I was able to get my hands on an exclusive early access demo code for Beyond: Two Souls for the PS3 courtesy of the EB Games’ loyalty program. Check out our hands on preview to see what you can expect from this latest story driven game from the creative team at Quantic Dream. There will be spoilers so those who wish to go into the game blind may want to turn away now.
It is established that the game will take you through a variety of stages in Jodie Holmes’ (the main character’s) life and you begin the game as a young child. If you’ve played Heavy Rain (and if you haven’t you should), you will instantly be in familiar territory. You walk around slowly as Jodie, examining your environment to get a sense of who and where you are. You interact with objects like toy dolls and paintings as a doctor guides you to the experiment room. For the most part it’s pretty linear but things start to get intersting when you get to the room and begin the test.
The first test has you having to match the card this woman in the other room has chosen. How are you going to do that without being able to see the card you may ask? Well thanks to your ghost/entity friend Aiden (pronounced I-den) it’s a breeze and a quick trip into the other room allows you to see the card the lady has chosen and then pick the appropiate card. Controlling your ghost accomplice is rather simple, R2 and R1 to ascend and descend, L2 to do a 180 degree spin and L1 to lock on to certain objects that you can manipulate with your psychic powers. Left stick is move and the right stick is used to control the camera. It takes a bit of getting used to as you enter this floaty first person view, but you will pick it up rather quickly. Aiden can fly, bypass walls and manipulate objects as well as perform other supernatural actions that will be touched upon later.
The decision making and branching paths from Heavy Rain is making a very welcome return and comes into play with small decisions like picking the right card and answering questions as well as in bigger events where the outcome might differ if you fail too many cues which could lead to you tripping over a branch or getting punched in the stomach. It’s a great system and means your decisions and skill will have a rather big affect on the story. In terms of the cards, you don’t even have to pick the right one even though you know what it is.
Next you are asked to smash a block tower which is simple enough. You take control of Aiden again and you can pull the two analog sticks down and then release them to send the blocks flying. Now the lady in the other room is getting a bit creeped out and this is where the fun begins. You can manipulate nearly all the objects in the room and the more you fling chairs around, flip over tables and smash glass, the more terrified this lady becomes. You feel an immense sense of power as if you could destroy this woman’s psyche at any minute, you can even go as far as to choke her with your psychic powers. At this point in the story Aiden is still rebellious and seems to be more under the control of you as opposed to Jodie, which means you are free to wreak as much, or as little havoc as you want. I’ll admit I went psycho and it felt pretty awesome. Eventually the doctors all rushed in to help the women and then the game skipped to the next section of the demo.
This time I was a much more teenage Jodie in a combat training facility where the game gets you used to the games action sequences. In place of overlaid visual cues, this game has you relying solely on the action on screen to provide you with the information you need to move the stick in the right direction. So say for example Jodie is punching to the right of screen to punch someone in the face, you need to flick the stick right. If someone is swinging at your head, you need to duck by moving the stick down. Surprisingly it work’s quite well and the on screen prompts from Heavy Rain aren’t missed. You get a fair amount of time to assess the screen and pick the appropiate action, so if you fail the prompt you only have yourself to blame.
In other scenarios where you’re just walking around or climbing a mountain, you will be presented with the familiar buttom prompts similar to Heavy Rain and a small white dot normally means an object can be interacted with. The minimalistic approach to the visual cues provides just enough information to the player without distracting from the experience, allowing the player to really engage with the world. A nice feature was that cues will be explained to you if you seem to be struggling. For example I wasn’t aware you had to hold the button down if it is surrounded by a white square but a small image of the controller and the word hold helped rectify the problem immediately.
After that the game takes you onboard a train where it soon becomes apparent you are wanted by the state and the entire police force is coming after you. You manage to escape with the help of Aiden after a thrilling chase both through and on top of the train. You then learn you can possess enemies with an orange glow, which allows you to disorient everyone around them with crazy actions such as shooting their gun. This distraction lets Jodie steal a motorbike which you can then use to escape. What’s really cool is the cinematic camera that still leaves you in control of Jodie’s actions. For example when you first get the bike you drive it from a rather standard driving game view, but then the camera angle then switches to that of the helicopter giving chase to you. Eventually you arrive at a roadblock and Jodie decides the best course of action is to plow right through them. You use Aiden to provide a supernatural shield that leaves you unharmed by the barrage of bullets.
The final part of the demo has you surrounded near a movie theatre in a small town. Jodie hides behind a car while you take control of Aiden and need to protect her. This was probably the most frustrating part of the game as I felt more limited than I should be. I couldn’t flip over the armoured trucks but could flip over certain cars (as long as they wern’t already on fire). Now this was just a demo and I feel like parts of the story were missing, so maybe it is explained at some point that Aidens abilities are limited in some regards and he can’t pick up really heavy objects or something like that. I just would of liked to see more freedom in this type of scenario. You can only possess certain enemies with the orange glow which I found strange as I don’t see why some guys are favoured over others. Eventually one of the S.W.A.T. team members you possess throws a grenade at a gas station causing it to explode. From there I eventually got caught, but then possessed a guy in the car and shot the driver which led to my escape. Jodie tells one of the guys to leave her alone (I cleaned up the swearing a bit) and then the demo ends with a trailer.
While this was my experience with the game, the branching pathways could have easily lead to a different story. For example it seemed possible to fully fend off the S.W.A.T. team in the town and it looked like I could of got caught much earlier when I was in the forest as well which surely would have affected the outcome.
With so many big games out at the moment and coming in the future I was tempted to skip out on Beyond: Two Souls and wait for a price drop, but the experience I had with the small portion of the game was very compelling and has moved the game up to the top of my wanted list. The storytelling was terrific, the branching paths and decisions you have to make keep you engaged and thinking about how you want to progress the story. Technically the game’s graphics look amazing and I only had a few minor frame drops during my time with the game. Sound design was top notch and the game controlled well with no complaints. While a bit more freedom would have been nice, this looks to be another winner from development team Quantic Dream.
Beyond: Two Souls is available from October 9th and the demo will be available to everyone from October 3rd. We recently got the chance to interview David Cage, the Creative Director and writer for the game. You can check out what he had to say about his latest project here.