Beyond: Two Souls Impressions

At E3 2012, David Cage of Quantic Dream stepped out onto the stage and showed off the company’s follow up to 2010’s visual tour de force, Heavy Rain. In the months leading up to E3, many people were speculating about the announcement of new consoles from Microsoft and Sony with the feeling that developers had pushed this generation’s hardware about as far as it could go. They were flat out wrong.

Quantic Dream’s new title, Beyond: Two Souls shows that the PlayStation 3 still has a lot of untapped power. In it, you follow the life of Jodie Holmes played by Ellen Page. She has a connection with an entity called Aiden that’s always been a part of her life and she’s not even sure where it came from. You’ll play through the important experiences in her life from childhood to age 25 and see her struggles about being different. It’s being billed as the first time in a video game that you’ll experience such a large portion of a character’s life and it’ll be interesting to see if Quantic Dream can pull it off.

Beyond: Two Souls is running on an entirely new engine, built from the ground up. The developers took what they learned from Heavy Rain along with player feedback and put it all into this new game. As beautiful as Heavy Rain was, the movement of the characters didn’t always feel natural and at times there would be a disconnect between the voice acting and onscreen action. In that game, they used 28 high position cameras to record the performance data, Beyond uses 64 along with full performance capture for body, face and voice performance all at once and boy does it show. They’ve spent a ton of time making sure nothing comes across as a walk or run cycle, so that the characters move naturally. You have free roam movement and you can fully explore areas in the game.

All of this adds up to a game that looks staggeringly beautiful. Quite frankly, the best looking games of this generation pale in comparison. It’s one thing to see the trailers but to actually see it in person and see the movement of the characters in real time along with the lighting is just amazing. Call it hyperbole, call it fanboy hype, but once you see it for yourself, you’ll understand that I can’t overstate just how good this game looks in action.

Each chapter will have a different feel and while we’ve seen a lot of action so far, there will be plenty of emotional and slower dialogue based scenes similar to the police station. The contextual button pushing is here from Heavy Rain, but it’s been refined. It immediately made me ask about Move support but I was told that nothing’s been announced yet. Make of that what you will.

Aiden plays an important part in the story and you’ll be playing as this entity from time to time. While doing so, you’ll be able to move around the environment without anyone spotting you. You’ll be able to interact with your environment in different ways. In the demo I saw, Jodie was injured behind a car and the SWAT team was setting up a perimeter around her near a gas station. Aiden took control of one of the pumps and poured gas all over the ground, then looked up at a neon sign shorting out and caused sparks to rain down on the gas igniting it. The entity also has the ability to see people’s auras and use them to its advantage. An orange aura means that you can possess that character. Useful for taking control of a sniper and taking out a number of enemies, or a driver to cause a distraction. A red aura means you can choke the character, eliminating them and installing fear in others nearby. You also have a blast ability which can push large objects out of the way if you’re in trouble.

The interesting thing is that these are all simply tools at your disposal. How and where you choose to use them is entirely up to you. It gives you much more freedom than Heavy Rain and goes a long way to silencing critics that said it felt like an interactive movie. You still have contextual button pushing but the freedom of movement and choice in tackling a situation is night and day between the two games. Replayability should be high here as I could see a number of different ways to try getting out of the situation Jodie was in during the demo.

Quantic Dream has not been resting on their laurels the past few years and as long as the story pans out with the depth and emotion they’re promising, it looks like they’ll have another hit on their hands.

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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