Preview – Beyond: Two Souls

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With each passing year, the line between film and game blurs a little more, as developers constantly improve their plots and graphics to almost film industry standards. But where games usually toe the ever-blurring line, Beyond: Two Souls doesn’t even care where it is. It sits in the middle, daring someone to try to give it it’s new title, and basically tells the line to do one. And for me, as an RPG nut, that’s frickin’ awesome.

Beyond: Two Souls follows the story of 15 years of Jodie Holmes, a young woman possessing supernatural powers through a psychic link with an ethereal entity, Aiden. Through the course of the game, the player grows from a confused child into one hell of a badass, discovering who she really is along the way. The game looks to be full of emotional events, more so than any game I’ve seen before, as the player’s decisions, actions and performance shape the story as it progresses.

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Right from the off, you can just tell it’s not going to be your average game: the game/film line destruction is obvious just from seeing promotional materials,  which look once again like someone has accidentally mixed up the film and PS3 cases before the company decided to go with it. For example, the posters and banners proudly display the names of those starring (and why wouldn’t they), Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, who both appear in game in their own likeness. And I don’t mean a rough approximation either… I’d honestly say it’s close to being a photo in many of the game’s screenshots and videos: that is to say, pixel perfect (which in Ellen Page’s case is certainly not a bad thing). In fact, pretty much the entire game is beautiful: textures, graphics, environments, characters, you name it, it looks awesome.

The gameplay itself is going to go one of two ways, dependant on the individual in question, and I can help you figure out right now if you may or may not be interested:

Person 1: You listen to every little bit of dialogue, often talk to characters you don’t have to and play RPGs for the storyline more than the gameplay.

Person 2: You skip dialogue in RPGs, often with the phrase “I wish this guy would shut up and let me punch/shoot/stab something in the face”. You play RPGs for gameplay only, and get bored with too much story.

If you’re more like Person 1, read on, you’re my kind of geezer. If you’re more like Person 2, I hate you, and you probably aren’t about to like what you’re about to read, but maybe it’s not too late. Read on anyway, you never know!

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Beyond: Two Souls is definitely more of an interactive film than a game at all: your role as a player is not to run around, but instead to immerse yourself into the storyline and occasionally act on specific events. I don’t want to say it’s a game full of quicktime events (because it may put some people off) but its close. Slow motion sections in the constant cinematic that is Beyond: Two Souls give prompts for the player to act, usually pushing the stick in a certain direction with Jodie’s movements during combat. Other sections will have the player reacting to escape a situation or, like in the demo, navigating through a crowded train to escape pursuers.

The flip side to interactions and playing as Jodie is her supernatural entity link Aiden, who can be switched to in order to solve puzzles in a less direct manner. Aiden’s movement is in three axes and, within a limited range of Jodie, allows free roam of the area, including through walls. Aiden can also manipulate items and objects for Jodie in most situations to assist her in various ways: for example, if the player has the sense to use Aiden to wake Jodie up before she’s captured by assailants in the “Hunted” version of the demo at EGX.

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Speaking of the demo, the version at EGX had two main storylines to choose from, both of which were lengthy by demo standards: I had to pull myself away from the game halfway through “Hunted” as my ever self-conscious inner Brit decided I was being rude and taking too long. “Hunted” sees Jodie running from what seems to be the entire state police force, presumably after an escape from the CIA. During the demo, you flee from cops with certain actions for the player to perform, such as assisting Jodie with Aiden and fighting off multiple assailants with badass fighting skills from Jodie. I got as far as jumping from a speeding train in my efforts to escape before I was rudely interrupted by my inner Brit! And I loved every minute of what I got to play.

Looking back through this article, it seems I should probably sum up my thoughts before this turns into a two-part essay. Beyond: Two Souls is looking like it’s going to be one of those love it or hate it kinda games. If you’re a true hardcore RPG nut like myself, you shouldn’t think twice about getting this game, especially if you enjoyed Heavy Rain. For other, less RPG-loving players, it may be worth having a second look before you leap on this one! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to source a PS3 (damn these pesky exclusives!).

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