With minimal direction, you’re made to feel exploited. You could easily take control of Aiden with a tap of triangle, glide through the blurry ephemera to the next room and look at the nice lady’s card, but you don’t feel like playing ball. Instead, you use Aiden to scare the nice lady. You rattle a table, give her a shiver, bust a light, smash some windows. The nice lady’s screaming, trying to escape the room but you’ve jammed the door. You can hear Jodie telling you to stop, but you don’t.
Or maybe you do. Maybe you did feel like playing ball, and picked the right card. It’s these seemingly insignificant choices that guide you down the road to one of Beyond’s 23 endings.
The use of Aiden as a violent antithesis of Jodie’s wide-eyed fragility continues through her teenage years, including a fantastic party you’re encouraged to attend by Dawkins who’s concerned you don’t have any friends your own age. It plays out like a mashup of a rite of passage teen movie and Carrie, and manages humour, heartbreak, anger and pure fun in the space of a ten-minute sequence – albeit with a light smattering of some of that trademark hokey dialogue.
So what is this, a love letter penned by some deluded Cage apologist? Well – there is a problem with Beyond. Something that I worry might impact my enjoyment of the game as a whole. You see, what I really love about Quantic Dream games, right back to dusty old Omikron – The Nomad Soul, is that they don’t shy away from the mundane. They ebb and flow. They know when to give you action, and when to let you chill out for a few minutes.
And sometimes a prosaically mundane scene like preparing your estranged son’s dinner in Heavy Rain becomes something fantastic. The same’s true of a lazy childhood day in Beyond at Christmas time. Left to your own devices, you wander the house, pester your mum, get spooked out by the creepy shadows in the garage and sneak out the back yard to have a snowball fight with the other kids on the street. I’ve never played anything like that scene in a game before. It’s those moments I love the most.
Quantic Dream exists in pretty much a field of one in terms of what it’s trying to do. It’d be a shame to lose that strangeness to homogeneity
But there are also scenes in Beyond that I feel like I’ve played dozens of times before. Scenes like the hospital that young Jodie finds herself in on a rescue assignment for the CIA. There are fires, broken glass, debris, blocked corridors, bloodstains. It’s the bodies strewn about the place that really breaks the Quantic Tone and makes this feel like Resident Evil. You’re walking through an action game level without an action game control set, and that feels mighty strange.
It’s in this level that the extent of Beyond’s supernatural element is revealed a bit more explicitly. I won’t delve into specifics for the good of your playthrough, but again it jars with the Quantic Dream ‘interactive drama’ ethos by including so many action game tropes you almost long for the Press X to Jason button. I really hope that scene doesn’t indicate a shift towards the traditional gaming experience. And I don’t mean to sounds anti-games here. It’s just that Quantic Dream exists in pretty much a field of one in terms of what it’s trying to do. It’d be a shame to lose that strangeness to homogeneity.
My own enjoyment of Beyond will hinge on the balance of action scenes and forrays off the beaten track into filmic territory, and as David Cage seems so keen to position himself as a cinematic auteur and walk the red carpet of Tribeca Film Festival, you’d imagine I won’t be disappointed. How will the haters react to Beyond? Well, I imagine I’ll be having the same arguments with the same people as in the Heavy Rain era. Except this time, they won’t have that voice acting ace up their sleeve.
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