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E3 2013: Beyond: Two Souls hands-on

E3 2013

Beyond: Two Souls was one of the highlight announcements of last year’s E3. At the Sony booth this year, a 20 minute playable demo was available, showing off a level set in Somalia.

This is the same level that was shown before the press conference on Monday, a level which makes this look like a standard third-person action game. But don’t be fooled: this is as scripted and linear as you’d expect a Quantic Dream game to be.

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It’s not necessarily a bad thing though. While the more open scenes feel somewhat clumsy, car chases and other more directed sequences excel.

“As scripted and linear as you’d expect”The open sequences make use of Aiden, a paranormal being, allowing you to look around the level like a floating camera and then interact with people and objects. In a couple of instances, you can possess an enemy soldier and use him to kill his squad mates, rather than taking them on in a gunfight.

These sections tended to feel awkward and disorientating though. The camera felt too close (or maybe it was that they sat us too near to the display), giving you a narrow field of vision. There is also no HUD or clues for where to go, which increases the immersion at the expense of a few moments where you’re scrambling around in a yard, trying to figure out where the door you’re meant to go through is.

“Some interesting control mechanics”The more directed sequences fare better, especially combat. Whenever you have full control of a character, you can’t always react to the context they’re in and make the smartest move, which is why combat in a game like Ryse or Assassin’s Creed always looks inelegant. People turn on a dime, momentum isn’t carried through and animations awkwardly butt up against each other.

In some of Beyond: Two Souls’ sequences, you don’t chose which moves to pull off in combat, but you affect whether they are successful or not. This is also where some interesting control mechanics come into play. When time slows down in a sequence, you have to move the right thumbstick in the direction that finishes Jodie’s move, so if she’s about to punch someone, you push towards that person’s face. It works the same elsewhere for opening doors or reaching for items, although these sequences are also mixed in with more traditional ’repeatedly tap X to fight off the guy with the knife’ scenarios.

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Beyond: Two Souls isn’t an easy title to demo at E3, because there’s so much learned behaviour which you would already have by this point in the game. I had to turn to a Sony representative several times to help me understand what I had to do, because I hadn’t been introduced to a mechanic which would be apparent to someone who had played it up to that point. That aside, this is a game which continues to impress, both in its visual fidelity and dramatic storytelling. Fans of Quantic Dream have a lot to look forward to later this year.

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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