Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer Preview

Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain, from Indigo Prophecy (aka Fahrenheit) developer Quantic Dream, was one of the most unusual games on display at E3 2009 in Los Angeles, but is also one of the most interesting.

According to director David Cage, the main premise behind Heavy Rain is to "play a story," which is quite an apt description, considering the nature of the gameplay. Technically an adventure game, Heavy Rain is controlled entirely by moving the protagonist through 3D environments with the left analog stick, then pressing buttons, making motions with the right stick, or shaking the controller in order to perform character actions when faced with context-sensitive on-screen commands. The player never takes direct control outside of general movement, but participates in an interesting blend of quick time events and choose-your-own adventure menus.

Quantic Dream was showing off the first real gameplay segments from Heavy Rain at this year’s E3, and I got the chance to observe a scene centering around the second of four main characters in the game (one more will be revealed at Games Con, and the last at the Tokyo Game Show), the insomniac Madison Paige. The team wanted to make the characters flawed in particular ways to bring a more human element to each of them. Madison’s handicap effects gameplay by making her feel fatigued and less stable, and the only way for players to give her a good night’s rest is by getting a motel room — the only place she CAN sleep.

In the E3 2009 demo, Madison is out looking for a man named Paco in a nightclub. He happens to be the owner, she hears from the bartender, and is sitting in the back. She moves through the crowd, carefully avoiding bumping into other people (and walking with a sort of handicapped, sideways limbo posture), until reaching a bouncer to talk to with the X button. She can’t get through to see the big shot, so players have to figure things out. By leaning on a nearby table, she watches as the chauvinistic club owner calls a girl dancing on a different table over to sit with him. This represents one way to gather information in Heavy Rain, given nothing to go on. Players can expect to observe and explore the world around them before making progress in the story.

Madison tries to dance on the table to catch Paco’s eye, and the player must complete a QTE segment to do so successfully. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, and she must think of a new solution. When players are searching for ways to proceed, Heavy Rain will often allow them to dive into the protagonists’ thoughts via a number of button prompts that float in the space around their heads. By using what is known about the situation, this process can reveal the logical next step. If the character is nervous, scared, or otherwise unstable at the moment, these prompts will be jittery, flashing, or even partially blurred out, making it more difficult for the player to act expediently when fast action may be necessary for the character’s well-being.

In this case, the plan is to be a little bit sexier for the club boss, so into the bathroom Madison goes. Standing at the mirror, the player sees a few different options, and another example of Heavy Rain‘s gameplay. By pressing up on the analog stick, Madison might change her hair, while pressing left or right will make her unbutton her blouse or reach for some extra makeup in her purse. Pressing down will make her shorten her skirt with a few quick rips well above her knees. Each of these actions features another light gameplay element, such as slowly motioning in a semi-circle with the analog stick to apply heavier eyeliner or jerking the motion-sensitive PS3 controller sideways to tear away the fabric of the skirt.

Madison can then make a second attempt at table-dancing, and after another small Simon says session, Paco takes notice of her newly sluttified performance and calls her over. During the conversation, more on-screen prompts guide the conversation as the player sees fit, and up to a private room the two go, Madison with a purse-bound pistol, hoping to get the information she wants.

The demo continued to the end of the scene, but I will stop there to avoid spoiling too much, as the game’s appeal is primarily the unraveling of its multi-faceted storyline, with variants of the above-mentioned gameplay governing its direction. Mr. Cage explained to the crowd that many of the game’s 60 scenes, which come to about ten hours of gameplay, are optional, and dependent on player choices and even whether or not a particular character even lives to see each portion of the game. In this way, no two play-throughs will be identical, and the game will continue to deliver fresh content to the player the second and third time around.

Heavy Rain looks very promising, and will help to expand the definition of videogames in a way that is very much unlike the growing casual shift and Nintendo vision. PlayStation 3 owners can look forward to seeing Heavy Rain in Q4 2009.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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