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Beyond: Two Souls puts the 'act' back in 'action' with Ellen Page


Quantic Dream snagged actress Ellen Page for its new PS3 game, Beyond: Two Souls, and premiered a trailer during Sony's E3 press conference to show off her high-profile, performance-captured video game debut. Naturally, the video Quantic chose featured Page's character sitting absolutely still, not talking and looking like Sinead O'Connor's reaction gif to Two Girls One Cup.

The demo Quantic Dream mastermind David Cage showed the press the following day went a long way to demonstrate Page's proficiency in a video game world, though it still didn't highlight any deep dialogue or empathetic scenes.

Executive Producer Guillaume de Fondaumière played a half-hour action sequence filled with train-top rain battles, stealing motorcycles from cops and exploding helicopters -- but Beyond is much more than a single demo can contain.

"There is also emotion," Cage said. "We just showed you one walkthrough. But you could have played it in many different ways. In the entire scene, there are scenes inside the scenes that we didn't show you."


Beyond: Two Souls tells the tale of Jodie Holmes, a young woman who has been haunted by an invisible, powerful presence her entire life. She calls it "Aiden" and it can interact with the physical world, follow orders and communicate with Jodie, and it's also the second playable character in Beyond.

The demo opened at night, with Jodie curled up in a ratty hoodie riding a train. Cage informed us that she was a fugitive, though he wouldn't specify why; we assume it has something to do with the monstrously destructive entity tethered to her body.

Fondaumière played the whole demo while Cage commentated as he saw fit, usually to point out just how directly Fondaumière was controlling the characters. Quantic is widely recognized for its interactive narrative titles, most notably with its previous PS3 release, Heavy Rain, and Cage was eager to mention the rich action sequences and the amount of control players will have over Jodie and Aiden's every move, even when it appeared they were being controlled via cutscene or pre-determined paths.

Fondaumière used the Sixaxis functionality to first take control of Aiden, who was distinguishable on-screen through the thread that linked him back to Jodie. Otherwise, from a first-invisible-person perspective, Aiden ran amok in the train cabin, disturbing other passengers by knocking over their water bottles and generally making the air around them frigid.

Along with the Sixaxis control, Cage said he is "in the process of thinking about" Move integration as well.

Gallery: Beyond: Two Souls (E3 2012) | 14 Photos

Aiden was bored, Cage said. When he bumped into Jodie she woke from a light sleep to grumble in frustration at him, as if he were an annoying little brother. She hadn't slept in three days, she whined, pulling the hood back over her head (which, it should be noted, had chin-length hair on it).

The train made an unexpected stop at a woodland security checkpoint, where a police troop was on the hunt for "a girl." The officers had an air of lazy indifference about them, but as they boarded the train in the search for Jodie, they soon proved to be the most tenacious group of law enforcers, ever. Just, ever.

Aiden helped Jodie escape the train through the ceiling's bathroom hatch, and the officers, having recognized and chased her through a few cabins, followed her to the roof of the train, which was traveling at full speed through a torrent of rain. Fondaumière had, by this point, taken control of Jodie, who punched, kicked and slid her way out of the clutches of every police officer she encountered on top of the speeding train in the rain.

Eventually Aiden created a force field around Jodie so she could leap safely into the surrounding forest, leaving the cops stranded, wet and probably confused on top of a moving train.

Cage wasn't kidding when he said "the story required more action."

Beyond used a familiar control scheme, with on-screen prompts to push left, tap x and shake the controller appearing in the familiar, modern, white Heavy Rain style.

Jodie herself looks -- spoilers -- like Ellen Page. Quantic Dream used performance capture technology to place Page in the game as a direct image of Jodie. Performance capture differs from the standard motion capture system in that it removes the split-take: With motion capture, the face and voice is filmed and recorded first, and the actions are filmed second to sync up with the audio. Performance capture gets all this in one go, recording full-body and -head movements as actors speak their lines in real-time.

As a result, Jodie moves in limp, life-like motions and her face, in close-up shots, has enough fleshy detail to show every single pore dotting her cheeks and nose. Her mouth looked stiff still, but again, this demo didn't exactly focus on grand speech-making. Jodie did say "fuck" quite a few times, though.

Beyond Two Souls puts the 'act' back in 'action' with Ellen Page
The cops in the demo continued their persistence through a damp, dark forest where Jodie fought off a pack of police dogs and scaled a slippery, sheer rock face. The animals reacted to Aiden's presence with a wary growl and the on-screen cues fit themselves to the environment in a few instances, including during Jodie's risky climb.

Aiden has more talents than simply knocking beverages from arm rests -- he can possess people who have orange auras, causing their eyes to turn milky white and placing them in the direct control of the player. Fondaumière used this ability to have one cop create a handy distraction. Then he used it to murder an entire SWAT team in horrifying and gruesome ways.

The demo ended where the public trailer did, on a burning, destroyed street with Jodie standing over a SWAT commander and warning him that next time, she'd kill everyone. Thing is, we got to see what happened right before she made that threat, and honestly, it looked like she did kill everyone.

Cage explained that there are multiple paths to follow in each scenario and that the game is not linear: "This is a sandbox," he said, just before he used Aiden to possess a sniper and shoot down three SWAT officers as they stood in position around Jodie, who was injured and crouched behind a car.

Aiden then proceeded to possess more SWAT officers, flip over cars and make a gas station burst into flames, coating a handful of people in liquid fire and sending them writhing on the ground in pain. Aiden destroyed an entire watchtower in two clicks and he and Jodie were eventually able to escape.

Buried within the scenes of mass murder is a deep coming-of-age story, Cage promised, but his focus on proving Quantic Dream can do action led him to choose this particular scenario as a demo and in the E3 announcement trailer.

Page plays Jodie through 15 years of her life, from an angsty teenager to a vibrant young woman, all with an invisible violent killer attached to her very being. Beyond addresses mourning, loss and the "other side" as Cage perceives it, created because he was dissatisfied with the explanations most religions had to offer.

"The game is really about growing, it's about evolving, about accepting who you are, even when you're different," Cage said. "It's also about death. You're going to get very torn apart when you're tied to something living between our world and the other side.

"It's about death, it's about separation, it's about mourning. All the things that you usually don't find in video games," Cage said.

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