Theres no getting away from it, Beyond: Two Souls is grotesquely cinematic. David Cage and Quantic Dream have been trying to blur the lines between video games and movies for years now. From Omnikron to Fahrenheit and most recently Heavy Rain have all tried to bring a blockbuster Hollywood feeling to video games and in Heavy Rains instance I believe they succeeded. When I sat down to play Beyond: Two Souls recently at the Eurogamer Expo I found that many of the previously present video game aspects of Quantic Dreams games were nowhere to be found.
The demo opened up with the main character, Jodie (played by Ellen Page) as a young girl idly playing with her dolls when a doctor interrupted her and started escorting her out of the room. In a short space of time you realise that Jodie is in some type of medical facility, her archetypal ‘little girls room’ is a façade littered with CCTV cameras and one way mirrors – an observation room.
Moving through the facility you find yourself in an interview room. Here Jodie is sat down and has a collection of sensors placed on her head as her mentor Nathan, played by Willem Dafoe, explains that “everything will be okay” before Jodie is asked to guess the picture card chosen by a stranger in the next room. It is here that we are introduced to one of the games core mechanics and also to Aiden, a supernatural being tethered to Jodie. By pressing the triangle button you can control Aiden and move freely through the wall to see which card has been chosen. Further on in this scene you are also given the freedom to wreak havoc as Aiden, trashing tables, cracking windows and almost choking the other participant in this test.
Once this scene ends the player is taken to a point presumably further on in Jodie’s life where she is undergoing close quarters martial arts training with a certain government agency. You are shown through a number of moves that the right analogue stick will complete any move that Jodie is attempting to perform in combat. As to be expected from a spiritual sequel to Heavy Rain, the majority of player input in Beyond: Two Souls is minimal and incredibly easy to action.
When you have mastered the combat by completing it without failing, this scene is quickly replaced with a further scene of Jodie on a train attempting to sleep as police start to search the train. You can control Aiden once again to alert Jodie to this fact or allow her to get caught – both of these choices seemingly end up at the same point but I’ll come to that a little later. The scene quickly degrades into a chase scene as Jodie finds herself on the roof of the train, fighting off police and eventually jumping (with Aiden’s help) off of the train. This scene continues as you outrun police and encounter attack dogs which are dispatched using the right stick and shoulder buttons at appropriate times through Quantics masterful use of Quick Time Events.
After moving through the forest and evading the police Jodie manages to find a sparsely manned roadblock. Here you can learn about Aiden’s ability to possess certain people – using the L1 button and moving the analogue sticks in a specific way. Using this technique, Aiden creates a distraction which allows Jodie to steal a police motorcycle. The following sequence has you outrunning a police helicopter which I felt very un-Quantic due to the sudden increase in the players full control of Jodie. Frantic action where the player has 100% of the control is probably not one of the teams strongest points and much like the highway scene from Heavy Rain this section felt very out of place.
Having evaded the police (again, with Aiden’s help) Jodie is ambushed near a gas station. This escalates quickly into a full on shootout as the police attempt to take Jodie down. Using Aiden to float around the scene you can interact with nearby gas pumps, snipers, other officers and even the helicopter pilot to help Jodie escape. This is where the demo ended and where I found myself hungry for more but for reasons that might surprise you.
Not only am I excited to play the finished product because quite frankly I was a huge fan of Quantic’s previous two games, but also because without the context of the surrounding scenes, these cut away scenes mean very little to me. It’s hard to get any sense of emotional investment in characters I know very little about. I mean, sure I felt sorry when ‘young Jodie’ was panicking because of the destruction that Aiden was causing but it was extremely difficult to empathise with any of the other characters due to the choppy nature of the playthrough.
Going back to my previous statement about choices, whilst waiting in line to play Beyond: Two Souls I noticed that a great number of the players who were playing the game were doing so in different ways. Some would get caught on the train whilst trying to escape, some would fail to escape on the motorbike and get caught there. These different paths however all seemed to flow towards the same ‘destroy everything’ scene at the end of the demo.
Whilst Beyond: Two Souls is going to be an extremely cinematic experience it’s not offering you a choice, it’s offering you a paradox of choice, whereby each action will eventually lead to the same outcome just with a slight different route. I’m not specifically saying this is a bad thing and I’d like to believe that there are a number of different endings and outcomes which are based on your individual choices made throughout the game, but theres a cynical part of me that knows that this probably isn’t going to happen. Much like Heavy Rain, it seems you can make flawless choices and decisions until a pivotal scene (the motorbike/barn scene in Heavy Rain) which can cause you to completely ruin your experience by making a single button mispress.
Beyond: Two Souls is scheduled for release on October 11th exclusively for PS3.