Beyond: Two Souls made quite an impression at Sony's E3 2012 press conference, but there was one question on every GameSpot editor's lips--what's it like to play? While we didn't get to answer that directly at our behind-closed-doors appointment, we got a decent second-best--more than 40 minutes of gameplay shown off by the game's creator, David Cage. The section took place some way into the game and showed off drama, action, and even driving.
In Beyond, Ellen Page stars as Jodie Holmes, a girl with a link to an invisible entity she calls Aiden (pronounced "eye-den" by Jodie). She doesn't know whether it's a spirit or a ghost, but ever since she was a kid, she's had this connection. The game will take place over 15 years of Jodie's life, and we're not sure why at this stage, but Jodie gets into trouble with the law and becomes a fugitive, which is where we find her at the beginning of the E3 demo.
Both Jodie and Aiden are playable characters in Beyond: Two Souls. The demo starts with Jodie trying to sleep on the train, so you get to control Aiden and cause some mischief. You can fly around the train using Sixaxis motion controls, which causes fellow passengers to get a chill. You can even interact with objects using the two thumbsticks, such as knocking over a coffee cup or pulling down a rucksack from the overhead rack. The latter is particularly useful when police officers board the train, because you need to wake Jodie so she can make her escape.
In the first instance of what David Cage called "direct control," the person playing the demo was able to control Jodie's movements, while Heavy Rain-style button prompts popped up when she needed to open doors or dodge obstacles. Aiden helps Jodie break through a hatch in the ceiling of the bathroom and onto the roof of the train, where she avoids police officers and occasionally beats them up, before launching herself off the train. Thankfully, she's protected by a shield provided by Aiden, although she still lands battered and bruised in the forest below.
From there, Jodie makes her way through the forest in an effort to escape the police. It's a tense and confusing few minutes of gameplay--it's not obvious which way you have to go, and the police constantly seem to be closing in. Eventually, she comes across three patrolling officers who are in possession of a car and a motorbike. Aiden is able to possess one of the officers and then make him drive the car back and forth into the roadside barriers, distracting the two other officers. Jodie then jumps on the bike and makes her escape, leading to a short vehicular chase, with Cage once again emphasising the "direct control" on offer.
The final section we saw had Jodie arriving in a town besieged by even more cops, at which point Aiden was really let off the leash. He went round turning over cars, possessing snipers and opening fire on fellow officers, and even throwing a grenade into a nearby petrol station. After all the ensuing destruction, she threatens one of the injured cops with the line we'd seen from the trailer: "Tell them to leave me the fuck alone, because next time, I'll kill everyone."
At the end of the demo, we were able to glean some interesting facts from David Cage about the production of the game. We found out that the Kara tech demo was made last year as a proof of concept for the facial animation tech that would ultimately be used in Beyond. Ellen Page also came on board a week before E3 last year, when Cage pitched the project to her as "like four movies or something." There's no plan for a Vita version of the game, nor has Move support been confirmed, although Cage claims the team has been working on using the latter tech in the game. Beyond will also have a branching storyline--not 26 different endings like in Heavy Rain, but you will still have major decisions to make that will affect the outcome of the game.
Beyond has split opinion among some editors at GameSpot, but the reaction has been mostly positive, especially from those who enjoyed Heavy Rain. There's no doubt from the demo that Beyond will be more action-based than Cage's previous game--as the man himself says, "Whereas Heavy Rain was close to something like Seven, Beyond is different in style and tone and genre."