Two Games, One Genre

Two Games, One Genre

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Genre: Interactive Drama, Action-Adventure

Game 1: Heavy Rain

Developer: Quantic Dream

Platform: PlayStation 3

Engine: Quantic Dream Engine, Havok

Beyond-Two-Souls-640x360

Game 2: Beyond, Two Souls

Developer: Quantic Dream

Platform: PlayStation 3

Engine: Quantic Dream’s PS4 Engine

 

David Cage’s studio have been under the spotlight for the last 4 years due to the small revolution that Quantic Dream wanted to bring to the game industry. Did it work? In 2010 it seemed on the right track, with the release of the first interactive-drama Heavy Rain. The public was in awe with the new technology and the engine used by Quantic Dream that was developed in their own studios, even though they used Havok for game physics.

 

To explain the game shortly, it is an interactive drama where a child is kidnapped and you, as his father (and other playable characters) have to go through the story in order to save the kid from being killed by the Origami Killer.

 

Why was this game an evolution? It used motion capture to capture the movements, both physical and facial of real actors, the reason was simple, David Cage believes that people want to be able to enter a movie, and that is what this game is all about, entering a movie, and be a part of it. He believes that people want to be part of certain films and this game gives the player the opportunity to enter the world of fiction and be a part of a movie, this certainly worked because he managed to bring us a solid experience. Quantic Dream easily understood that players want to be able to be a part of the experience, and not only feel the experience. In this game the player has an impact on the movement, actions and decisions of the characters, as if he was buildings his own story, that his the purpose of this experience and exactly the same happens in Beyond, Two Souls.

I believe that David Cage was a visionary because he did see an opportunity in this technology, to bring to the living room a film in which we can participate, did you ever imagined another ending for the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars? Or did you have an idea that could change the story at some point? Quantic Dream looked into the soul of the players and decided to bring an experience in which choices would matter so that the player could build his own ending, giving a certain freedom to the player.

The game is not without his faults, however. There is a strange feeling in the gameplay, especially the movement that seems a bit robotic at certain points, and the fact that you have to hold R2 button to make the character move feels quite unnatural and isn’t very comfortable. In these games you basically have to follow the prompts given on the screen, there is not much difficulty added to it, even if you choose different levels of difficulty, the difference is in the rapidity of the prompts (you have to be quicker if you play in an harder difficulty), and the quantity of prompts and the difficulty does not rise exponentially as you go further into the game, my experience (until completion – platinum) was that it remained more or less the same, in contrast to any other game in the market that is supposed to become more difficult as you progress through the story.

The learning curve is pretty short, there is not much to learn in this game (neither in Beyond) except following the prompts, the gameplay is very simple, and it’s also a good way to bring new players into the industry. David Cage implemented a nice touch, when dealing with rough decisions where we see the text on the screen a bit blurry if the character is nervous, this has the intent of making the player feel what the character is feeling (being in the movie) like stated above, but even in the more difficult parts, like the driving, there isn’t much of a puzzle, except just following the instructions on the screen, this is due to the fact that it’s easy to pick up, at the end of the first level, we are well aware of how we have to play the game, using L2 to read thoughts and communicate, R2 to walk and little more.

In this game we have a feeling that the decisions truly matter and that it will have a large impact on the ending, and it truly does. The lightning used in this game is top-notch too (2010), compared to Beyond (which we will come back in a bit) that hurts the eyes at some points. The puzzles and “challenges” in this game are “detective-like” where you have to analyze clues and take your own conclusions, it is designed to give the players a sense of personal accomplishment and not give away the solution right away, at the end you have to decide where you think the child depending on the clues you have and this makes you (again) a part of the story, where it’s up to you and to what you did in the game, that you can (or not) save the child.

Something that was designed into the game, to create some difficulty, but where it can ruin the experience, is the tempo of the answers, the game decides for you if you are not quick enough to give a response, this is disturbing because at some point it doesn’t allow you to think on how to answer, and the game just answers for you, this is a feature that was implemented to let the game at a certain pace, however It’s not added value because the player gets annoyed for not having the possibility to think on what the answer and the impact of that answer can have on the game… However this does not ruin the experience, and it’s still a fantastically well-designed game…

Beyond, Two Souls is very similar to Heavy Rain, and the intentions behind that game were the same as in Heavy Rain, the player building the story and deciding the ending. The bar was set high, maybe too high for this game that, in the end, proved to be of less quality than its older brother Heavy Rain. There were some improvements, and there were some changes that definitely hurt the game…

The gameplay is the same basic principle as in Heavy Rain, however to move you don’t have to press the R2 which feels more natural, and in this game you also have another feature which is the character Aiden, an entity that lives with Jodie Holmes and that is connected to her mind, and can do actions at her free will or with Jodie’s orders, this little character called Aiden, helps Jodie through her adventure. Another improvement was the voice acting, with actors like Willem Defoe or Ellen Page, the voice acting and movements were certainly improved and it felt more like a movie.

