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Beyond: Two Souls Hands-On Preview: Into the Depths of the Supernatural
Beyond: Two Souls is the latest game from French company Quantic Dream, the same team that brought us Indigo Prophecy (AKA Fahrenheit) and Heavy Rain. In Beyond, you play as Jodie, a woman who has had a supernatural entity attached to her since she was a child. The entity’s name is Aiden, and players can control Jodie or Aiden, depending on what the situation calls for. A new demo for the game has shown us that while Quantic Dream still relies heavily on QTEs (as they did in their previous games), they have done much to expand on – and improve – their unique style of gameplay.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Quantic Dream
Genre: Supernatural Action Starring a Tiny Canadian
Release Date: October 8, 2013
ESRB Rating: Mature
Beyond: Two Souls follows Jodie, played by Ellen Page, from age eight to age 23. The demo covers two scenes from the game: one in which Jodie is a child being tested by a doctor to measure her supernatural powers, and another in which she is much older and being hunted by the police. Both scenes are rife with building tension, and as you learn the mechanics, the gameplay grows more complicated, but slowly and gently. You’re not thrown into difficult maneuvers, but you’re also not bored with a boring, meaningless tutorial that takes up too much of the meat of the demo.
The first scene is called “Jodie & Aiden” and introduces young Jodie as she takes part in an experiment that is being run by the Department of Paranormal Activities. A young male nurse comes to escort Jodie to the other room, and you can choose to follow him meekly, or stop and play with items around the room. You can interact with several things, including picking up your doll, strumming your guitar, or watching a cartoon on television. If you dawdle too much, the nurse urges you to come with him, telling you that you can play later.
You take Jodie through the medical center and into a room with a table and chair. Jodie sits down and the nurse places a contraption on her head (condescendingly telling her that she’s a princess when she wears it – which she is obviously not buying) to read her brainwaves. Once the nurse gets into the control room, he asks if Jodie can hear him. You can say yes, or shrug, depending on how you’re feeling about this nurse (I wasn’t too keen on him after trying to trick me about the whole princess thing). Jodie has cards set up on the table in front of her, and in the room beside her is another woman with cards and other objects on her table. Jodie’s doctor, Nathan Dawkins, played by Willem Dafoe, gently urges Jodie to guess which cards the woman in the other room has chosen. And here’s where the supernatural entity, Aiden, comes in.
You swap over to Aiden with the Triangle button, and you can fly through the wall to the other room. Aiden floats strangely, and is connected to Jodie with a long, purple filament. You must maneuver Aiden to get behind the woman and see what card she is holding, then switch back to Jodie and choose the correct card. After a few times, Nathan then asks if you can do anything else, like knock over the blocks on the desk in the other room.
Here is where things get a little out of control. You can focus on the blocks, using energy to knock them over. You can keep going – you can knock over the water bottle, the woman’s purse, push the chair, knock over the table, break the lights, break the mirror… you can basically go from friendly ghost to raging poltergeist, depending on how much you want to terrorize this poor woman in the other room. After a certain point, if you keep going when the doctor asks you to stop, Jodie says Aiden isn’t listening to her anymore, and starts screaming. If you don’t stop after that, you have to wait until Nathan breaks the door down before Jodie will stop screaming, at which point there’s a short cutscene with Nathan and Jodie, where Jodie’s nose is bleeding and she’s obviously been traumatized. “It’s over,” Nathan says calmly to her, holding her close. Jodie pushes away and replies, “It will never be over.”
There’s a small scene between these two here in which you learn the fundamentals of Jodie’s fighting and moving mechanics. She’s older here, and sparring with a man much larger than her, while a coach teaches her how to fight by showing her different moves. In order to follow through with a movement, simply move the right analog stick in the direction of the movement. For example, if Jodie is trying to duck an incoming punch, just move the right analog stick down, and she’ll duck it. The camera slows down slightly and the color changes to indicate when you need to respond, but it isn’t invasive enough to take you out of the game, especially once you get used to it. And you will get used to it, especially as the pace of the action starts to quicken.
Jodie’s comment of it never being over is foreshadowing for the next scene, “Hunted,” in which Jodie is asleep on a train. Age-wise, she seems older than she was in the fight scene, though it’s difficult to tell how much time has passed. You begin playing as Aiden this time, and can float into the train and start interacting with items around the car. You can knock over Jodie’s water bottle or grab her backpack out of the overhead compartment and wake her up, or you can troll the other passengers by knocking items out of their hands, spilling their coffee, or trashing their luggage. Shortly after that, there’s a cutscene showing the train stopping and cops getting on the car. At that point, I decided to wake Jodie up, because this did not look like a fun time for us.
Depending on when you wake up, she has different actions – if the cops are already about to ask her for her ID, she starts to get her backpack down, at which point you can start a fight with them. If they’re still far enough off, they get suspicious of her movement, but you can at least start running without interacting with them. No matter what, they give chase through the train, and you must be quick with your QTE reaction speed to make it to the bathroom a few cars down. Once you’re there, Aiden helps you blow the roof off (literally), and you can climb out into the rain where you will have a completely outnumbered fight against a bunch of cops.
It’s here that you begin to scratch the surface of what Aiden can do for Jodie. As she jumps off the train, she calls for his protection. Playing as Aiden, you can cover Jodie with a protective shield so that she doesn’t get hurt when she jumps from the train. The cops don’t jump after her, but now she’s stranded in the middle of a dark forest in the rain, and what’s worse, I missed one of the QTEs, and one of the cops got my coat. So Jodie’s freezing, too!
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