Quantic Dream’s upcoming Beyond: Two Souls might not have everything in common with Heavy Rain – the story extends through 15 years; our protagonist, Jodie Holmes, explores connections to the afterlife as well as the physical world; and the action, judging from the gameplay footage released so far, has been markedly magnified – but the two share at least one common thread: David Cage’s desire to immerse players in another life.
And in life we only get one playthrough.
That’s the logos behind the director’s latest comments to Videogamer, where he suggested that gamers play Beyond: Two Souls once – and then never again. It was the same prescription Cage gave years ago for Heavy Rain: Decision making and choice are great. They allow players the freedom to chart their own course through a character’s life. But just how could that illusion, that sense of real connection with the path we choose, possibly hold up if we explore every conclusion in a multi-ending story?
“It’s the same approach as for Heavy Rain: Play it once and then don’t replay it. You can if you want, but I think the best way to experience the game is really to make choices and then never know what would have happened if you’d made a different choice. Because life is like this, and Beyond is the life of Jodie Holmes.
“For me, it’s more interesting to have players defining the life of Jodie – this is your version of the life of Jodie. And you can talk to other people and see their versions, and compare what you did, what you missed, what you saw, but never know what would have happened if… I think that’s the beauty of the thing.”
And we’ve heard before how seriously Cage is approaching Beyond’s weighty themes. The director was inspired to write the story of Jodie Holmes after losing a close relative, and in the interview he explains how the game is driven by the concept of explaining what comes after death, albeit outside of religion:
“Death is something really strange. I mean, you have the concept of death when no-one around you has died, and you understand that it’s very sad. But when you lose someone close, you have a totally different approach to it. Suddenly it takes on a whole different light. I have never been very interested in religions, I just say that they are nice theories. And one day I was thinking about what death could be, without religions, without God sitting on a cloud, or whatever. Can we have another explanation for that? This is what drove me to write Beyond.”
For most gamers, however, deciding whether or not Beyond deserves another playthrough will likely be harder than Cage lets on. Because at the end of the day let’s face it: the game is still with us, still staring us down from the shelf or the coffee table.
The replay choice is easy for an engaging singular narrative like Assassin’s Creed, a sports simulator like Madden, or game devoid of storytelling altogether such as Words with Friends – but is it really worth knowing “what could have been” in a Mass Effect, Heavy Rain… or Beyond?
Beyond: Two Souls releases in early 2013, exclusively for the PlayStation 3.
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