May 22, 2009 // 4:35 pm
- To say Heavy Rain is an ambitious title would be an understatement, and to say it isn't unique would be a flat-out lie.
What Quantic Dream is crafting here could turn out to be nothing short of an instant classic if all the pieces come together correctly.
It'll take IGN more than a single play-through to figure that out, however, as the game isn't designed to be a linear tale by any stretch of the means. Instead, it's something meant to be experienced in unique ways by different people each time you go through the game.
To quote: The biggest example of this has to do with the four characters and their part in the game. Each of the four main characters is in some way tied to or searching for the Origami Killer, a murderer who leaves an origami bird at each crime scene.
Each of these characters plays out their part in the game in unique scenes, with the title swapping between them chapter by chapter (of which there are currently 60-plus). We're told that the characters are exclusive to their individual scenes, meaning that for the bulk of the game, they won't directly interact with one another. I wouldn't be surprised if they come together at the end, but for the most part, they all make up separate parts of the story.
The interesting bit here is that each character, and moreover each scene, plays out in a unique manner, and each one gives you a different perspective on the story. But as I said, the game isn't meant to be played in a linear fashion, at least in the normal sense of "linear" in terms of game design. If a character dies, they're dead, but the game doesn't end.
It simply goes on with you continuing as the remaining characters; you just miss out on the dead peoples' scenes. If you want to get the full experience of the tale you'll want to do your best to keep them alive until the finale, but should death become them, it'll only work to make your story more personal.
My time with the game was spent in a scene (set somewhere in the middle of the game) starring Norman Jayden, a detective on the trail of the Origami Killer. As with everything else in Heavy Rain, Jayden isn't a simple character. While he's one of the good guys and is doing everything in his power to hunt down and stop the killer, he also has a drug addiction that he's hiding from the force.
His vice is called triptocaine, and as he's trying to kick his habit, he sometimes suffers from withdrawals and has to resolve to feeding the monkey to keep it together. This can directly affect his scenes in big ways, which I'll come back to in a bit.
The setup for the scene is that the police have determined that the Origami Killer had driven a car at some point that came from a chop shop run by a man named Mad Jacky. His chop shop doubles as a junkyard, so Jayden heads there for some answers.
After the quick cutscene of Jayden driving up to the junkyard finished, I got my first glimpse of the new interface. Rather than having button prompts sit in the HUD, you'll see markers that are actually represented in 3D space in the scene. These icons stay near their appropriate object, so if you move the camera, the icon will move with the environment. So after Jayden stopped the car, a box with an arrow pointing left appeared near the door handle.
The icon signified that pressing left on the right analog stick (the left stick is used for camera movement; the right for the actions) would open the door. Your input is analog, however, so in this case, if you only hold the stick part-way, Jayden will move the handle a little bit but not fully open the door. Obviously there will be other moments when this will be much more useful as toying with the door handle won't solve the case, but it's a good example.
Walking up towards the bulk of the junkyard, Jayden spots a large man in a magnetic lift. He doesn't offer up any answers and is generally unwilling to cooperate, so Jayden heads inside of a nearby garage to look for clues. Here, we got a look at Jayden's prototype A.R.I. device, or Added Reality Interface. The A.R.I. is a combination of a set of glasses and a glove.
The glove "reads" things in the environment with a sort of infrared-esque technique, is capable of picking up scents in the air and can evaluate substances and feed info to the glasses, such as DNA and the like. So in practice, enabling this allows you to see footprints, blood trails that may have been poorly cleaned and even the lingering scent of flowers that had recently been in the area.
Tossing on the A.R.I., Jayden then sees a number of footprints and a trail of blood that lead toward an acid bath (where metals are melted down). Looking inside, he spots a human skull before feeling the cold steel of a gun at the back of his head. Jacky, who was actually the man in the magnetic lift, doesn't like anyone snooping around his garage and threatens to kill Jayden.
At this point I had my first look at combat. Action sequences like this play out like a quick-time event where icons appear on the screen and it's up to you to match them with button presses. The difference here is that these sequences play out in a branching manner, so missing a prompt doesn't mean that you lose but rather that the scene will change and play out in a different manner. So, you might have a number of chances to win (or lose) a fight during a sequence.
After a quick scuffle in the garage, Jayden manages to knock Jacky to the ground and pick up his gun. Jayden tells him that he's going downtown and gets ready to cuff him, but his vision then begins to blur and his hands begin shaking as a withdrawal starts kicking in. Here you get an opportunity to actually fish a bottle of triptocaine out of Jayden's jacket and subside the withdrawal, but this seemingly simple task is anything but that.
You start seeing button prompts appear around his beltline that you need to match, but the tricky part is that you don't press them in sequence; rather, you need to press and continue to hold each button as new ones pop up. If I remember correctly, the sequence went something like L2, R2, Circle, Triangle, X, Square and then a directional press on the left analog stick. I actually almost finished the sequence in time but wound up succumbing to the attack and passing out.
Had I managed to get out the pills and take one, that may have been the end of the scene with Jayden just taking Jacky off to jail, but instead Jayden wakes up from his slumber in his car to find it being moved by the magnetic lift and dropped into a crusher. Jayden also happens to be handcuffed to his steering wheel by this point, so before escaping you first need to figure out how to get the handcuffs off.
Triggering a few icons around your hands has Jayden try to knock them or the steering wheel loose but to no avail. The trick here is that you need to look to the right, towards the glove compartment, which then shows that you can actually kick it open. Again, since the contextual icons stay with their corresponding objects, you won't see or even be able to trigger this unless you look around and at the glove box.
Once (if) you manage to climb out of the car (Jayden's death here results in a bloody mess), a somewhat lengthy fight with Jacky takes place. As I mentioned before, sequences like this play out a little differently depending upon what you do.
In this fight, the magnetic lift that Jacky had been used is still running and creeping forward slowly. As the fight goes on, which features a lot of back and forth knockdowns, you can eventually get to a point where either you or Jacky will wind up under one of the lift's treads and meet an untimely death.
The cool thing about all of this is that I'm told that you can actually skip it all if you do a little investigating. It turns out that the car that the Origami Killer used is actually on-site and hidden around the back of the junkyard. If you avoid Jacky and do some snooping first, you can find the car and get all of the clues that you need to move on right there.
From what I've played, Heavy Rain has the potential to be something really special if the team can implement the different paths well and keep it from feeling too much like a Simon Says game during the fight and action sequences.
I have a lot of faith that they can do this as what I played had a good bit of potential variety, so I'm really looking forward to get some time with the game where I can experiment with choices and see how different actions affect not only the individual scenes but the game and story as a whole.