Beyond: Two Souls is Quantic Dream’s next title after the critically acclaimed Heavy Rain, but is it really all that different from their previous foray into emotion and realism in games? The preview of the game that I was able to get my hands on at E3 had two segments to choose from, and I unfortunately was only able to try out one of them. The portion that I chose was the ‘tutorial’ section set in Somalia, and that was where my issues with the Beyond: Two Souls started.
There is an inherent problem with allowing somebody to experience a small portion of something that has such a narrative focus. I can tell you that I was looking forward to Beyond: Two Souls and couldn’t wait to play the full game, but my preview may have soured my expectations. I had two choices – I could have chosen a segment dominated by the tutorial or I could have chosen a segment that looked a little more interesting in which I would have no idea what I was doing. I decided that I would rather actually know what I was doing than try to get blindly through the preview without guidance.
Most of my preview was spent fumbling with the awkward pacing and floaty camera controls. I was the main character Jodie, apparently a soldier in the Somalia, traveling with a young local boy. I spent 10 minutes or so learning how to control Jodie’s ethereal friend, Aiden, and how to tackle the new directional QTEs (quick time events) in which there is no prompt on the screen, but rather the game slows down to allow you to push the analog stick in the direction that she is moving to complete the action. This doesn’t work so well in cases where your intuition tells you to jump away from the knife swipe yet she is moving into it. I also found that it puts the game into slow motion mode more often than I would have liked and absolutely destroys the pacing of the action scenes.
As soon as I found myself getting used to the controls my demo was over. I sensed a lot of similarities to Heavy Rain with QTEs being a very prominent mechanic but when I was actually in direct control of Jodie, something about the controls and the camera felt slightly off. Perhaps the control scheme and odd camera was meant to help with some emotion for that particular segment of the game, but it was still frustrating to work with. Beyond: Two Souls seems like a much more action heavy game than the methodical, slow pacing of Heavy Rain and my preview showed me that a lot more attention was paid to the emotion and motion capture than the gameplay.
The game controls very much like Heavy Rain and fans of that title will likely love what Beyond: Two Souls has to offer if they can get over the change in pacing and the different way that Beyond handles action segments using slow motion. There were QTEs that required rapid pressing of the X button, pulling different triggers, and the directional mechanic that I previously explained. In fact, the QTE prompts looked like they were recycled right out of Heavy Rain. The graphics and animations were quite impressive and I was told that your actions do affect the outcome of individual chapters and likely the entire game.
My preview for Beyond: Two Souls felt over reliant on the action scenes and the directional QTEs causing a slow motion effect that did not help with the stride of the segment. Checking up on Heavy Rain after I got home from E3, I found that even within its action scenes it didn’t resort to the awkward slow motion to input QTEs. I am curious about the narrative in Beyond: Two Souls, but my preview showed me that the gameplay may be something I’ll end up fighting with to get the story. Hopefully the game as a whole is paced a lot better than my limited experience showed me.