The Game: Videogame designer David Cage is either a visionary artist or a huckster philosopher. Either way, his follow-up to 2010′s Heavy Rain promises to be a unique cinematic adventure. Beyond follows a young girl named Jodie Holmes and a mysterious supernatural being named Aiden (pronounced like the first two syllable of “identity”) who follows her everywhere. According to Cage, the game will cover 15 years of Jodie’s life, from her adolescence through her 20s. Oh, and here’s a twist: Jodie is played by Juno star Ellen Page in what promises to be a showcase for performance-capture technology. (Available for the PS3, no release date pending)
What We Saw: The game is still very early in the development process, but we got a look at a long and very action-heavy sequence. In the beginning, a college-age Jodie is on a train. She’s also on the run — policemen get on the train and try to capture her, giving chase through a forest. Jodie flees with the aid of Aiden, who can perform various Poltergeist-esque actions (moving objects, taking control of other humans). It all climaxes with an explosive shootout in a small town.
The Good: Like Heavy Rain, Beyond aims to make you feel like you’re controlling a character in a movie. The game’s look is richly cinematic — the chase sequence through a dark forest was a gorgeous compilation of vivid lighting effects. Game play-wise, Cage has taken note of the main critique of Heavy Rain: That the game was so cinematic that it felt less like a game than an animated film. The sequence that we saw offered a host of different game play styles: Exploration, puzzles, even a segment with a motorcycle.
You can also play through most sequences in very different ways. Cage stressed that the rest of the game would not be so action heavy — he seemed a bit embarrassed by all the explosions. But even though, in the sequence we saw, Page didn’t have much to do besides run and crouch, she made for an intriguing, world-weary protagonist.
The Not-So-Good: The rag on Heavy Rain wasn’t exactly fair — Cage’s whole aesthetic is based on minimal game play with maximum emotional impact. There’s a sense that, with Beyond, Cage may be self-consciously attempting to appease the masses — like, “Fine, you freaks, here’s your damned exploding helicopter. Not enough? Okay, how about if I just destroy an entire town? HAPPY NOW???” See here:
Excitement Level: In a year filled with umpteen iterations of gore-splattered franchises, Beyond is attempting to do something new and fascinating. On a scale from 1 to 10, this earns a 9, if only because we can’t wait to see if the game will live up to Cage’s bordering-on-existential ambitions.
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