Gamescom 2012: Beyond: Two Souls First Impressions Preview – Paranormal Activity
Written Friday, August 24, 2012 By Dan WebbView author's profile
David Cage and Quantic Dream didn’t bring anything new to Gamescom in terms of its new IP, Beyond. However, because the pesky bugger slipped through our hands at this year’s E3, we headed on over to Sony’s wonderfully air-conditioned suite in a nearby hotel at this year’s show to see what all the fuss was about and get the skinny from Cage himself. Plus, we know you love to hear our opinions as much as we do, so it’d be rude not to report back and get you up to speed.
Beyond: Two Souls tells a story that spans 15 years, from ages 8 to 23, of protagonist Jodie's life, played by Hollywood and indie actress, Ellen Page. Jodie isn’t just a regular girl though, so we’re not going to see the trials and tribulations of high-school, oh no. Jodie actually has psychic abilities, meaning she’s able to communicate with a spirit, known only as Aiden. The story will take players on a journey throughout Jodie’s life as she copes and comes to terms with her special gift (or curse, depending upon how you look at it), and with her ability being so powerful, it's a given that the authorities want to get their hands on the young girl.
Beyond: Two Souls is a game unlike any other according to Quantic Dream's lead visionary, David Cage, as it uses full 3D scans and performance capture, which apparently no-one has done before. In fact, according to Cage, it’s probably one of the “largest performance captured games ever made.”
Anybody who’s played Heavy Rain will know that there were various holes in its plot, and when commenting on whether Beyond will have a much tighter and robust story, Cage didn’t want to comment, acknowledging that his opinion was always going to be subjective and therefore carry no value. It’s his story, after all, so he’s bound to be biased. “What I can objectively say though is that the engine is one of the very best on the PlayStation 3, in my humble opinion” stated Cage. “This is what Sony seems to say too. From a technical point of view, from a visual point of view, it’s the best thing you can see on the PS3."
Creating a game that takes place across 15 years of the main character’s life and placing such emphasis on the motion-capture has not been easy for Quantic Dream. Thanks to Page’s lengthy acting career however, Quantic Dream had a lot of source material to go on when tracking Page's ageing process. According to Cage, Jodie is a different character in every scene, not just because of her advancing age, but because of the different clothes she wears and the different hairstyles she sports. The protagonist’s mental state will be reflected in how she appears too. Because of the motion-capturing of every scene as well, Page will even move differently too.
All this extra effort that Quantic Dream has put into the mo-cap area of the game still hasn’t dramatically inflated the budget either, according to Cage. “The budget of Beyond is pretty much comparable to the budget of Heavy Rain, more or less,” noted Cage. “So we didn’t do a better job because we got more money, we did a better job because we tried to use it in a more clever way. The team is better, we’re more experienced, we are a larger team now – about 200 people – and we got on board talented guys like Steve, the lead mo-cap guy.”
As well as musing about his upcoming project, Cage was on hand to run us through a short gameplay segment of the game too – a scene that’s featured rather heavily in the trailers released to date. It involves a standoff between Jodie – with Aiden – and the local law enforcement. Assuming control of Aiden, you’re able to whizz around the level - both vertically and horizontally as you’re a floating spirit – and keep Jodie safe. How far you can go depends on Jodie’s mental state, but you do have the ability to pass through matter, since Aiden is a ghost.
There are certain on-screen visuals that help you work out what Aiden can do, whether that’s using the two orbs around a police officer to choke him to death or a hue around something that indicates you can manipulate it, like knocking gas onto the floor at a gas station, which you can then ignite. In this short demo we saw Aiden rip officers apart, possess a sniper to quickly take down some more immediate threats, possess a driver to ram his car into other officers, push stuff out the way, smash down a clock tower and bring down a chopper. It’s all very cinematic stuff. It’s also worth noting that all of the above is enacted by the player via either a quick time event or by manipulating the analogue sticks.
To players who loved the cause and effect mantra of Heavy Rain, Cage assured those fans that Beyond will be no different. “Actions will have consequences like in Heavy Rain,” Cage assured, pointing out that in the gameplay demo, it can end in more than one way. Jodie can get into the cinema, she can get arrested and more. Actions do have consequences, so you’ve been warned.
For me personally, Heavy Rain was one of the shining lights of this generation to date, so Beyond: Two Souls is shaping up to be one of my most anticipated titles of next year. Sure, Heavy Rain might have had plot-holes galore and might have been more of an interactive film than a game, but everything else it attempted deserved to be commended. Beyond: Two Souls looks to be shaping up to appeal to fans of Heavy Rain and with the more gameplay-orientated moments involving Aiden, it might have just broadened its horizons as well.
Beyond: Two Souls is scheduled for a 2013 release, exclusively on PlayStation 3.