The other main improvements were the visuals in this game, Quantic Dream used an engine developed for PS4 and could take advantage of that to implement a magnificently looking game into the PS3. However, even with this engine, the dark levels (i.e. at night or under water) are a nightmare, I found myself changing the TV settings to brighten the TV and when I left those levels, I had to put back to the original settings, the lightning was horrible in the darker levels.

There is also something quite different about this game, the fact that you don’t control other characters, in Heavy Rain you had the possibility to build a story for almost every character, in Beyond, Two Souls you only play with Jodie and even though you have influence in the other characters outcome, you don’t completely define their progress because it’s always connected to Jodie

The learning curve is a bit more complicated than Heavy Rain because of Aiden, where you need to learn how Aiden acts and what are her actions, mainly with R1 and the joysticks but even so, it’s a bit more complicated to understand how the entity behaves. This game is easier than the previous one, because if you are about to make something that will be prejudicial to Jodie, she gives you an hint (more like a direct order) so that you don’t mess up, so the story is a lot more linear than Heavy Rain and you don’t have the feeling that your actions (or non actions) affect the game, the main changes happen if you let or not, certain characters die, an example of this is when you are at certain levels that you need to turn of the security cameras, if you forget, she will remind you, instead of letting you proceed and have a different consequence because the cameras are on, which is a shame and definitely hurts the game on the difficulty because the game is very easy and your choices don’t seem to have that much impact.

In this game you leap from present to past and further in the past and it’s quite confusing, it feels as if the episodes or chapters are not connected, brining confusion, even though it’s understandable what David Cage intended, to do a Once Upon a Time in America style of story, where you leap from an age to another to connect the events.

The gameplay loop is quite similar in these two games, you have a dark, heavy environment where you have to interact with objects and people, and it seems easier in Beyond, it’s more intuitive (the FBI glasses in Heavy Rain are an horrible feature to interact with the environment, because it’s confusing, the information is not clear!). Puzzles are well implemented in Heavy Rain and are harder to solve than in Beyond, Two Souls who gives you open handedly the solution if you can’t find it or are about to do something wrong, if you forget to destroy a security camera, Jodie will make sure to remind you, in Heavy Rain however, little information is given and you just suffer the consequences of not having acted properly, maybe even causing death to your characters (in which case the story might go on without him, or not if the character is needed further in the adventure). Beyond, Two Souls gives the sense that you cannot really die, because Aiden will come to your rescue if you are in trouble, making it much easier. Exploration is just a small part of these games because the levels give little options, you can explore certain areas but it’s quite limited and the boundaries in the game are well set, however you have larger exploration options in Beyond, Two Souls.

Beyond had a lot of potential but was poorly explored, because the basic design is the same to heavy rain but the design of these games is intended to give the player a creative experience, and Beyond is quite limited in that aspect, because even if you have several endings, the choices you make during the game seem unimportant compared to those in Heavy Rain, however the gameplay is quite similar in both – excluding the part when you control Aiden in Beyond, which gives you a bit more freedom the explore the environments.

The purpose of these two games, and the origin of these designs were both the same, the will to make players experience a movie and make a movie through a controller. Incorporate a game in a movie, or a movie in a game, it’s up to everyone to decide what was the original plan, it was well achieved, even if it’s more solid in Heavy Rain.

In Heavy Rain there are more prompts where you have to hold the buttons, make it a bit more intense because if you let go one of them you will fail the action, where in Beyond it’s more about eh speed, however in both you have several prompts where you have to press several times the button at a certain speed, but like I said, the main difference is Aiden, when you press the Triangle in the controller you enter the World of the Entity where you play mainly with the joysticks, something not used in Heavy Rain, however I think the button pressing is more effective in Beyond because the pacing is quicker, thus the player gets more into the action.

I decided not to comment on the story of these two games, because I believe that they are both good, but the styles of story are quite different and it’s up to each one that plays these games to see each one they prefer…

To conclude, both games are quite similar in gameplay but I believe that Heavy Rain has a more immersive gameplay, only the pacing is slower, which ruins it a little bit but the fact that you seem to make a difference with your choices, makes the experience more interesting than Beyond, which beats Heavy Rain on the control of Aiden which gives a bigger exploration option and some security to Jodie!

Thank you for reading,

 

Gonçalo Pereira

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