Quantic Dream is a pretty divisive development studio. While only having a handful of games under its belt, the studio has built up a reputation of delivering wildly unconventional experiences. This trend continues with the anticipated release of Beyond: Two Souls, one of the final big-name games slated for the PS3. Intent on proving that video games are an effective medium for storytelling on par with film, Two Souls has tapped the talents of A-list Hollywood names like Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe to take part in bringing the game to life.
With spiritual and supernatural themes at play, the game explores the premise of death and the afterlife (the “Beyond” portion of the title). The game's story takes place over 15 years and focuses on Jodie Holmes, jumping through important and influential events in her life. Aiden is the game's other star, in that this entity is what offers Jodie her extraordinary powers; powers that many others want to understand and control. It is certainly a subject worth delving into, although the execution doesn't seem to be great yet.
When the game first debuted, it hinted at an intimate story of a girl and her bond with an unknown, incomprehensible, and powerful being. It was expected that smaller moments would be more prominent than action, as that tends to be the studio's forte. The latest demo, however, shows signs that the game (or at least portions of it) does feature some action-heavy sequences.
The Beyond: Two Souls demo opens with a nighttime firefight in Somalia. Jodie and Aiden are two separate playable characters and, intriguingly, have wildly different control schemes. Jodie's controls are a bit more familiar, with the left and right shoulder buttons used for aiming and shooting. She can move around with the left analog stick and can jump from cover to cover pretty much instantly by selecting where you want her to go (similar to Hybrid).
Hand-to-hand combat is a quick-time event smorgasbord as you follow the onscreen prompts. Time also slows down and you use the right analog stick to follow / anticipate how and where Jodie moves next. The implementation remains the same whether you are fighting on solid ground or on a speeding truck racing through the war-torn streets.
With the triangle button, you can switch between Jodie and Aiden instantaneously. Aiden offers a better view of the environment and you can use him to take out select hazards that impede Jodie's progress.
Confusingly, Aiden's directional movements are sequestered to the right shoulder button (to move up) and right trigger (to move down), with all of its interactions executed through some combination of analog stick movements (push the analog sticks toward each other to choke an enemy or pull them back and release them to pummel through a wall like a slingshot). Aiden, being a supernatural being and all, perhaps we are not made to comprehend and control him so easily (meta!). Unintuitive is perhaps the most diplomatic description I can offer about the controls.
The demo ends with Jodie cornered and quickly rescued on a rooftop. It is hard to say where this game is headed, both story- and gameplay-wise. Quantic Dream's games tend to be interactive dramas wherein gameplay takes a backseat to the narrative experience. If action eventually takes center stage in the final product, the controls could be a major detriment to the Beyond: Two Souls experience. Hopefully, the developers can fine-tune it before the game releases in October.
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