Beyond: Two Souls Preview from E3 2012 -- The Medium is the MessageBy Nikole Zivalich - Posted Jun 07, 2012
One of the few kept secrets of E3 2012 was the PS3 exclusive Beyond: Two Souls. Quantic Dream, the team behind Heavy Rain, and David Cage, are responsible for one of the most talked about games of E3. Beyond does not have a genre; creating its Wikipedia page will surely be a challenge. It's different, and every scene is unique. Beyond: Two Souls is hard to define, but it does have clear themes, like, evolving, growing, and accepting death. Those are heavy themes for gamers to cope with.
It was important to Cage and the rest of the Quantic Dream crew to make sure they made a game that took gamers on an emotional journey. They also wanted to enhance the elements people liked in Heavy Rain, like the narrative interactivity. This results in direct control over the action, choices, and cinematic graphics, ultimately allowing gamers to guide the game and, perhaps more importantly, the story.
After hearing about Beyond's plot, and then seeing it in action, one has to wonder where the inspiration came from. The game has an odd, almost anti-spiritual vibe thanks to the character of Aiden, pronounced Eye-din. This story about the afterlife has emotional roots for Cage. Details were sparse, but he did say the idea was inspired by the loss of someone close to him. He wanted to know what came after death, and he wasn't happy with the explanations religion provided him, so he wrote a story.
Jody Holmes has a special gift. She has a link with an invisible force that no one can see. I'm not entirely sure Jody can see him, she simply may be able to sense his presence. Aiden has been with Jody since she was a child. Jody isn't sure what Aiden is, and neither do we. He could be a spirit, a ghost (they are totes different) or even a guardian angel. And in a way, he's all of those things. Despite not being visible, tangible, he has emotions. He can be protective and kind, but he's jealous and quick to lash out in violence against anyone, even Jody.
Jody can’t control Aiden; she can only ask him to help her, and hope he listens. As a gamer, you won’t have to worry about Aiden lashing out, because you’ll be able to play as him too. When you’re in control of Aiden, you’ll have the ability to go through objects and people, interact with things in the world, take control of people with an orange ora, and basically just scare the shit out of people.
Beyond takes place over 15 years of Jody’s life. We’ll get to see her deal with acquiring her gift, growing up with it, and eventually coming to terms with who she is (or what she is). At E3 2012, Sony held a 45 minute demo of actual Beyond gameplay. In it, Jody is 24 years old and a fugitive. Jody is trying to get some sleep while discreetly sitting at the back of a train. The train makes an unsuspected stop to allow a dozen sheriffs to board and search.
When the train stops, Jody is asleep and gamers are in control of Aiden. As sheriffs begin searching the train car Jody is in, Aiden floats over to her and attempts to wake her. To do so, he pushes her bag from overhead, startling her in the process. The cops notice her trying to flee and a fast-paced chase through train cars begin as you take control of Jody. To control the scene, you use L3 (left joystick) and L1/ R1 to initiate quick movements.
If you’re fast enough, the next few minutes will seamlessly flow together. The chase eventually leads Jody from the train car hallways to a small bathroom to the top of the roof. When she has nowhere left to run, she asks Aiden to help her, and she jumps off the train. In mid air, Aiden forms a shield around her, protecting from the fall, and allowing her to get up and run.
The dark, pine tree thick forest that was visible from the train is now where Jody is trying to evade even more troopers. Backup has been called, and it looks as though SWAT has been notified too. Whatever Jody did, it was bad. This forest is less than ideal for a chase. Jody dodges tree branches and jump over logs, and all at your behest. Eventually, the cops’ German Shepherds catch up with her, and she is forced to fight them off with a stick.
To escape the forest Jody has to climb a rock formation. Just as she releases a sigh of relief, the camera pans up revealing the road has been barricaded. Three armed cops and a motorcycle cop are preventing her escape. It might be time for Aiden to make some moves. During the demo, Cage emphasized how there are countless ways of going through each scene.
The man with the controller decided to float over to the motorcycle cop, and took control of him. Then He led him over to one of the trucks being used to form the barricade and drove it back and forth, distracting the other cops. Free to run undetected, Jody run over to the unattended motorcycle and drove off.
One of the reasons Beyond: Two Souls is hard to define as one genre is because every scene is different. Case in point, when Jody gets the bike, the game switches to a racer. The road eventually leads Jody to a bridge. On the other side are armored vehicles, dogs, and dozens of SWAT members. Jody decides to trust Aiden and plow through them.
The impact is too much for the bike, but luckily Jody makes it into a town littered with cops. Injured, potentially shot, and scared, Jody begs Aiden to help her get away. As Aiden, thed demo driver decides to take a more violent approach, flipping cars, force choking men, and even taking control of a few snipers to take out other SWAT officers.
Eventually Jody manages to barricade herself inside a rundown building; in the meantime, Aiden unleashes a hellstorm of fire onto the gas station, sending the few survivors into a burning panic. Jody limps away, but before she goes, she tells a lone SWAT survivor, "You know what I can do. Next time, I’ll kill everyone."
Whenever I describe my time with Beyond: Two Souls to someone at E3, I get the same reaction, “Yeah, but is it a game?” It’s a valid question; I can see this game seeming more like an interactive movie than a conventional video game. This is how I know Beyond: Two Souls is going to change the way we look at games. It’s going to make us look at the medium differently, and question what the medium even is.