David Cage and Quantic Dream have become known through their prior releases in creating games with moody, atmospheric, mature stories with unique control schemes. Both Indigo Prophecy (known as Fahrenheit outside of the US) and Heavy Rain were both well received by critics and fans alike. I recently played the demo for their upcoming release Beyond: Two Souls, and I can say that Quantic Dream is continuing to deliver unique experiences for gamers.
The game’s story centers around the protagonist Jodie Holmes, voiced terrifically by actress Ellen Page (Juno, Inception, The East), who is in contact with a mysterious entity known as Aiden. Aiden seems to grant Jodie with some extraordinary abilities, and those “gifts” spook her parents enough to send her off to a research facility where she comes under study by a researcher named Nathan Dawkins, played by actor Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Spider-Man, The Hunter). The first part of the demo, called The Experiment, shows us a young Jodie taking part in tests under the watchful eye of Dawkins. She’s paced in one room, while another woman is placed in another room, and told to point at which cards the other woman selects. Using Aiden, she does so easily. After responding to a request to knock over some blocks, Aiden quickly goes out of Jodie’s control, terrorizing the woman and nearly killing her until the doctors can bring the test to an end. It makes for a tension filled scene, and sets a nice tone.
The second part of the demo is called Hunted, and flash forwards us to Jodie as a young woman trying to get somewhere by train. Aiden wakes her, much to her annoyance, and it is a little fun as you can manipulate Aiden around the car to annoy other passengers. The train is forced to stop by local law enforcement looking for Jodie, and Aiden wakes her just before officers board the train. Jodie eventually escapes, and is tracked down through the woods in an exciting chase by police officers and dogs. She eventually ends up in the hands of a military unit, which she then escapes, warning them not to follow.
We’ll have to see how it all fits together in the final game, but it was interesting and exciting enough to grab me and make me want to see more. The control scheme does take a little getting used to. Jodie primarily uses the two joysticks for her actions, and in Hunted you’re given a brief tutorial in hand to hand combat via a session with Jodie at the CIA’s training facility. It can be a little clumsy at first, but as you use the controls longer they become more comfortable, and work quite well. Switching to Aiden is simple, just a press of the Triangle button. Aiden is controlled through a combination of the sticks and shoulder buttons, enabling to move about and affect objects. He can even come to Jodie’s aid, catching her and slowing her descent when she leaps from the train. There are some QTE sequences, and they play out much as they did in Heavy Rain. Driving is fairly well done, relying on what’s become the standard R2 to accelerate and the left stick for steering. Timing is important, but again, even if you mess up, the game continues on. Replaying and being more successful can take scenes in a different direction, so as with Heavy Rain replayability is built in.
I did hit one problem with the demo. A glitch during Hunted made Aiden wildly uncontrollable, sending him flying along the outside of the train, which became quite dizzying. Restarting that portion of the demo fixed that, and hopefully such glitches won’t pop up in the full game. The demo was tense, well acted, and fun to play, and offered different scenarios depending on how well I successfully navigated the controls. One playthrough had me caught rather quickly, in another I escaped out a window and was pursued along the top of the speeding train. So even the demo warrants more than one playthrough, just to see how things can play out.
In all, the demo left me quite excited for the game’s release on October 8. Stay tuned for our review coming later this month.
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