Beyond:Two Souls Impressions
Developer Quantic Dreams
Release Date October 2013
In a secret location some of the team from Bone-Idle were invited to meet Quantic Dream CEO Guillaume de Fondaumiere. Guillaume was anxious to showcase some of the new features that would appear in the game and then to give us some actual hands on time with Beyond: Two Souls. Here’s an account of what we found there!
During the main presentation Guillaume de Fondaumiere started to speak a little about the history of Quantic Dream and how it has shaped Beyond:Two Souls. “Innovation is mandatory in our development process. It’s something that has made us successful but can also be a bit of a curse”. This simple statement from De Fondaumiere sums up Quantic Dreams vision perfectly. Constantly striving for the next breakthrough, to push for that extra bit of polish, to push past the expected boundaries. This was evident in their last game (Heavy Rain), a game which was regarded by many as one of the best of this generation. When De Fondaumiere starts speaking it’s easy to see that he’s just as passionate about his latest project, Beyond:Two Souls.
Focusing on what worked with Heavy Rain, (and pushing their trademark policy of making the game as immersive as possible), Beyond:Two Souls has a similar feel to Heavy Rain. This is something De Fondaumiere wants to try and minimise. In his own words “rather than capitalise on Heavy Rain’s success and bring out a sequel we have taken what we learned and poured it wholly into a new story, with different themes and a unique focus”. This time, Quantic Dream are trying to get people to contemplate what comes after, of a world beyond our own, and yes, this is where the name is derived.
Happy with his explanation of the overall influences of the game, we were shown a video with Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe as they illuminate us on their respective characters and what their motivations are. You can see the video below:
We then had an interesting look at the demographics that had enjoyed Heavy Rain. A staggering number of players apparently reported having a spouse, partner or friend watch the game as it was being played with some cases of the game being shared among people as an experience. Coupled with the game’s dramatic nature, people who wouldn’t normally have found themselves interested in games found the experience to be one that they were actually interested in and Quantic Dream have leapt upon this with the intention of expanding their customer base and the range of people who could identify themselves as gamers.
Considering this potential new generation of gamers and the difficulty in getting to grips with most modern hardware (if you haven’t played games before) Quantic Dream were very determined to ensure the path to participation was as easy to follow as possible. Beyond:Two Souls’ gameplay is relatively simple with the analog sticks performing most of the functionality throughout the game with only occasional instances requiring the use of alternative buttons. But this was not sufficiently simple for Quantum Dream and so de Fondaumiere, in a first for console games, announced the use of a companion app that would run on Android and iOS and allow you to play Beyond:Two Souls with a simple touch screen device.
Demonstrating an astoundingly flexible interface that appeared to suffer absolutely no lag while being used, de Fondaumiere spoke about his desire to allow anyone to simply jump in and play, removing even the barrier of a controller. With this he led on to talk about the ability to make the game a co-op experience. Having one player control Jodie and another control Aiden, building on the idea of how Heavy Rain became a social event within a household, the idea of local multiplayer has become something that could yet be revived.
During this event there was also the chance to get some hands on time with the game itself. A demo version containing a few scenes was available, starting with a chance to play as Jodie as an 8yr old. In this scene we got a chance to see just how interactive the world is as various objects around the room were available to be touched, used, and examined. The scene started with Jodie being escorted to a room where she was asked to partake in an experiment. In the room adjacent to Jodie was a woman picking symbols and this was where we got the first chance to use Aiden.
The controls for Aiden are a small bit sluggish to get started with but it doesn’t take long to get used to flying around and interacting with various objects. Holding down the R1 button when prompted by a blue dot will stop the analog sticks controlling movement and instead, depending on how you move the sticks, you will perform an interaction instead. After successfully spooking the woman in the other room we move onto Jodie’s teenage years where she undergoes combat training, something we see a lot of in trailers and demo’s. Jodie’s combat is simple enough to execute, in whatever direction her animation moves, moving the analog sticks in that direction will successfully execute the technique. After this lesson, the demo jumps again to what looks like another few years in the future and a world-weary Jodie is travelling by train at night. Its worth noting that up until now, the reviewer beside me and I were able to vary some small aspects of our playthrough but we both travelled along a very similar path. However, as the train is boarded by the police searching for Jodie, within minutes, we have both managed to splinter off into very different paths. While I have leapt from the train to run through the woods, my colleague is on the roof of the train fighting police officers. Its the first example of just how easily the game can split your path and the options open to the player. Its easy to see the replayability of the game being extremely high also.
After running through the woods, fighting off a K-9 unit and climbing a cliff, I’m eventually caught and brought in a police car to the road where, with the help of Aiden, I manage to break free and hijack a motorbike. After a quick motorcycle ride, I eventually hit a roadblock, evidently failing another QTE and there the demo ends. After playing it briefly, I have to admit, I’m far more intrigued by this game, especially how versatile the plot appears to be. Where I failed at the roadblock, I saw another person drive straight through it, Where I got caught climbing up the cliff, another managed to successfully blend in with the surroundings. Beyond:Two Souls is an ambitious project, but if the demo is anything to go by, it’s likely to deliver.
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