Heavy Rain may not be the most “gamey” game in existence but it was still quite a bit of fun. There were quite a few choices that were gut wrenching at the time, even if they were largely meaningless when you look back on it. Beyond: Two Souls is Quantic Dream's next take on story telling in gaming and I was curious to see how they'd make it work.
One of the best parts about Heavy Rain was that, with multiple characters, failure and even death could be part of the narrative instead of just a death screen before going back to the checkpoint. This made scenes more exciting because you knew if you screwed up the QTEs enough you could die and not be given a second chance for that character. With Beyond: Two Souls only having one character it seems like a bit of that tension may be gone this time around, but at least the demo showed me that the gameplay has certainly been refined.
There were two choices in the demo build but the second was just the train chase scene that's been seen before so I'll focus solely on the first: Salim. Those combat training videos we saw for Jodie a while back are stating to make a bit more sense, as in this demo she appears to work for the military in some capacity. She's making her way through hostile territory with a child soldier named Salim. The first thing I notice is that the tank controls are gone and you can control Jodie's movement simply with the left analog stick. It's almost silly how much better that feels.
While Jodie apparently got combat training she isn't really a battle hardened veteran and she's quickly trapped behind cover with enemies all around. This is when Aiden comes into play. Pressing triangle at any point switches from Jodie to Aiden. As Aiden you can freely float until you reach a certain distance from Jodie, at which point you're stuck. I flew over to the first soldier behind cover and by interacting with the wall he was behind I could smash it and take him out. Next was a soldier with a red glow. After interacting with him I pressed the two analog sticks towards one another to choke the life out of him. Finally I could move forward without being shot at. Moving behind cover was done freely but moving to the next cover was done with a button press.
Working my way forwards I came upon a truck with a machine gun emplacement and another soldier to the side of said truck. Using Aiden I could possess the soldier to the side of the truck, after which QTEs were used to have the possessed soldier shoot his friend and then start driving the truck with Salim and Jodie hiding in the back.
One notable improvement from Heavy Rain is that the prompts and points of interaction are less intrusive. Things you can interact with are denoted by a white dot, and pointing the right analog stick towards that dot will start the interaction without any weird button presses necessary. It makes the presentation look a lot cleaner. Combat is still done with QTEs but in a slightly different way. During the fight sometimes time would slow down when Jodie was attempting a move. Success requires that you press the right analog stick in the same direction as Jodie's movement, and if you don't she'll fail whatever she was trying. It's a less obtrusive system that's easier to manage since you don't have to quickly find the button you need, but sometimes it isn't obvious what direction is intended for success from Jodie's movement.
After splitting off from Salim I came upon a building which apparently housed a target I was here to kill. Jodie found a place to hide and then it was all up to Aiden. I flew around and tried possessing a soldier to walk past the guards but they noticed how dead his eyes looked and refused entry. Luckily there was another soldier nearby with sunglasses that did the trick. Once I got past the guards it was a simple manner of finding a gun and after a little “I can do this” pep talk from Jodie I pressed R1. My soldier killed everyone in the room and even got himself killed to finish things off.
Salim came in unexpectedly and ran to the soldier I had used in disbelief. It turns out I'd picked my friend's dad as my possession tool. Salim didn't actually speak any English, but you could tell by the tone he knew exactly who was to blame for his father's death. He picked up a pistol and shot at Jodie to no avail as Aiden shielded her from the bullets. After Salim had used up his clip he sat inconsolably at his father's side.
Now it was time to run; the villagers had heard the noise and were less than happy to see an American soldier in the middle of the massacre. During the escape Jodie gets shot in the leg and stuck in a building. Switching to Aiden you're able to knock down a ladder so she can climb to the roof. Once she gets up there a helicopter comes and she is saved.
To be honest this was all pretty dang linear and I'm not sure how Quantic Dream is going to pull this all together after finding out my choices weren't as meaningful as I thought they would be in Heavy Rain. It's kind of like seeing a magician perform for a second time after I've discovered how all the tricks work. I'm still impressed with what's being accomplish, but the sense of wonder is gone. Regardless, I can't help but give these developers the benefit of the doubt because I loved Heavy Rain on my first play through and I'm a big fan of story focused gaming. Hopefully Quantic Dream will succeed at blowing me away once again. Look for more on Beyond: Two Souls as it nears release on PS3 on October 8th 2013.