Beyond: Two Souls hands-on PS3 preview – a mix of Heavy Rain’s highs & every other game’s lows

BEYOND two souls screen

I make no secret of the fact that Heavy Rain is my favourite game on PS3. And as you’d imagine, that leads to fairly frequent confrontations with David Cage-baiting naysayers who refuse to believe anyone could enjoy a twelve-hour button prompt sequence more than Red Dead Redemption.

Beyond hands-on PS3 preview

The argument always goes the same way: they poke fun at the QTEs, I defend them for the hugely varied scenes that unified control set facilitates. They say the whole game’s just a glorified cut-scene. I take a sip from the goblet of pomposity and declare it blurs the line between cinema and videogames. They bring up the terrible, terrible voice acting and hokey dialogue. I… look down at my shoes and mumble acquiescence. So it goes.

Beyond: Two Soul‘s stratospherically evolved production values probably aren’t a reaction to those criticisms any more than they’re simply the next logical step someone who wants to make games more like movies would take when given a bigger budget. Pascal Langdale and co gave it their all in the recording booth for Heavy Rain, but compare them to Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe in a state-of-the-art full performance capture studio and the gulf is so big you wonder how you ever got along with Ethan and Madison’s awkward puppet show in the first place. Ten minutes in Jodie Holmes’ shoes, desert boots or children’s wellies, and you’re more connected to her character than you ever felt as you strolled around Ethan’s apartment that day before The Bad Thing happened.

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I’m going to avoid a blow-by-blow account of the preview build I played as much as possible, because Quantic Dream games are all about the first playthrough, and I don’t want to dilute yours. But I will say this much: hiring actors of Dafoe and Page’s calibre isn’t a marketing stunt. The quality of their performances are absolutely vital to making this mad experiment work. And for Quantic’s Part, the facial animation quality and overall visual fidelity of Beyond is something really special.

Beyond hands-on PS3 previewIt’s also exorcised some demons when it
comes to working with children, too. If you’ve been following it closely, you’ll know that Beyond spans fifteen years of Jodie’s life, and during some of those years she’s a child of a similar
age to Heavy Rain’s Jason and Shaun. It was these characters’ limited delivery and, for some reason, French accent that many took ire with, and since they’re both so crucial to the plot I can understand that.

Pre-adolescent Jodie is a much more believable entity. She’s written as a withdrawn and taciturn child who’s struggling to co-exist with Aiden, the ghost who’s tied to her soul, and as a result she spends a lot of time shrugging or silently nodding. Her dialogue’s well-voiced when it does appear, but the script doesn’t stretch her beyond what can reasonably be expected of a young actor.

Hiring actors of Dafoe & Page’s calibre
isn’t a marketing stunt. The quality of their performances are absolutely vital to
making this mad experiment work

These pre-adolescent chapters are where you feel Jodie’s vulnerability most acutely, and it’s in this period that the idea of using Aiden for catharsis and often vengeance crystallises. Example: you’re in a CIA research facility, sitting in a sparse room furnished only with a chair, a table, and some cards. Behind a one-way mirror on one wall, Dawkins (Dafoe) and his colleagues tell you the nice lady in the other room is holding a card. See if you can guess which one she’s holding.

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