Beyond Two Souls: As We Play

Additional Aiden

We can confirm that additional content will be coming to Beyond: Two Souls. The menu screen confirms as such. Entitled Advanced Experiments, there’s plenty of scope for offering further support for the game. We do know a 30 min DLC pack comes with the special edition of the game. HOWEVER, it would appear this, and possibly more, can be downloadable from the PS Store in the future. I’m imagining there’ll be plenty of training modules for future gameplay. Quick-time Metal Gear VR missions, aplenty!

A real, virtual Ellen Page

You can already get a feel for this from trailers and demo hands-on, but the representation of actors in the game is ominously real. Scarily, so. If LA Noire was the first game to really make you pay attention to character’s emotions and feelings, then this is the next major progression. In fact, this makes Team Bondi’s efforts look infantile in comparison. Beyond is quite sensational and will probably take some getting used to as you’ll see a lot more expression from Ellen and the rest of the cast than most video game protagonists. Without even uttering a line of dialogue, you’re already invested in this character in ways you didn’t think possible. Especially if you’re a fan of her previous work.

Turn the Page

And equally incredible is how lifelike Ellen is on-screen. She’s got her memorable curves, the awkward walk; she’ll even take a full view of her surroundings when the player isn’t interacting with the game.

It’s the most surreal feeling actually controlling her on screen. We’ve seen actors digitised into games before, but never like this. Beyond is really something unique and special.

This ain’t Juno

But what’s most interesting as far as Page is concerned is that this is a very different role for her. Even as Ariadne in Inception, she wasn’t anywhere near as bad-ass and totally sci-fi’d up as she is as Jodie. This role offers a lot of diversity for her. Having a fractured childhood that sees her become the point of various experiments, dealing with life as a freak teenager, coming to terms with her powers as a young woman and how people treat her. Early on, there is so much to take away from Beyond and perhaps more than any film has ever done, it proves her range and credentials as part and parcel of a great actress.

Still, it didn’t help that everytime there was a quiet moment I kept hearing her and Michael Cera sing ‘I don’t see what anyone can see in anyone else’ on loop.

..Can you draw him for me?

Thanks to emotional responses and mannerisms, the dialogue is far more impactful. Perhaps only bettered this year by Sony’s other exclusive, The Last of Us, natural pauses no longer feel awkward because characters are always reacting or doing something on screen, whether their face suggests they’re contemplating something they’ve heard or they’re interacting with a prop. This is also moved along nicely by allowing the player to interact with, what might first appear to be, a cut-scene. Whether it’s playing with a snow-globe, or drinking a glass of water, Beyond loves seeing the player interact with the environment and isn’t trying to create an interactive Hollywood film. It’s actually trying to create a whole other medium entirely.

Sequences are really hard-hitting and engaging because of these regular, subtle little interactions. Especially when Page and DaFoe are sharing a scene together. Both have great chemistry together and their scenes evoke a real range of emotion.

But how does it play?

Of course, this is still a game and not a Hollywood blockbuster. In the past, there has been a lot of criticism of over-reliance on Quick-Time-Events. You probably dislike them as much as I do, but Beyond takes more cues from Heavy Rain than continuous button-tapping in games like Res 6. Quantic Dreams understand how to implement this control scheme into a game and have made a dull, uninspired interactive element all the more interesting. The right stick isn’t used to control a camera, instead it’s Jodie’s main interactive tool, whether she opens a door, or puts on a coat, or digests something.

Yes, you will have to tap buttons and there are time-sensitive situations, but none of them are really stressful or frustrating. The whole experience is pretty fluid throughout.

And here’s something you didn’t expect…

The free touch screen App available to download right now actually handles the game better than the PS3 controller. One issue I have with Beyond is controlling Aiden is quite cumbersome and clunky when using the left analog stick. You’ll regularly have to readjust his position by stopping and starting. It’s not as fluid as it needs to be and lining him up to an exact position can often be a chore. Also, when Aiden has to interact with the environment, the player needs to pull down on the right stick and release. But this doesn’t always feel natural.

The App, on the other hand, makes everything so much easier, allowing the player to tap once on the screen when an Orange light appears, and Aiden will automatically move to the precise spot he needs to be in. When interacting, you merely need to swipe down or repeatedly tap.

There’s no input lag. Amazingly, it’s as responsive as the PS3 controller and not only is it the preferred method of control (bar using a virtual stick to control Jodie) it presents a unique, exciting bridge between the console platform and mobile gamers. Those who have been put off by using a controller can play Beyond from start to finish and without any real restrictions or hindrances. I’d love to see more of this from Sony & Microsoft for all future console games. Obviously, it’s not always possible, especially on rapid response games, but what I’m seeing here is a very impressive step forward. Hats off to Cage and his team.

Make your choice

Beyond will offer the player many choices. From the most basic, to choices that will define the type of person Jodie will become. You can choose revenge on those who seek to embarrass you, or just walk away. You can have that first kiss, or avoid it entirely. I don’t think the choices will affect the way each scenario plays out, so they don’t have quite the impact I would like (I’d love a game to have multiple scenarios for each sequence in a timeline dependent on what a player does beforehand) but Beyond allows players the play the game in various different ways and that should be commended.

This timeline is making me dizzy

So the game is split into small sections, based on significant events in Jodie’s life over a fifteen year period. That said, the timeline shifts in the game are pretty radical and sometimes quite difficult to keep track of. At least from the early stages. Sure, it makes sure the game is always action-packed and there are no slow, drawn out sequences. It also ensures the narrative is constantly fresh. But many liberties are taken with the player early on and they are required to make regular exceptions and forgive plotholes, based on how fast things are moving. Once you get your head around this fact, however, the game is much easier to follow and things really do start to slot into place.

All the feels

Being careful of spoiler territory here, but one scene sees Jodie out on the streets in the cold. From here, she finds herself spending time with some homeless people. This creates a fascinating perspective, a subject games have rarely approached. Hearing people talking about eating burgers or pizza, then realising Jodie hasn’t got a dime in her pocket for anything.

Beyond is full of thinking-gamers moments like these, and this is just one rollercoaster of emotion you’ll be sent upon.

A few blips on the radar

Unfortunately, there are a few issues with the game. For instance, Jodie actually fell through the ground into a bottomless limbo that forced me to restart the game. Another instance sees an opened door close without any interaction from the character during cut-scenes. There are also occasional textures missing and clipping issues.

Still, nothing severe that hindered my time with the game. It was all fairly smooth sailing, which is always refreshing to have in this day and age.

 

 Summary