition and remorse.
This mechanic soon comes into its own and creates meaningful and emotional responses, as often you'll skip moments in Benjamin's life with an accidental blink of your eyes. As in real life there's no rewind or second chances, you're just forced onwards with a niggling feeling of regret.
There were numerous times in the game where I was engaged in the life of this character and his family only to blink and miss the outcome of a conversation or event – and that's the point. You begin to mourn missing out on crucial moments in this imagined life.
Too often games champion choice but rarely deliver on the promise of purposeful and sincere outcomes, or any form of genuine emotional connection. Before Your Eyes uses PSVR 2 to eloquently marry technology to a purpose.
Through Benjamin's eyes you go to school, make and lose friends, feel the pressure of a parent's aspirations and everything is presented in a stylised visual design that sketches out the world around you in rich blocks of colour and clean lines. Characters are wonderfully described with economical details, which enables the performances to shine (there are even occasions when you need to close your eyes completely and just listen).
The simple art direction enables you to connect with Benjamin's world and impose your own emotions onto it; you see a simply rendered 90s iMac-like computer and it yields an immediate "I remember I had one of those" response. There's also a dream-like, whimsy to the art direction that is even detoured purposefully in moments of stress and child-like unease.
The art style comes into its own later in Benjamin's life as his career as an artist takes off and you can 'paint' your interpretation of events onto in-world canvases. There's also a mini-game that replicates playing the piano (follow the keys with your eyes) and a typewriter mechanic to write 'your' story.
Before Your Eyes is blinking marvellous
It's worth noting there are no other control schemes at play in Before Your Eyes, everything is controlled using your eyes. The technology inside PSVR 2 is fantastic and accurate, but it's how eye-tracking has been turned into evocative gameplay that really impresses. There are moments where I was so engrossed in the story I flatly refused to blink, torturing myself with dry eyes in a desire to just… see… a… little… more.
Few games can muster the kind of emotional response found in Before Your Eyes, and rarely is a new technology used to inspire a new way to experience games. This isn't the only game to make use of eye-tracking but its one that places the mechanic ahead of everything else. (Read my feature 'I played Switchback VR on PSVR 2 – it's blinking terrifying' for how it's being used in horror gaming.)
The only downside to Before Your Eyes is that choices, perhaps, matter less than you'd imagine. As mentioned there's an overall story arc the game needs you to witness, so choice in Before Your Eyes is more about the physical act of engagement and how you choose to interpret events rather than the outcomes.
This restriction on narrative outcomes is a minor point in a game that does something truly unexpected – it delivers a new way of playing. If you're seeking an actual new experience or simply need to see how technology, gameplay concepts and subtle art direction can combine into something exceptional, look no further than the short but sweet life of Benjamin Brynn.
You will need a PlayStation 5 to use a PSVR 2, check out the latest deals on Sony's fantastic games console below. Also, read my PS5 review for an overview of why this console is still the best around.