When director David Cage and his team at Quantic Dream released Heavy Rain a few years ago for PlayStation 3, they set a new standard for the system. Even though the gameplay worked more from button and controller prompts than general free-flow movement, the way the game unfolds, with things changing depending on your reaction, is quite remarkable, and even prompts you to play through the game again once you finish, just to see how things would've gone differently.
But for their next project, Cage and company are doing something even more out-of-the-ordinary with Beyond Two Souls, a game they initially showed during some trade shows last year. Rather than control multiple characters surrounding a story, you instead lead two main characters through a series of events – a troubled young woman named Jodie (played virtually and vocally by Academy Award nominated actress Ellen Page) and a powerful spiritual being named Iden. The game interchanges between the two, and what you do with them help move the story along.
Jodie is the main draw of the game, as you'll follow her through a 15-year span of her life. She's being relentlessly pursued by police and strange government forces, probably due to her ties with Iden, though Cage hasn't revealed the full back story just yet (which is good – it sustains the mystery of the game). There are times you'll have to move Jodie carefully past police forces, or, in some cases, get into conflict with them to avoid capture. (If you do manage to get caught, however, there's an opportunity to break free a little later on, so it's not "game over".)
But the real figure of interest in Beyond Two Souls is Iden. This invisible spirit entity is capable of doing some major stuff throughout the game. In the opening demo of the game, we can see just what it can do, whether it's building up enough force to send a coffee cup flying to the floor, or ruffle the pages of a newspaper, or even send a chill down someone's spine, since Iden is able to inexplicably generate cold.
As Beyond Two Souls picks up, however, we really get to see what Iden can do. It can move around through walls and ceilings, enabling free-roaming movement throughout the area, but still staying bonded close enough to Jodie in case trouble is coming her way. It can listen in to conversations by police, helping its ally figure out her next plan of attack. This enables Jodie to escape from a train that's been pulled over, popping out through the roof and confronting police before managing to escape into the woods.
From there, we get to see more of Iden's power, mainly through possession. In the middle of the interactive demo, we're introduced to a police officer behind the wheel of a Jeep, which is blocking Jodie's path. By taking control of the officer, unaware of Iden's presence, the Jeep moves out of her way, smashing into a nearby vehicle and distracting the officers that are otherwise patrolling the gate.
Jodie does some stuff within the game as well. On the train, for instance, you can use the familiar button prompts that were first introduced in Heavy Rain to fend off incoming attacks, by hitting one of the highlighted buttons or completing an analog controller action successfully. Fail, and you're one step closer to getting captured. Fortunately, you have enough chances to make up for your mistakes. Same goes for a motorcycle chase that occurs after escaping from the checkpoint, as you guide Jodie to a nearby bridge, and an eventual skirmish with police.
It's when Jodie finds herself cornered in a city that Cage and his team really show what Iden is capable of. Not only is it able to possess weaker-spirited people (indicated with a marker on top – like the poor sniper who turns his weapon on fellow officers), but it can also pull pins out of grenades, meaning bad news for the soldiers who have them in their belts. What's more, it can also generate circumstances to create natural accidents, such as flipping cars over to create cover for Jodie, or causing an incineration at a nearby gas station, making it explode and throwing all nearby officers for a loop. The name of the game in Beyond Two Souls is survival, and you'll need to work very closely between Jodie and Iden to get out of there in one piece.
Much of Cage's next project is still shrouded in mystery – the veil is likely to be lifted in a few months at the Electronic Entertainment Expo – but it's off to a very promising start, one that even manages to eclipse the first glimpses we caught of Heavy Rain so long ago. If Quantic Dream can keep this kind of unpredictable momentum going throughout the game – coupled with the stellar performance by Page thus far – then we're in for a real treat. Now, if only we could get a release date confirmation, and maybe news if it'll be staying put on PS3, or possibly moving to the PlayStation 4.
We'll have more information soon. In the meantime, don't get on Ellen Page's bad side.