After seeing a lengthy demo of a level from David Cage's new game Beyond: Two Souls, that headline is more or less the best way I can describe it: The sombre, occasionally stilted tone and QTE-style controls of Heavy Rain coupled with the non-corporeal hijinks of Ghost Trick. Starring Ellen Page.
All things considered, that's pretty cool. I wasn't much of a fan of Heavy Rain. Even while I appreciate what Cage does with his games, I found the gameplay too purposefully confounding to feel satisfying, and never got around some of the more off-putting characterisations and weird acting. What's more, the thing I liked most about Ghost Trick wasn't its supernatural twist; it was its humour, music and sense of style.
The E3 demo I saw of Beyond: Two Souls is the same on that leaked on the internet last night, though with sound, and with David Cage explaining what exactly was going on in the demo.
Beyond: Two Souls follows 15 years in the life of a girl named Jodie, who for unexplained reasons is tied to an otherworldly presence named Aiden. Players alternate control between Aiden and Jodie, making their way through a game that, much like Heavy Rain before it, plays out less like a traditional video game and more like a movie, albeit a movie with branching paths and a reactive script.
Before we started, Cage said that this scene wasn't the best "acting scene", that it was more action-driven. He wanted us to know that he thinks the game is very emotionally driven, even though that wasn't on display all that much here. He stressed that every single scene in the game, and every segment of each scene, is different. You'll never repeat a sequence or action.
At the start of the demo, Jodie is 23 years old. She's a fugitive being searched for because of her abilities. She's asleep on a train, and players are given free reign to mess around as Aiden.
Aiden is a non-corporeal ghost, and he can float around and interact with the environment from a first-person perspective (more or less, since he's not a person). He's like a white string of ghostly gas emanating from Jodie; when he can interact with something, two glowing sticks light up, indicating the thumbsticks. He tries to wake Jodie up, but she gets grumpy and tells him to buzz off. So, he goes around the train car and causes mischief like Patrick Swayze in Ghost, except without all the sexy stuff.
He creates cold on one guy and makes him shiver, and knocks a magazine out of a woman's hand, then goes outside of the train, floating out the window and following the side of the train. He can never get too far from Jodie, since he's tethered to her.
The train gets stopped by cops, who are looking for Jodie. Aiden goes outside of the train and listens to the cops. Aiden can't go too far from Jodie, or your vision goes black and white.
The cops come on looking for IDs. Jodie is still asleep, so Aiden wakes her up one more time. She wakes up, noties the cops, and the player switches to controlling Jodie.
The cops quickly spot her, and things go all Heavy Rain. Jodie runs down the traincar away from the cops. The same arrow-prompts pop up like Heavy Rain, she loses her jacket to the cops. Did I mention? It's a lot like Hearvy Rain.
A cop grabs her, and she… well, she beats the shit out of him, actually. She runs and hides in a bathroom. The cops have her surrounded, so she climbs up to a hatch onto the top of the car. She can't force it open, so the player switches to Aiden, who can bust the hatch open.
Jodie climbs out on the top of the traincar, where it's raining. This sequence is all very exciting, to be honest! Amazingly, the cops are climbing up the sides of the train, such is their desire to capture this girl. Er… OK.
A cop grabs her, and she kicks him in the head. The cops are being uncharacteristically aggressive, threatening to shoot. Maybe there's a story reason for that.
Turns out Jodie is a bit of a fighting master -- she takes on three cops at once and, with a series of punches, spins, parries and kicks, leaves them all lying flat She jumps away and off the train, and the cops open fire -- a button prompt lets Aiden create a glowing blue shield around her to protect her from the bullets.
After she lands and dusts herself off (she's looking pretty banged up at this point), Jodie walks through the woods. Her animations are very realistic. She moves like a real girl, turning and looking around as she moves. Suddenly, a helicopter sees her and lights her up with a spotlight.
"F**k," she says. There is a lot of cursing in this game. Dogs start chasing her -- we can only hear them off camera. She runs down a hill as the cops give chase, yelling through the woods. There's an edge to the cops' voices that is really aggressive and dickish -- they sound hostile in a way that cops usually don't.
