March is a period of time noted to instill madness, or at least that’s what the NCAA would have you believe. I myself am not fully convinced.
Four years in the making, Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain proved to be a commercial and critical success when it was released for the PlayStation 3 in 2010. It sold over five million copies, which was a remarkable feat for a console exclusive game at the time, and it even managed win three BAFTA Awards (British Academy of Film and Television Arts). It was praised for its emotional impact, visuals, and writing. Naturally, with a smash hit on their hands, Quantic Dream was spurred into creating a follow-up.
The founder and CEO of Quantic Dream, David Cage, announced their newest game at Sony’s press conference during the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) conference of 2012. There, he showed the attendees a debut trailer featuring in-game graphics. Mr. Cage described this new game, titled Beyond: Two Souls, as more of an action-driven experience compared to that which Heavy Rain offered, affording players a greater degree control over the proceedings.
In a move that gave the upcoming game even more press coverage, the protagonist of Beyond: Two Souls was to be portrayed by Ellen Page with Willem Dafoe voicing another central character. Employing motion-capture acting in addition to on-set voice acting, the year-long project had the actors work in the company’s studio in Paris to perform the physical actions seen in the final product, which would in turn be translated to their character models. Mr. Cage once again served as both the primary writer and the director. Interviews with Ms. Page revealed that the script for the game was around 2,000 pages long. Film screenplays are typically 100 pages long with each page roughly corresponding to a minute of screentime.
The game was dedicated to composer Normand Corbeil, who tragically died of pancreatic cancer in January of 2013. He had scored two of Mr. Cage’s earlier works, Fahrenheit (known as Indigo Prophecy in North America), and Heavy Rain. Quantic Dream hired him to compose Beyond: Two Souls, but he was unable to do so before succumbing to his illness. Lorne Balfe, who wrote the score for Assassin’s Creed III, replaced Mr. Corbeil after his death. Mr. Balfe even collaborated with the esteemed Hans Zimmer, the latter of whom joined him as a producer.
Five months before the game’s launch, Quantic Dream released a new trailer at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival with both David Cage and Ellen Page in attendance. Notably, it was only the second time the festival recognized a video game, the first instance being Team Bondi’s 2011 title L.A. Noire. In interviews conducted just before the game’s release, Mr. Cage explained how development studios such as his own have an obligation to provide interactive storytelling that can anyone could experience, including non-gamers. With bated breath, Beyond: Two Souls finally saw its release in October of 2013. While critics generally lauded Heavy Rain, their reaction to this new Quantic Dream title was more polarized. Critics considered the game a great technical achievement with its motion-capture acting, and Ellen Page’s performance in particular was highly praised. On the other hand, the plot itself was highly criticized for being nonsensical and unfocused. From this reaction, it can be extrapolated that anyone who sees Beyond: Two Souls through to the end is going to have a strong opinion of it. Is it an underrated masterpiece? Is it a pretentious mess? The only way to find out is to dive right in.