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Beyond: Two Souls Hands-On: One Last Look at the PS3’s Swan Song

One of Sony’s last exclusive games for the Playstation 3 is out in just a couple of weeks, but I had a chance to play the demo of Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls days before it comes out on the Playstation Store next week. Beyond: Two Souls is the latest game from David Cage, also behind such hits like Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain, and stars Ellen Page as Jodie Holmes. Jodie has supernatural powers even during the early parts of her life as a kid, but when it comes to controlling them as she gets older, things go out of hand and she is out on the run. If you’re familiar with Quantic Dream’s previous games and their style of storytelling, you will feel right at home with Beyond: Two Souls.

The demo is actually the section Quantic Dream showed off when the game was first announced at last year’s E3, which is unfortunate because I was looking forward to seeing what some of the later sections are like, especially in the desert. I guess the developers had to save that for the final game despite how much of a mixed reaction the reveal of the later parts received, including me. There is a quick little section where you play as Jodie as a kid in the clinic to get familiar with the controls. This sequence with Willem Dafoe’s character tests Jodie's other soul and her powers, later to be named Aiden. The meat of the demo is Jodie’s run from the cops as she transverses through multiple environments such as the top of a train, the forest, and a small town.

Quantic Dream’s games always have a history of limited controls to the point it becomes more of an interactive movie than just any other videogame. In other words, Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls are basically quicktime events (QTEs) the game. Most of the inputs involve the right analog stick, the L and R triggers, and even sixaxis controls (arguably the only game still using them). During my time with this demo, it seems like the developers give you all the time in the world to execute most of the quicktime commands to the point you can’t fail them at all. Even if you fail the inputs, the game gives you more chances to get them right. For example, the combat training scene in the pic above gives you more chances to get it right if you fail an input of the right analog stick in the specific direction. Then there’s moments you think there is a fail state, but turns it out they don’t. Jodie gets attacked by some dogs while escaping the forest from the cops and while she can be bitten by them, there’s no point of that scene where you had to start over from a nearby checkpoint.

The more interesting gameplay scenes in Beyond: Two Souls involve Aiden, Jodie’s other soul and her special powers. Aiden can possess enemies for a limited time as long as they do their job and telekinetically control objects as a diversion too. These scenes alone can also be puzzles in a variety of ways since there can be multiple solutions to get past a certain section. However, whenever you have to take control of Aiden, it feels like you have no time limit to get through a scene. Even though it is probably just the demo, I was taking my time finding which cops to control without the stress of possibly being caught. Despite that minor concern, seeing these sequences click when they’re being executed can be satisfying stuff. It is pretty telling that Quantic Dream wants players to progress through Beyond’s storyline with little to no difficulty at all, but at this rate David Cage might as well make this a straight up movie than being a game, which is always something I wonder with his projects.

It was no surprise that Heavy Rain was one of the better looking games on the Playstation 3 and that is indeed the case with Beyond: Two Souls as we head to the end of this console generation. The game looks beautifully impressive on a seven year console with amazing facial expressions by the main characters played by Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. The motion capture and voice acting are top notch as expected from such experienced actors as you can tell the two of them are having a great time going all out in these scenes like they would for a theatrical movie. Quantic Dream learned a lot from Heavy Rain and what they have in store for the Playstation 4 is any indication, there is a lot to look forward from David Cage’s team.

Despite some questionable design decisions that remained to be seen until the final game comes out in a couple of weeks. Beyond: Two Souls is shaping up to be to living up as the Playstation 3’s swan song. The graphics are still impressive for such an aging console even if we have new ones to look forward to in a couple of months. Quantic Dream’s decision of letting players have little to no difficulty progressing through the gameplay sections is probably the right call for the sake of continuing the storyline. It is a story that I hope catches more players’ attention since it is being released in the fall gaming season where games like this don’t really have good sales numbers. Beyond: Two Souls is out on October 8th only for the Playstation 3, but if you want to try the demo I played, it is out on the Playstation Store this Tuesday, October 1st.


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