Beyond Two Souls: preview behind closed doors at E3
But where the game diverges slightly from its predecessors is in how the action sequences work. It’s impossible to judge without having the pad in your hands, but Cage insists players will have far greater control of characters’ movement, particularly during chases and fights. So rather than being effectively locked on rails when Jodie is being hounded through the forest (literally, by hounds), the player has conventional control over her direction.
The obvious question, particularly given the art resource requirements of building environments in Quantic games, is what that extra control actually gives you. From what we could see the areas in which you were able to exercise this extra control were still relatively confined. A case of being locked to a slightly wider rail, perhaps? Again, for the sceptics the proof will be in the playing. But for those fans already sold on Heavy Rain’s style of gameplay, it can only be a further improvement.
If Aiden’s abilities were limited to luggage management and scaring dogs (animals can sense his presence), he wouldn’t be much fun to haunt people with. But as the characters grow though the game, and as Jodie finds herself in increasingly perilous fixes, so his powers will change. In the massacre sequence mentioned earlier Aiden flits between SWAT men, possessing a sniper who takes out two of his chums, then forcing another to grenade a couple more. A tough day at the office for the bots in Kevlar.
As the situation gets even more out of hand, a helicopter is torn out of the sky and a building spire brought down onto those below. Cage says he hopes Beyond is a more original offering than Heavy Rain, which he admits riffed hard on Se7en, but watching the telekinetic shenanigans it’s hard not to be reminded of Cronenberg’s Scanners.
What’s slightly concerning though, even at this relatively early stage, is that what should have been a huge action beat felt a little flat. There was something pedestrian, monotonous even, about the pace with which Aiden was able to move between targets. It felt less like life or death peril, and more like moving efficiently through a check list of canned sequences.
After the demo we ask him how the actual mechanic for using Aiden’s powers works, for example in terms of what input is actually required from the player to possess someone. “I try to have as little mechanics as I can,” replied Cage. “Because I don’t like mechanics. Mechanics are the opposite of life. Life is organic. It’s not like a set of rules. This is what I try to do in my work.” That’s science told, then.
We push a little harder and Cage explains that there is a mechanic to using Aiden’s powers that involves the analogue sticks, but it also feels obvious that he sees the game’s interactive systems essentially just as ways to funnel emotional impact to the player. And it’s perhaps that disconnect that makes his games so divisive.
But what’s equally obvious is that amongst a sea of first-person shooters set in Iranistan and throat-stabbing third-person actioners, Beyond – Two Souls looks hugely intriguing. For Quantic’s critics, it’s hard to see it suddenly righting the perceived wrongs with Heavy Rain’s gameplay. But for those in search of something different, and with a little soul, it should go straight on the watch list.