David Cage made the wrong game with Beyond – we need Kara on PS4
When is a game not a game? The correct answer is when it’s a tech demo. That elusive slice of forward-looking graphical bewitchery that rarely ever gets a proper release. And in the case of David Cage’s beguiling Kara, that’s a massive shame.
PlayStation’s past is dotted with astonishing-for-their-time visual showcases: PS1’s menacing T-Rex, Old Mr Old’s wonderfully craggy PS2 face or a bath overflowing with rubber duckies at PS3’s first E3. Yet none of them captured the imagination quite like Kara. Initially revealed at last year’s Game Developers Conference, it follows the birth (and near-death) of an inquisitive robot lass. Laser-targeted to vaporise your tear ducts, the seven-minute presentation is arguably more powerful than any of David Cage’s full games.
This is the point at which I need to clarify that I really admire the French auteur’s latest… uh, don’t make me say it… interactive drama. As our review of Beyond: Two Souls will tell you, the paranormal thriller is flaws but still triumphant moment of PlayStation storytelling. The Ellen Page-fronted adventure ekes out the best performance capture on PS3, with assured acting backing up some incredible character models. The fundamental problem I have, though, is Beyond’s premise simply isn’t as intriguing as that of Kara.
Though its thematic inspirations are obvious (oh hey there, post-modern Pinocchio), the world hinted at in our AI heroine’s short is rife with dramatic potential. Model KPC897504C, as she’s snappily known to her sleazy production line coordinator, seems like any upstanding artificial citizen at first.
“Hello, I’m a third generation AX400 android,” she declares. “I can look after your house, do the cooking, mind the kids. I speak 300 languages and I’m entirely at your disposal as a sexual partner.” Yet it’s Kara’s ‘defect’ that gives the demo such rich narrative scope.
“I thought… I was alive,” she stammers. Investigating the quandary of what really defines life – something explored semi-successfully in Steven Spielberg’s AI Artificial Intelligence – it’s an issue far removed from pressing X to Jason or Fahrenheit’s giant Matrix dung beetles.
The idea of a sentient being having to hide
her humanity and operate as a glorified
Johnny Five is a fascinating concept
The idea of a sentient being having to hide her humanity and operate as a glorified Johnny Five (with added sexy time privileges) is a fascinating concept. One that Jodie Holmes buddying up with a spook to fling oil drums for the CIA or going all X-Men: First Class in Somalia can’t quite compete with.
Perhaps Kara will yet get turned into a real girl on PS4. The Dark Sorcerer showed the technical feats Quantic dream is capable of squeezing out of Sony’s new machine, and that level of fidelity could transform the android damsel’s tale into a wonderful journey. Here’s hoping Le Dave chooses to reassemble her somewhere down the line. But for the time being, I can’t help but think he went home with the wrong girl.