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E3 Hands-On Impressions: Beyond: Two Souls

When Sony announced Beyond: Two Souls at last year E3’s press conference, the trailer wowed people with its stunning facial animation captured by Ellen Page.  Now, at E3 2013, a playable demo was available, and I was able to get a feel for what the gameplay would be like.

Ellen Page stars as Jodie, a young girl who’s hired by a military organization that deals with psychic powers.  The demo took place in a war torn African city, with insurgents fighting one another in the streets.  During the demo, Jodie was accompanied by a partner, Salim, a local who helps navigate the environment.  You start off under suppressing fire from a couple of enemies, and unable to move out from cover.  This is when Jodie’s supernatural powers come into play.  With a tap of the triangle button, you can control an invisible apparition that can manipulate specific enemies, as well as pieces of the surroundings.  For example, you can blow up a wall to expose a gunman that was hiding behind cover, or mind control another enemy and manipulate him to kill his comrade and himself.

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And because this is a Quantic Dream game, there was no shortage of quick time events.  But some aspects of these QTE’s were done a bit differently.  Button prompts act the same way as you expect – either press or mash the specific button that is displayed.  But for most actions, they require a movement of the right analog stick in a specific direction, and the game doesn’t explicitly tell you what direction to move towards.  Instead, time slows down at the exact moment when you have to move the right stick, and you tilt it corresponding to which direction Jodie is heading towards.

For instance, when Jodie is fighting a knife-wielding man in a close quarters encounter, the action would slow down as the enemy is taking a swipe at Jodie’s head.  Here, you would tilt the right stick away from the knife to make Jodie dodge it.  If it turns out you miss it, Jodie is hit with a quick slash of the knife, but the scene still continues.  When Jodie’s going in for a punch to the gut, you would tilt the right stick in the direction of the enemy.  It all felt pretty intuitive, although there were times when I thought the movement wasn’t clear enough, and I wasn’t sure if Jodie wanted to move away or towards the foe.

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The demo ended with an exhilarating car chase sequence.  After Jodie mind controlled an insurgent to drive through a guard outpost, multiple vehicles started to chase her.  Jodie was jumping from one car to another, dealing with these men who wanted her dead.  This entire sequence was played out through the use of quick time events, so for people who despise QTE’s may not find Beyond: Two Souls’ gameplay all that appealing.  But Quantic Dream’s games are all about the narrative, and I’m curious to see how this story is going to turn out.

Beyond: Two Souls comes out October 8th 2013 exclusively for the PS3.



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