Soon, Jodie comes to a river. She's waist-deep in the water, and the cops chase her. As she climbs up the other side, they open fire! Wow. The police are trying to kill her. Jodie QTEs her way out of the water and keeps running.
Lots of running through the woods, then… a German Shepard takes Jodie down. Two, three german Shepards! Jodie grabs a stick. Fights the dogs and takes them the fuck out -- swift-kicks one in the head, drops another. Poor doggies. The last dog takes her down and she grapples with him until he runs away.
The cops are close, so Jodie climbs a cliff, using Heavy Rain controls. She hides on the cliff from the cops, who don't look up so they miss her. Man, the cops are vulgar arseholes, to be honest. Lots of swearing, shooting at a girl, etc.
At the top of the cliff, Jodie finds another police roadblock. She sneaks up on the cops, crouching dynamically because of the situation. Jodie then "asks" Aiden for help, sending hum up to the sniff around. He spots a motorcycle that she wants.
Only problem is, there's a cop leaning on the bike. Fortunately, he has a yellow aura, so Aiden possesses him and climbs into one of the police SUVs. He crashes a cop car around to distract the other police while Jodie steals the motorcycle. Neat.
Next, a motorcycle sequence controlling the bike with the sixaxis. Graphics look really good. Unclear about whether the controls feel as good.
A bit of peace and then… oh hey, it's the f**king helicopter again! It is tracking her while she's on the bike. She pulls up short at a bridge -- there's a SWAT barricade on the bridge. "No choice. We're going straight through. You ready, Aiden? Let's go."
As she hits the roadblock, Aiden puts up the shield again and blasts through the barricade, bullets, cars and all.
She drives into town, and the cops shoot her motorcycle, she goes down. She's injured and surrounded by SWAT, hiding behind a car. A sniper has a bead on her, and the helicopter is back too. Dang.
"Take care of them, Aiden."
At this point, the game opens up somewhat -- Aiden can float around the whole scene and take out the cops one by one in creative-looking ways. It feels weird that a team around 20 heavily armed SWAT officers would just hold back and not rush her, since she's not armed and all, but… suspension of disbelief, I guess.
First, Aiden uses his push power to knock a car into the two cops behind it. Then, he possesses a sniper and turns him around to shoot two other cops, until one of the cops shoots him. After that, he chokes out a cop who was highlighted in red, causing him to die. He then possesses another cop and makes him drive his truck into a building, then possesses a third cop and makes him throw a grenade into the petrol station.
This all sounds cool, right? Well, the weird thing about it all is that the other cops aren't really reacting to what's going on, and Aiden is taking his time doing this. So, the cops aren't freaking out or reacting to this paranormal presence… they're all just sort of sitting there behind cover, waiting to be possessed or otherwise killed. It's weird and doesn't feel all that exciting.
The other thing that gives me pause is that there wasn't much freedom as to what to do in each given instance. For example. it didn't appear possible to make the cop who threw the grenade open fire on his teammates instead -- he had the one canned action, and he did it. The game doesn't look as open-ended as it could be, all things considered.
Aiden keeps ramping up the destruction, bringing down a clocktower on some dudes. As he does that, Jodie makes a break for a theatre. Aiden opens the door for her. She's trying to hold the door shut, and sends Aiden out to cause another distraction. He does that by… possessing the pilot of the helicopter and sending it crashing to the ground. Woah.
Jodie limps out into the flaming wreckage, up to the cop who was leading the SWAT team in the trailer. grabs the cop and says "Tell them to leave me the f**k alone, because next time I'll kill everyone." And with that, the demo ended. Bam.
Cage wanted to be clear that this was just one typical walkthrough - there are many ways to play the scene. For example, Jodie could've gotten arrested, and it would lead you to another part of the scene. The game, he said, is like Heavy Rain -- it's not linear. What we saw was one version of the many things that can happen to you while playing this game.
Seeing it in action, I'm not convinced that this game won't just be another Heavy Rain -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but also doesn't have the kind of dynamic gameplay that I'd like to see more of. But with so many interesting things going for it, at the very Beyond: Two Souls this game is much more interesting than the majority of action games on display at E3 this year.
Also, Ellen Page.