|Dev: Quantic Dream|
|Release: October 8, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Last year at E3, Quantic Dream revealed Beyond: Two Souls. The game was going to be another “cinematic experience” much like Heavy Rain, in which gameplay focused on choices and reactions rather than mechanics. In short, it was going to be a huge quick-time event starring Ellen Page and a ghost that followed her around everywhere, but we were OK with that. This year, we got to see the game again, except now the whole thing had a bizarre military coat of paint on it. Gone were the gritty scenes of the main character, Jodie Holmes, running from the cops while her spirit guide, Aiden, brought down buildings to keep her safe. Instead, we got to see Ellen Page squatting behind cover and shouting at an African kid for 30 minutes. Is this a new direction for the story or just a shameless cash-in on the military game buzz that has been saturating the industry for years now?
The E3 demo picked up with Jodie taking serious fire from what I could only assume was some sort of African terrorist movement. Stuck behind a wall that was being riddled with assault rifle rounds, she called on the ghostly presence that follows her, Aiden, to help her out. Here is when you get your first dose of controlling Aiden. Everything Aiden does is controlled via a first-person view. The left stick moves Aiden while the right stick turns him, much like any other first-person shooter. You can also use the triggers to raise or lower his altitude. This control scheme would work just fine except Aiden always starts out hovering above Jodie and looking down at her. Aiden can pass right through walls, so if you immediately try to start moving, you’ll either plunge through the floor or back up into the air far away from the action. Unfortunately, this means that every time you switch the controls over to Aiden, you have to play the look-in-the-right-direction game before you can even start doing anything.
Things and people that Aiden can interact with are highlighted in different colors. Aiden can push, pull, choke, possess, and otherwise manipulate people and objects. The actions that Aiden can take are determined by the color the object or person is highlighted in, and you can see them quite well against Aiden’s blurred black and white vision. Once you have found the thing you want to interact with, you lock on to it with the R1 button. You then move the analog sticks to perform your action. Move them apart to possess, together to choke, forward to push, backward to pull, and so on and so forth.
Jodie, on the other hand, is controlled via the same controls that we saw in Heavy Rain. Aiden is also controlled in the same way when he possesses someone. When she gets close to something or someone she can interact with, an icon will pop up on the screen telling you what button to push, hold, or mash. You will also have to shake the controller at times or flick the analog stick. The only way Beyond differs from Heavy Rain is in its movement controls. Jodie doesn’t have to struggle with tank-like movement controls. Instead, she simply moves whenever you tilt the left stick.
Unlike Heavy Rain, which will outright tell you to flick analog sticks in a certain direction to perform an action, Beyond just tells you that you need to flick the right stick in some unknown direction to perform some unknown action. You have to guess what direction to flick it in by the way Jodie is moving. So, if she is dodging a knife, you pull the stick back, and if she is punching someone, you move the stick forward. Unfortunately, Jodie’s animations are not always self-explanatory, and flicking the stick in even a slightly off direction could get Jodie stabbed or thrown off a moving vehicle. It’s actually kind of infuriating, especially when it causes you to replay important scenes. It almost feels like the Dragon’s Lair guessing game all over again.
Beyond: Two Souls can actually be best described as a puzzle game. You will move Jodie through the game as far as you can until some sort of predicament (like the aforementioned terrorists) prevents her from moving any further. Then you will switch to Aiden and somehow clear Jodie’s obstructions (in this case, he choked one terrorist and possessed another in order to make him kill his squad and pull up a getaway vehicle for Jodie). You will then switch back to Jodie and continue on with the game until once again blocked: lather, rinse, and repeat.
Aiden can only exert his influence in a limited sphere around Jodie. So while you might be tempted to simply fly across the battlefield and get all of the soldiers to shoot themselves in the face, you will actually need to switch back and forth often in order to move Jodie closer to targets for Aiden; Aiden then clears the path for Jodie once again.
Of course, games like this are really made by their story, but unfortunately, I have no idea what the story is about. In our preview at last year’s E3, it seemed as if Jodie was kidnapped for murder, likely the murder of her spirit companion, and together they had to avoid the cops and the CIA. This time around, it seemed as if Jodie was forced into the military at a young age and trained to be a super soldier for some reason. Everyone around her thinks that Aiden is all in her head, though she swears he is real. Still, even though people think she is crazy, she is able to lead high-priority covert operations in the middle of Africa, taking down entire guerrilla factions only by herself.
To be honest, the story made very little sense. It seemed to needlessly throw in the military flavor just to make Call of Duty fans look twice at the game. However, as goofy and forced as the plot felt, it was only one part of a plot that is going to span all of Jodie’s life, and it’s hard to deny that, despite the shameless military coat of paint, the demo left me wanting to learn more.
Beyond: Two Souls is set to release on October 8th on the PlayStation 3.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
Date: June 17, 2013