Beyond Two Souls: preview behind closed doors at E3
David Cage can’t help it. Whatever he does seems to incite a reaction that’s entirely at odds with his soft, charming manner.
To fans of his work at Quantic Dream, which includes Farenheit and Heavy Rain, he’s a visionary creator pushing the boundaries of storytelling and emotional engagement. But, to his detractors, he’s a poseur, far too smitten with Hollywood, who doesn’t seem to grasp that an interactive medium needs to do more than just pay lip service to interactivity.
And rarely is there any middle-ground between those increasingly polarised positions. Not that Cage seems to mind the spotlight. Whereas most videogame creatives are keen to emphasise the collective aspect of their work, Cage – who was born David De Gruttola, but presumably changed his name for reasons of coolness – always makes Quantic’s projects sound intensely personal.
Aside from Hideo Kojima at Konami, there probably isn’t another developer whose work is so recognisably auteurish. It’s surely no coincidence that both share the same obsession with cinema.
But even auteurs need audiences, and it’s clear from Cage’s extended demo of his new game, Beyond – Two Souls, which is taking place behind closed doors here at E3, that he’s determined to address the criticism that his games are essentially David Fincher does Dragon’s Lair. When Beyond was shown off at the Sony press conference earlier this week, after the impressive announcement that Ellen Page would be starring, there was a ripple of laughter as her character, troubled teen Jodie Holmes, spent the first couple of minutes sat stock still and silent.
It’s tempting to think that was Cage being a tease: Hiring an A-list actress and then not showing her doing much acting. But the equally plausible explanation was that it was just a misreading of audience mood on his part, in the same way that the infamous press X to Jason scene from Heavy Rain split sides rather than tugged heartstrings.
But once the demo at the Sony conference warmed up, what we saw was classic Quantic: A lead character on the run from the law, noirish, hyper-realistic visuals, and everyday settings given a sinister twist. What wasn’t much clearer is how the thing played.