E3 2013: Beyond: Two Souls innovates the QTE

I’ll say this right now. I’m in for any Quantic Dream makes. After Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain, they’ve earned my blind adoration for anything they release into the world so to say I’m excited for Beyond: Two Souls would be an extremely understated understatement.

So about that Somalia footage in the Beyond: Two Souls trailer….

I waited in line to play the game twice. The reason being is that there were two playable levels: “Somalia,” which also acted as a tutorial, and “Hunted” which was much more focused on the actions of the game. For those that saw Jodie Holmes in fatigues getting shot at in a middle East war environment and thought “they turned it into an action game” while throwing your drink across the room, fret not. The game plays almost exactly like Heavy Rain. It’s still very much an interactive movie like Quantic Dream has always made. The only major difference is that you can just use the left stick to control Jodie as opposed to having to control her like a tank. The only issue with this is that she controls very loosely, so precision isn’t going to be something you will get. Then again it’s still early, and the game doesn’t come out for another 4 months, so a lot can change.

Controlling Aiden is extremely simple. Pressing Triangle will switch from Jodie to Aiden. From here you are tethered to Jodie so the player won’t be able to venture too far away. Holding L1 in tandem with moving both sticks performs a specific action. For instance, holding L1 and moving both analog sticks towards the center will choke an enemy. The controller violently vibrates until the enemy is dead, by the way (nice but sick touch there).

The two playable levels are both action packed but still play very much like a Quantic Dream game.

A new approach to quick time events…..

What really impressed me about the controls was the way the game handles QTE’s during action moments. Players will still get the usual Quantic Dream prompts on screen such as shaking the controller or tapping X until the hollow box around it fills up. However, during action scenes such as hand-to-hand scenes, the game slows down and you need to follow through on Jodie’s movement by moving the right stick in a specific direction. For example, if Jodie is lifting her knee towards the left side of the screen, pressing left on the right stick will successfully finish the movement. It’s a great mechanic that takes away from the mindless “Simon Says” type of gameplay usually associated with QTE’s. It has a bit of a learning curve if you don’t really pay attention, but once you get it, it becomes natural.

The second level I played was “Hunted” which begins on a train with Jodie asleep and Aiden watching her from outside the train. Once the train stops, it’s boarded by police looking for Jodie. Using Aiden, I knocked over Jodie’s water bottle to wake her up. Jodie tries to slip by unsuccessfully and the chase begins. During the chase, the player will use a lot of the slow down stick movements that were mentioned above. Jumping over obstacles, avoiding getting grabbed, and opening doors are all handled with this mechanic. Eventually, Jodie tries to make her escape on the roof of the train where she is again pursued by police. On top of the speeding train, Jodie must defend herself as the police try to subdue her. Once again, using the slow down stick mechanic, I was able to avoid being caught by the police and by the end of this sequence I pretty much had the movements down. It’s an exciting, action focused sequence that feels right at home with Quantic Dream’s signature style.

Eventually, Jodie must jump from the train and Aiden surrounds her like some sort of spectral shield as the police open fire. Bullets ricochet off of the blue pulsing force field as Jodie lands safely on the ground next to the train. From here she takes off running again using the slow down stick mechanic to avoid branches by either ducking or jumping. Finally Jodie is surrounded by dogs and unfortunately this is where the demo ended for me because Jodie fell through the geometry, the dogs were frozen in place, and all that I could do was float around as Aiden while tethered to Jodie’s leg sticking out of the ground.

It’s crazy how good Beyond: Two Souls still looks against all of the next gen titles.

The song remains the same

All in all, I wasn’t blown away by Beyond: Two Souls. Not because the game was underwhelming, but rather because the game is exactly what I expected it to be – at least from these two 10 or so minute demos. What did I expect it to be? I expected it to play like Heavy Rain but with a ghost. So while I wasn’t blown away, I am still excited because I liked what I played quite a bit. And who knows what tricks David Cage and Quantic Dream have up their collective sleeves between now and the game’s release on October 8th. I mean, who saw that Somalia level coming, right?

Excitement level: Extremely High

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