We’ve waited quite a while for the next game from Quantic Dream, the developers of the innovative experience Heavy Rain. This Tuesday, we’ll finally be able to see what it’s been up to with Beyond: Two Souls, a riveting new adventure that follows a temperamental young woman who relies on a spiritual entity to keep her out of danger.
Jodie, played here by Academy Award nominated actress Ellen Page, finds herself “gifted” with the ability to communicate with a detached soul by the name of Aiden. This gains the interest of some government types, including a scientist named Nathan Dawkins, played by Willem Dafoe, who makes it a vow to look after her.
The game follows Jodie’s life over a 15-year span, starting when she’s just 8 years old and following her until she’s grown, and on the run from a rogue government agency who want to use her powers for other means. She’ll have to rely on her strength, as well as Aiden’s abilities, if she wants to make it out in one piece.
Most of the plot remains secretive, but David Cage, director of Quantic Dream and the mastermind behind Heavy Rain, promises plenty of surprises. A new demo recently arrived, giving players the chance to see just what his team has done differently with this game – and it’s a lot.
Throughout Beyond: Two Souls, you’ll switch between Jodie and Aiden, as each one adds a little bit more to the picture. For instance, in the early “Experiment” phase, where 8-year old Jodie is sitting at a table, you’ll hit the triangle button to switch to Aiden, and then tap it again if you want to go back to Jodie. For this stage, though, you’ll need to stay as Aiden, who can travel through walls and interact with objects outside of Jodie’s range.
At first, Aiden acts as a non-violent partner, taking a look at picture cards that are being held up by a subject in the room. Soon enough, however, you’ll be able to grasp its more physical abilities. By concentrating on an object with the shoulder button and pulling back on both analog sticks, you’ll be able to prep a spiritual charge. Release the sticks, and the object you’re pointing at will go flying, whether it’s a small water bottle, glass windows, or a table.
After this part of the demo, you’ll move into a training stage, where you’re able to see just what Jodie is capable of. Rather than rely on Dragon’s Lair-style prompts to get her through each fight – like Heavy Rain did – Beyond: Two Souls has a unique combat system in place.
Here’s how it works. When Jodie begins an attack and the screen slows down, it’s up to the player to move the right analog stick in the direction of the attack. So, if she’s coming in with a punch moving from right to left, you’ll hit left on the stick to complete it.
It’s not just about being on the offensive, either. If someone takes a swing at Jodie from above, you’ll need to hit down on the analog stick when the slowdown prompt comes up. This enables her to duck and prepare her next move, which you’ll execute when asked.
This isn’t all Jodie gets to do. There will be times when you control her in real-time, like when you’re moving atop a train and staying out of the grasp of pursuing officers, or controlling a motorcycle down a dark, twisting road while a helicopter remains in pursuit. These controls feel quite natural, even though you can’t really attack while you’re in these sections. Relax, you don’t really need to.
Aiden also has abilities that are useful in the game. Along with the charge attack – which works great on vehicles – it’s also able to possess certain people. You’ll see who’s susceptible to this style of attack, as they’ll glow bright orange. As you perform the requested action with the analog sticks, the figure will begin to emit sparks, and, after a second or two, Aiden will have complete control of them.
This is useful in a number of ways. The possessed person can be coerced into moving a vehicle or crashing to the ground if they pose a threat to Jodie, and can also provide a distraction if she needs to get out of a heavily guarded area.
One other noteworthy ability is the protective shield. There are times when Jodie will be put in a dangerous spot where she could be killed if Aiden doesn’t help her. With the right charge technique – which will be prompted on the screen – a shield generates around Jodie, making her temporarily impenetrable to bullets and objects. You can only use it sparingly, but it’ll keep her in one piece when she needs to be.
A couple of other things about the gameplay should be pointed out. First, while the Dragon’s Lair style movements are scaled back, there are times you’ll still need to hit highlighted buttons, or “mash” one to a positive effect, to get something done. For instance, while Jodie is climbing up the side of a rocky surface, you’ll need to hit the right buttons at the exact time, or she’ll fall back down.
Also, the game isn’t just about high-speed action. There are times you’ll be able to relax and look around the environment at certain things, including books and pictures. While that may not sound like a thrilling part of the game, it may provide more details on Jodie’s troubled past – and more importantly, why Aiden tags along so closely.
With its superb production values, solid acting – you can’t go wrong with Page and Dafoe – and tense situations, Beyond: Two Souls should find an even bigger following that Quantic Dream’s previous effort. We’ll find out when the game releases for PlayStation 3 on October 8th.