Beyond: Two Souls, Quantic Dream’s new cinematic third-person PS3 adventure game, was playable with the option of one of two demos: Somalia or Hunted. I played both roughly twenty-minute demos. I am very grateful for this, as both demos have two completely different feels to them, almost as if they were two completely different games.
This is the story: Jodie has a gift she uses, which just so happens to be a crazy spirit thing named Aiden that can help her in battles. But this gift also drives her nuts, and the game is her battling this extreme part of her life. At the Sony press conference, we saw an extended trailer with the CIA, Jodie having sex, Jodie then wanting to kill the person she had sex with, horse back riding in what appeared to be Arizona, Jodie getting beaten as a child, and Somalia. I’m still a bit confused.
The Somalia demo began with playing as Jodie in stealth mode alongside a small child named Salim, in the badlands of Somalia. You switch to Aiden to blow up a wall and kill an enemy, and then also have to blast off another wall on the side to kill another. Your objective is unclear, and Salim plays a little assistance here and there. The indications of where you’re supposed to go or what actions you’re supposed to take are very vague; many times my frustrated expression summoned a Sony representative to point me in the right direction.
From there on, I navigated my way through Somalia, switching between Jodie and Aiden to advance. Aiden has three abilities: launching, choking, and possessing. Launching is initiated by locking onto the blue dot, pulling the joysticks back, and letting go. Red dots are enemies that you choke by locking on and pushing the sticks together; killing the enemy much slower than I would have liked. The most common Aiden move used among the demos was the possession of others, initiated by targeting the orange dot, and pulling the sticks apart.
Playing as Aiden is fun, but a pain in the ass to direct. His controls are incredibly sensitive, making it difficult to have stability. I found myself running into walls, or getting trapped looking at the ceiling. I get the whole thing with making the game from Aiden’s point of view darker and a bit more blurry, but it felt like I was deep sea diving with no goggles and my contacts on. While using this function, I think the representative came to help me three times as I threw my arms up in the air and shook my head.
A lot of things are time-sensitive when it comes to using Aiden. Your next steps are difficult to indicate most of the time, making it quite difficult to navigate him. With the mixture of Jodie yelling at you, not knowing what you’re supposed to do, and being blind as a bat — it doesn’t end well. Similar to Heavy Rain, you control Jodie with QTEs and by holding down a series of buttons like a game of DDR on steroids.
Combat’s down-right awful. If Jodie throws a punch toward someone to her left, I had to move the joystick to the left. The game slowed down at these points, and if you don’t proceed quickly enough, or tap the stick in the wrong direction, you take damage. There were several moments when I was unsure where Jodie needed to move, and would sustain damage. In heavy combat scenes I wanted to throw my controller at the wall, as the game was a repeatedly slowed-down scene from Enter the Matrix.
The Hunted demo was more frustrating than enjoyable. You start off as Aiden, watching Jodie curled up asleep on the train. It is yet again vague as to what you’re supposed to do, but after running around the cabin several times, I figured out how to knock over everything that could be knocked over. Jodie’s water bottle, the snack rollaway, a guy’s mug, etc. Once you knock these things over, Jodie yells at Aiden to stop, and then you must do it all again.
A cutscene begins as Jodie is still asleep, through the eyes of Aiden. State police have stopped the train, stating they’re searching for a CIA operative on the run. You wake up Jodie to show her the cops are here for her, and it’s not soon after they find her. From here until the end of the demo it is nothing but sloppy combat, poorly cut Matrix scenes, and lack of clarity in terms of objectives.
You start off shoving through the train in slow-motion movements then you climb to the roof. On the roof, the controls of the birds-eye-view scene are all over the place; You point the stick in one direction, and she kind of walks in all the directions. The combat is heavily used here, and proved itself unorganized and boring. Once off the train, you run through the forest with no direction at all (I spent most of that part running into trees and slipping on branches), and then back to time-sensitive Aiden attacks with no direction. This whole demo is scattered, and really has no strong point. Hunted left me feeling even more confused than Somalia, and with less of a grip of what the game was even about.
In the end, I wasn’t very impressed. I wanted to enjoy it, but I couldn’t. The story seemed a bit all over the place, and nothing felt smooth. As a big Quantic Dream fan, I do feel obligated to give it a chance. As far as the third-person-shooter-action-game angle David Cage is going after, I don’t think it’s the right direction for him. I’m hoping the controls can be improved by the time of it’s release this October.