Beyond: Two Souls was one of the most disappointing games I’ve ever paid for. As a fan of Heavy Rain who could look past its many flaws and still find an enjoyable story-based game, the failure of its successor made me question if the murder mystery was that impressive to begin with. Now Detroit: Become Human, a sequel to the fantastic tech demo Kara is right around the corner, and many are immediately forgiving David Cage’s previous writing blunders. I am not so quick to forget, and feel that there are many issues visible in his past stories that need to be learned from and fixed if this promising title is to be taken seriously, as it clearly wishes to be.
- Fix the male characters.
In David Cage’s games only two type of men seem to exist: creepy, perverted man-children or saints with a dark secret. Look no further than Beyond: Two Souls to see men lusting after the female protagonist so badly that her ghostly companion Aiden has to teach them a thing or three. If this was only done to make the character of Jodie more sympathetic, a rewrite of her character was clearly in order. Those who don’t fit this bizarre trope either exist simply to be a romance option for the beloved main character or are a good, kind hero who will be twisted by a tragic event. Even in Heavy Rain there were gross characters like Pablo, who had the female lead Madison strip for him, to nothing if the player wishes it. Even in sleazy B movies this shallow writing is ridiculous, and in a game juggling themes such as the meaning of life and free will like Detroit: Become Human, well developed characters with actual motives will be required for the story to work.
- Establish rules and stick to them.
One of David Cage’s most annoying writing habits is that he can’t seem to solidify an idea before it gets chucked into one of his games. Lucas, the protagonist of Fahrenheit, received powers from aliens who were never established. Heavy Rain’s Ethan had strange blackouts, a fragment of a previous draft where he had a psychic link to the infamous Origami Killer, with no explanation in the final draft in spite of implicating him in the murderer’s crimes. Then the worst perpetrator, spirit Aiden from Beyond: Two Souls could only move a few feet away from Ellen Paige’s character in one chapter, but could suddenly reach a helicopter and blow it up in another. Add a long documented number of plot holes from each game to the list and you have a writer who doesn’t know how to iron out his work. Hopefully through his many failures David Cage has learned to think twice before listing his script as the final draft, or he hired an editor. Either would help.
- Try something new.
A strange common trait amongst David Cage’s games is that they play on themes of spirituality in their stories and characters… all with negative reception. Fahrenheit’s story made little to no sense with aliens and prophecies and magical autistic children, Heavy Rain originally had the mentioned mental link between the Origami Killer and Ethan, and Beyond: Two Souls featured a predictable paranormal story with a dark dimension, ghost reunions and an atrocious depiction of Navajo folklore. To be perfectly frank, spirituality and David Cage clearly do not mix well, he doesn’t know how to write it no matter how deeply he cares for it and no rehash of this tired theme will result in a good story. Quantic Dream have potential on their hands with Detroit: Become Human and its themes of advancement, social change and what makes an android human, and if they don’t go down the magical ghost route to tackle that question, they might just be on to something this time.
- Make the choices matter.
Heavy Rain gets a lot of flak for its eccentricities but it at least kept its promise of multiple endings that provided a satisfying conclusion based on your decisions. There is an entire subcategory of games nowadays that are based on the idea of player choice, but not many have results as varied as Heavy Rain’s. Even Quantic Dream’s previous games, especially Fahrenheit, didn’t compare, so where in the world they went wrong with Beyond: Two Souls’ endings is a mystery. Without giving too much away there aren’t that many differences bar a few scenes, a massive downgrade to its predecessor and a dampener on an already dull experience. We can only hope that Heavy Rain’s excellent endings weren’t lightning in a bottle for David Cage, and with player agency being emphasised in Detroit: Become Human’s advertisement campaign, he’d best try to deliver.
- Let us play the game.
The quick-time events of both Heavy Rain and Fahrenheit gave birth to many hilarious scenes that completely broke the tone and replaced it with comedy. Perhaps in an attempt to prevent this in Beyond Two Souls, many interesting and often well-choreographed scenes were featured that looked fun to play… if you could. Sadly in an attempt to maintain the seriousness of the game, these segments were practically barred off from the player, with their only input being the occasional A to B with Jodie or progressing a paused scene with Aiden’s powers. Heavy Rain was already criticised for its focus on story and Beyond: Two Souls learned nothing from the feedback. Based on the gameplay released Detroit: Become Human will play similarly to Heavy Rain, which in my opinion is a good thing, but I truly hope that it will be more of a game in its content, rather than an interactive movie that stops in its tracks once in a while so you can press a button.