Today I’m focussing on Sony’s showing at E3, so first some words about their conference, and then onto the games!

Sony
Sony’s conference was as up and down as Microsoft’s, but had the virtue of being bookended by two upcoming new IPs; Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls and Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Unfortunately, it sagged massively in the middle – not good when you’ve sat up until 2am to watch it – when Andrew House came out on stage to talk about their new augmented reality book project, Wonderbook. Entirely too much time was devoted to this, which could have been allocated to the Vita; Sony essentially hung the handheld out to dry, finally announcing PSOne Classics support, showing Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation, and… not much else.

Like Microsoft, they also spent time talking about apps and mobile, specifically the change in name for the Playstation Suite to Playstation Mobile, and news that they’ll be bringing it to more Android devices via a partnership with HTC. God of War: Ascension was also shown off in single-player form, and… well, it was God of War, but now with added Elephant Men…

Beyond: Two Souls
David Cage took to the stage to introduce his team’s new project, and after the now-customary talking-up of his own studio, he began to tell us about the premise behind Beyond: Two Souls. “Death is the biggest mystery of mankind,” he tells us, before going on to introduce the character of Jodie Holmes, who has always felt a link to some unseen entity, a spirit, perhaps, existing between our world and the next. The game will take place over fifteen years of Jodie’s life, as she begins to discover more about what lies beyond.

Cage goes on to tell us who will be playing the lead role of Jodie in the game. “I was looking for a talented young actress, someone who could embody Beyond’s lead role in a very unique way,” he told the assembled throng. “So… Ellen Page?”, I thought to myself. “I am proud to announce that Jodie Holmes will be played by Academy Award nominee Ellen Page,” he confirmed. Yep. Saw that coming. With that out of the way, Cage introduces some footage from the game, pointing out that everything we see is real time.

In the cutscene, we see a police officer attempting to talk to a non-communicative, shaven headed Jodie. It’s graphically very impressive, particularly the facial animation and lip-synching which, while not as accurate as LA Noire, seems to be quite spot-on. The sense of atmosphere is also well realised, with oppressively dim lighting and sparse sound design. Our cop friend tells Jodie he found her in the middle of nowhere, asking if she was in an accident, but she gives him nothing, and simply stares blankly ahead.

As he walks around Jodie, he notices what seems to be a scar on the back of her head. As he approaches, a coffee cup flies from the table to smash against the far wall, as if telekinetically thrown or flung by a poltergeist. Visibly shaken by this occurence, the officer decides to leave the room to check missing persons lists. He tells Jodie he’ll be right outside, and as she sits alone in the interview room, she remarks to some unseen individual, “I know. They’re coming.”

Outside the room, a heavily-armed SWAT team enters the police station, weapons raised. It’s clear they’re here for Jodie. As they take up position, the man in charge motions for the police officer to open the door to the interview room. Unfortunately, we don’t see what happens next as the screen fades to black, but we are treated to an action-packed trailer depicting Jodie on the run from soldiers. It appears that possessing enemies will be a central game mechanic, as we see some kind of spectral energy entering a soldier, whose eyes then turn white. Another scene shows Jodie being shot at while some kind of shield seems to be protecting her from harm. The trailer ends with our protagonist standing over the SWAT commander, telling him to leave her alone, or she’ll “kill everyone”, before remarking to her unseen partner that she thinks they get the message.

I must say I’m more interested in Quantic Dream’s latest than I was in Heavy Rain, mostly down to the supernatural edge, but I’m still a bit skeptical. I don’t know what to make of Quantic Dream and David Cage; I get that they want to create filmic, interactive narratives, but I just don’t know if I’m sold on the execution. Regardless, thematically and visually, the game looks fantastic, and I’m hoping there will be more gameplay meat on those narrative bones. We’ll have to wait and see, but at the very least, Beyond: Two Souls is on my radar.

See David Cage’s E3 presentation below.


*Editor’s note: The video has a slight blip at around the four minute mark. I looked around, but they all seemed to be the same, so apologies for that*

Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls is currently slated for release in Q1 2013.

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