Beyond: Two Souls takes place over 15 years in the life of protagonist Jodie Holmes, and her adventures include a stint as a CIA operative. In the E3 demo of Beyond, which we watched Quantic Dream co-CEO Guillaume de Fondaumiere play, Holmes found herself on a tough mission in Somalia, and the main thing keeping her alive was her supernatural companion, Aiden.
According to de Fondaumiere, this sequence is from the last third of Beyond, with Holmes having been recruited by the CIA and trained to be a soldier. The agency sent her into Somalia to kill a warlord named Jamaal, a mission that will be her toughest yet.
Holmes was accompanied by a local boy of perhaps 8, Salim, in a nighttime raid. Here, we got our first taste of action in Beyond, and it appears to very much resemble that of Heavy Rain, Quantic Dream's previous game. You have full control over Holmes' movements until you reach an area of interaction — in our demo, she sidled up behind a wall, and from there we had a few distinct options as to how to proceed. You could hold L1 to peek out above the wall, and hit R1 to shoot an enemy, although it didn't appear that there was any aiming involved; it looked like a matter of timing the button press correctly.
It quickly became clear that Holmes wouldn't be able to move forward, because a few enemies were covering her position and would spray gunfire in her direction when she peeked out from behind the wall. Here's where Aiden, the powerful spirit that serves as companion for Holmes, comes in. De Fondaumiere switched control to Aiden with the triangle button, then floated toward the gunmen and began taking them out. Different actions are possible for different enemies: You'll be able to strangle some guys and possess others, and the latter option allows you to do things like kill yourself or other enemies.
Aiden is perhaps most useful in its capacity as a lookout. From a safe position, Holmes can have Aiden spread out and survey the situation ahead to get an idea of where enemies are standing in a given area.
Later in the demo, we saw a Heavy Rain-like action sequence. Holmes had Aiden possess a Somali soldier, kill his two cohorts and get in a truck. She and Salim got in the back of the pickup and hid while the possessed man drove ahead. But when the driver reached a checkpoint, the game gave Aiden only one option: Hit the gas and bust through the gates, which puts everyone on your tail.
Because Aiden was occupied with possessing the driver, Holmes had to take care of the pickups full of soldiers approaching her vehicle. A few enemies jumped onto Holmes' truck, and here, we saw some hand-to-hand combat. Unlike Heavy Rain, it doesn't involve quick-time events in the sense you might be used to. The action slows down when an enemy attempts to strike Holmes, and you'll see her begin to make a move — perhaps a dodge to the left or a counter. No QTE prompt appears on screen; instead, you'll have to observe Holmes' movement and flick the right analog stick in the correct direction to continue the motion.
After surviving the pickup truck chase sequence, Holmes split up with Salim, telling him she had to go off and take care of business. The next section tested Aiden's limits. It's an ethereal entity, but it's tethered to Holmes, so it can't fly more than a certain distance away. Holmes was attempting to stay stealthy while infiltrating a compound, but had to get relatively close to a soldier in order to take him out.
Once Holmes reached Jamaal's compound, she possessed a soldier, picked up an assault rifle and killed everybody inside — perhaps 10 people in all — although it was clear that she had some difficulty in carrying out the hit. It was then that Salim reappeared, and found his father among the dead. Salim turned on Holmes and attempted to shoot her, but Aiden sprang up to form an impenetrable shield, leaving the boy with no recourse but to lie at his father's side.
The commotion brought the townspeople out, and Holmes found herself running for her life while calling desperately for backup. She ran into a house and barricaded herself inside, while people outside attempted to break down the doors and windows. Wounded and at the end of her rope, she put a gun to her head and tried to kill herself, but Aiden — always trying to keep Holmes alive — wouldn't let her.
According to de Fondaumiere, your choices in Beyond matter as they do in Heavy Rain: There are many different ways to arrive at Jamaal's compound, and although certain events are fixed, the details along the way can be very different. For example, said De Fondaumiere, some players won't see the pickup truck chase segment, and the tenor of Holmes' relationship with Salim can vary.
Those relationships are enhanced by Quantic Dream's performance capture technology. Beyond conveys emotion through lifelike facial animations and body language, and that element is the most impressive part of the game. But the demo we saw suffered from noticeable technical issues, including a poor frame rate and pop-in of both objects and textures. De Fondaumiere indicated that the demo wasn't supposed to run that way, so we're hoping that the final game, which launches Oct. 8 on PlayStation 3, won't have those problems.