Why One of the PS3’s Last Exclusives is Also One of the Most Important: A BEYOND: Two Souls Preview

Leaked mere hours before its official announcement at Sony’s E3 media briefing last year, Quantic Dream’s BEYOND: Two Souls was, along with Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, one of the highlights of the annual game industry convention last year.

The game had an unusual reveal trailer, showing that it’s set to be an unusual game. And that’s a very good thing. What stood out about BEYOND’s first trailer was that, amidst the bombast which one expects of a game trailer, most of what we saw showed us conversation rather than action. And while the end exploded in a fury of fire and bullets, it nonetheless was markedly different from the other demonstrations which most games garnered. You can watch that trailer below.

We were introduced to Jodie, the game’s protagonist played by Ellen Page. It’s reasonably impressive for a game to feature such a big star, especially when Page’s Inception co-star, Leonardo diCaprio, told Quantic Dream in 2004 that from an image perspective he couldn’t appear in a game. But of course, Page isn’t the only Hollywood actor to make an appearance in BEYOND. Willem Dafoe is also at work in the game as government scientist Nathan Dawkins.

BEYOND’s core story revolves around Jodie’s link to the paranormal entity she calls Aiden. Last night at the Tribeca Film Festival a new trailer was released revealing key details about the game and about Jodie and, appropriately for that setting, the trailer was very much one could associate with a movie. We see an apparently close-to-death Jodie calling Dawkins, and this immediately suggests that they’re close, or at the very least that in some way he must be important to her if he should be the one she calls in her desperation.

But just how close? We’re shown that Jodie had a difficult childhood, and her link to Aiden and the power that entity yields ultimately drove off even her parents, and so she she is left for adoption until her unusual nature is discovered by the CIA and inducted into a training program. Perhaps Dawkins orchestrated her tests, or at the very least was responsible for overseeing some of the program. Perhaps he hated what was being done to her, even if, at that stage, she could not see what was happening herself and so in time he became a father-figure to her in replacement of her own father who had cast her from her home, thus explaining the phone call.

Another possibility is that Jodie’s escape from the program – and we can assume it was an escape as we see her turn on the CIA agents sent to capture her – and everything else that happens after that is all part of Dawkins’ experiments – his affection falsified to garner Jodie’s trust. We won’t know that until the game is released, or details of BEYOND’s two thousand page script leak.

Their relationship could be something else entirely.

Whether BEYOND matches up to Quantic Dream’s ambition of bringing true emotion to videogames will ultimately depend not on that relationship but rather, I suspect, the one Jodie has with Aiden. The exploration of BEYOND’s central theme, death, through Aiden will most likely form the basis of that relationship. Both the E3 trailer and the Tribeca footage give a glimpse of what she, through Aiden, can do and it’s really quite impressive, and destructive.

Hopefully, part of BEYOND’s story will look at the morality of using this power and whether Jodie should use it for good or evil. This doesn’t mean it has to become inFAMOUS, but some examination of that concept would likely add a great deal of depth to the narrative. Or indeed, BEYOND might prove to be based on a similar concept to the Kara tech demo Quantic Dream released at the 2012 Game Developer’s Conference and focus on what it means to be alive and, for that matter, the very nature of reality.

“The game is very different from Heavy Rain, probably much more than people can imagine,” David Cage has said, and if it can match its ambition then it might also be one of the finest games of this generation.

Below, you can see 35 minutes of BEYOND gameplay from Tribeca to whet your appetite for the game coming exclusively to PlayStation 3 on October 8th.