Published on May 27th, 2013 | by Swaine Dillinger0
Beyond: Two Souls – Preview
David Cage is one of gaming’s few truly auteur developers. As soon as gamers booted up either of his previous efforts, Heavy Rain and Fahrenheit, it was clear almost immediately what they were getting: a committed cinematic narrative with only minimal diligence paid to interactivity.
Undoubtedly this kind of approach is divisive, as at what point is a developer making a game versus a interactive movie? But like Cage’s work or not, one thing is certain: nobody in the industry makes games quite like him and his studio Quantic Dreams.
Beyond: Two Souls is the next line in Cage’s life-long mission to blur the lines between games and cinemas as much as possible and this time he has recruited celebrity Hollywood talents Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe to the cause. Page plays Jodie Holmes, a girl possessed by a supernatural essence/other which acts independently of her psyche, while Dafoe is her long time therapist/surrogate father Nathan Dawkins who is torn between protecting the young girl and finding out the scientific truth behind her puzzling abilities. As settings go, Beyond’s certainly stands out, at least in the gaming world, and Jody as it turns out, is a fascinating character to play as.
Part bad-ass, part emotional wreck, Jody is constantly struggling to understand her place in the world as this demon from within her proves both a curse and a blessing. We’ve only seen about 30 minutes of Beyond in action, care of a recent showing at the Tribeca Film Festival, but it seems the mystery surrounding Jody’s power drives the majority of the 10-hour campaign. That isn’t to say the plot isn’t grounded in reality however.
The demo we witnessed featured Page wandering the streets of a snow-dusted city, along with four fellow homeless folks, including a pregnant woman, struggling to survive. Between beatings from upper-class yobs and basic apathy from more well-off urbanites, it’s faIr to say the demo offered up surprisingly gritty viewing. At one moment the player is tasked with delivering a baby, while the next they’re fending off violent yobs attempting to kick the living snot out of homeless people. Strangely, the occult and gritty real-world context actually gels together really well and Quantic Dream has done an admirable job in capturing the performances of both their lead actors and supporting cast.
Thankfully the strange accents which blighted Heavy Rain are a distant memory, but character movement can still come across as a bit unnatural at times.
As alluded to before, Beyond’s gameplay does consist of more viewing than actually doing, with on-screen prompts and quicktime events prompting player action – like moving the controller up and down to climb a ledge. That isn’t necessarily a criticism, it’s just the design ethos Quantic Dream are going for.
At the same time attempts to engage the player aren’t quite as anal as Heavy Rain though. We saw Jody open windows and doors without analog stick forward, but copious amounts of on-screen button prompts still occur and do break the immersion at times.
The demo we witnessed was wrought with danger and quieter dialogue-driven moments, yet still characters still came across as very human and emotional, which for a game is impressive.
Aside from David Cage’s previous efforts, Beyond: Two Souls is unique in its execution, ambition and commitment to storytelling. This is an adventure game with all the fiddly bits like inventory management taken out, leaving the narrative to stand proudly and bravely on its own.
Quintessentially Cage and also unashamedly adult, Beyond: Two Souls is sure to rock your emotions to their core.