There’s a point in the demo of Beyond: Two Souls where Ellen Page’s Jodie looms over a wounded S.W.A.T. team Captain and delivers the warning, “Tell him to leave me the fuck alone. Because next time, I’ll kill everyone!” She’s surrounded by flames and the wreckage of a city block, littered with corpses and filled with exploded S.W.A.T. vans and the flaming husk of a downed helicopter. It’s as powerful and well acted a scene as any you’ll see in recent Hollywood blockbuster films, and it perfectly encapsulates why PS3 owners need to play this game!
The scene comes after a mind-blowing set piece where the player controls Aiden, the entity that lives inside Jodie. While she shelters behind a parked car, Aiden is busy flipping vans, crashing choppers, possessing cops to make them shoot each other, and just simply killing cops – from the inside out.
Ice-T would be proud (Cop Killa era Ice-T that is, not plays-a-cop-on-Law & Order Ice-T). Jodie and the entity Aiden aren’t on a killing spree, they’re cornered and they’re lashing out. The Demo finds Jodie being relentlessly hunted, and constantly having to protect herself – fending off aggressive cops and vicious dogs. Desperate and out of options, she unleashes Aiden on the S.W.A.T. team that has surrounded her.
But in the aftermath of the bloodbath, as Jodie stands over the survivor, the fear has left her face and she’s accepted her power. Echoing Tetsuo’s journey in Akira, or a million other films, comics, and books, Jodie has endured the pain and persecution that came with her powers and isn’t taking any more shit.
As familiar as the story may be, Beyond: Two Souls brings it to the PS3 in a way that’s more grandiose and cinematic than any game before it, but still allows for branching paths and a deep level of interaction. Quantic Dreams has been working on this formula since 2005′s Indigo Prophecy, creating a visually beautiful, cinematic experience that doesn’t feel like a staged, linear experience without interactivity.
The company wowed with the visuals it got out of the PS3 in 2010′s Heavy Rain, and the game’s dark, meandering story was as good or better than 99 percent of the crap that gets green-lighted in Hollywood. Still, a lot of people (myself included) had a hard time getting into the game. It often felt like you were on rails and just going through a series of quick time events. There were branching paths and different outcomes, but it just felt pre-packaged sometimes. Also, the cinematic angles and widely different types of actions in the game necessitated a unique control scheme. One that I personally found to be maddening.
Beyond: Two Souls gets the formula right and seems like the game Quantic Dreams has been trying to make for all these years. Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe play the leads, Jodie and Government Scientist Nathan Dawkins respectively. They were motion captured at an unprecedented level of details and their character models in-game look nearly real. It’s truly remarkable, especially the facial detail.
The aging PS3 is certainly not going out with a whimper, as the 7-year-old console dives into the uncanny valley headlong. Aside from a general shininess and some wubb-wubby pulsing video artifacts, everything looks incredibly realistic. Between this and The Last of Us, 2006′s claims about the power of the Cell processor finally seem to be proving true.
Beautiful as it may be, Beyond: Two Souls is also imminently playable. Its controls are similar to Heavy Rain, mapping several actions to the right stick and buttons in a context specific way. This time around, however, it works. A quick right tap on the stick might open a door or might throw a punch, depending on the situation. Ellen Page’s Jodie character is controlled in the third person. Aiden, her supernatural buddy, is controlled in the first person. Most of Aiden’s powers involve holding the L1 button and some action with the L and R sticks.
Just play it, it’ll make sense when you do. It’s a unique control scheme, but it really does work. It took a play through of the demo to really get accustomed to it. But once I was there it was smooth sailing. Because the controls change given the context of the situation, it allows you to do anything.
There are a lot of quick time events, but they’ve also been streamlined into something that feels more interactive. You’ll need to press the right button at the right time, sure, but you might open a different story branch if you miss it.
Beyond: Two Souls’ demo shows off a vision that’s matured into something great. The game hits it right on the head, and fulfills the promise of Quantic Dreams’ earlier offerings. Check out the trailer below and stay tuned for a full review.
Beyond: Two Souls goes on sale at retail and digital tomorrow, October 8th. This isn’t one to miss!
[IMG: PS3 Blog]