Beyond Two Souls: Reaction to Tribeca Film Festival videogame footage and panel
The worlds of film and games collided this past weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival, where this fall's highly-anticipated PS3 game BEYOND: TWO SOULS became the first video game to ever be considered an "Official Selection" of a film festival. A rather prestigious accomplishment, but perhaps not surprising in this project's case, as it comes from the very cinematic mind of David Cage and his studio, Quantic Dream, which brought us 2010's immersive, film nourish "Heavy Rain". That's enough to get gamers frothing at the mouth, I believe.
Cage brought with him about 35 minutes of footage from the game and participated in a brief Q+A afterward, along with actors Ellen Page, Kadeem Hardison and Eric Winter. Cage revealed that the gameplay of BEYOND: TWO SOULS is approximately 10 hours, so what we were shown was just a drop in the bucket, obviously. But if nothing else, we were given insight into the game elegantly rendered world.
Before the footage, Cage summed up what the game is about: You're Jodie Holmes (Page), who was born with a connection to a mysterious entity with incredible powers known as "Iden." Iden lives between the world of the dead and our world, and acts as something as a guardian angel for Jodie. During the course of the game, your actions will determine Jodie's fate as she faces extraordinary challenges on a journey to discover the truth of who she is and what purpose she is to ultimately serve.
The footage screened depicted Jodie's stint as a homeless person; she wanders the streets aimlessly, with no one to turn to other than her father figure-scientist friend, (played by Willem Dafoe), whom she can only reach by phone. She finds refuge from the cold with some friendly people who are similarly down-on-their-luck. Jodie is somewhat evasive at first about her past, and only divulges information about her special, mysterious connection to the entity Iden when the invisible force helps her rescue the others from a building fire. But even she can't fully explain why it's constantly at her side (or why it won't let her die, even when she attempts to kill herself in desperation).
Jodie can also go Jason Bourne on your ass, thanks to her ample training in the military. She uses her skills to thwart some jerky teenagers who're looking to beat on a homeless man she's befriended.
I am not a gamer, so the gameplay of "Beyond: Two Souls" fascinated me. This isn't a first person shooter or typical action-horror experience; the "action" is all about making choices as the Jodie character. As you converse with other characters, you're given options as to how you should respond (enigmatically, sincerely). You can be curious or refuse offers, and each decision you make changes the plot of the story. (Obviously, the footage we were shown represented just one possibility of many.)
And the graphics are fantastic, frankly the best I've ever seen of this sort. Close-ups of faces reveals wrinkles, pores, laugh-lines in amazing detail. When the footage was over, a side-by-side comparison showing the actors performing with their mo-cap suits on next to the finished result was shown, and it was startling. Replicating a human through CGI is immensely difficult (just ask Robert Zemeckis), but "Beyond: Two Worlds" has accomplished the effect about as well as can be hoped for.
After the footage, Cage and the actors spoke a little about making "Beyond: Two Souls". Here are a few highlights:
- Ellen Page said she had to read a 2,000 page script.
- Hardison said that during the motion-capture process, approximately 90 "markers" were placed on his face to fully capture his range of facial expressions.
- Cage said that while there are paranormal elements to "Beyond", it is not a horror or "scary" game.
- Cage remarked that while 20% of games are typically completed from start to finish, "Heavy Rain's" completion rate was closer to 75%. He's hoping "Beyond" does eevn better, and stressed the importance of story and compelling people to finish the game.
- All of the actors mentioned how freeing it is to perform on a project like this; there are no cameras or marks or anything of that sort as there is in film. They're mostly free to do whatever they want.
- Cage also debuted a new trailer for the game, which comes out on October 8th. You can watch it below: