Imaginary friends, if you're to believe most lore involving them, are benevolent creatures. They serve as invisible companions who provide whatever their childhood constructor needs — comfort, a silent sounding board, a presence that helps ease the sting of loneliness. But in more fantastic tales, these typically innocent beings manifest themselves on a more physical plane and function like ghosts. We've all seen scenes in fiction where "spirits" move items or exhibit powers that startle and amaze their creator but wrap everyone else in a fabric of fear. Fear causes harm to the creator in some way, and then this innocent companion becomes a harbinger of vengeance.
David Cage and the team at Quantic Dream (the makers of Heavy Rain), are immersing themselves and the rest of us in these concepts of ethereal companionship and power with their latest work, Beyond: Two Souls. Tabbed to come out sometime in 2013, the story's focus is 15 years in the life of Jodie Holmes, who is portrayed by actress Ellen Page. Jodie's special gift is her link with an invisible spirit named Iden (or Aiden, as the spelling hasn't been nailed down yet) who has been her companion for most of her life.
Iden has the ability to do most things you'd expect a ghost to do, such as pass through walls and people and sometimes affect things in the physical realm. The sequence we saw showed a sleeping Jodie Holmes on the seats of a moving train, with rain pouring outside and strafing the train's windows. This sequence also showed the players' first-person control of the spirit, who freely drifted around the train car, through seats and even through the boundaries of the train car to provide a view of the train from the outside.
Perhaps more intriguing is Iden's ability to affect things in the physical realm. He can start small, such as knocking over someone's coffee cup or ethereally smacking some reading material out of a person's hands. I say "smack" figuratively, since the only visual representation of Iden is a string of light particles attached to Jodie. Like most things attached by a string, there are range limits' stray too far from Jodie, and the player's vision becomes extremely blurry.
By the time of the train scene, Jodie's a fugitive for worthy reasons. Iden and Jodie can be quite powerful. Over the course of the demonstration, we saw that the spirit can also knock down doors, possess other people, and on other occasions, kill them with a ghostly strangulation. Everyone has an aura around them to Iden, and the colors of those auras determine what Iden can actually do. If the aura is yellow, Iden can possess them. If it's red, Iden can kill them.
It's up to the player to use a combination of all three methods to help Jodie traverse obstacles. For instance, she manages to elude police by asking Iden to take over a motorcycle cop. The player then walks the cop to a police vehicle, enters it and causes him to drive it around and crash into things. With the diversion created, Jodie gets on the bike and drives off.
Beyond: Two Souls also appears to be the Quantic Dream's most active title as far as controls are concerned. Players alternate between controlling Jodie and her spirit friend, with Jodie's movements serving as the vehicle for the game's new emphasis on total control. Instead of tank-controlling characters to the eventual series of cinematic Quick Time Event (QTE) time prompts, as was often the case in Heavy Rain, Cage said players will be fully responsible for controlling the characters. One such instance is when Jodie leaps from the train and has to run through a forest to elude the cops and their search dogs. She moves realistically, Cage said, in an attempt to avoid a monotonous "running" cycle. The signature prompts still arrive at key points, but they no longer appear to be the major engine of progress as they were in past Quantic Dream efforts.
The most dramatic example of Jodie and Iden's power came in the final scene of the demo, where Iden essentially takes out an entire SWAT team. Iden possesses the sharpshooters on the roof and starts picking off people, and then he takes control of the chopper pilot and causes the chopper to crash. This not only shows Iden's battle chops, but also the spirit's willingness to use whatever means necessary to protect Jodie.
Jodie herself appears to be no stranger to hand-to-hand combat, either, as we saw her fight off a few cops surrounding her on the train. She's no Neo, but one gets the impression that her self-defense abilities come from beyond the occasional krav maga class at a local gym.
Cage said that Beyond: Two Souls is his most ambitious project, which he started writing and crafting not long after Heavy Rain was finished. Time will tell if that ambition will be fully realized or go beyond anyone's expectations.
More articles about Beyond: Two Souls