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Heavy Rain: Hands On

Heavy Rain: Hands On

We’ve finally been able to sit down with Heavy Rain and have an extended session on Quantic Dream’s hyped up ‘interactive experience’. It’s good to know how it actually makes us feel, how it plays and how – while we can definitely see why people might claim the contrary – it’s not just a sequence of quick time events strung together with some flashy graphics. Needless to say the preview hasn’t given us enough to form a final verdict on the game, but we can already see Heavy Rain will be – how you say? – ‘divisive’.

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Our brief taste of the game began controlling Ethan Mars: married family man, architect, owner of a beautiful house in suburban heaven (or hell, depending on how you see it) and content with all that life brings. We would skip ahead to what happens in the story, motivating Ethan to go on a hunt for the Origami Killer, but that would miss out the most thrilling aspects of the experience. Alright, so that’s being ever-so-slightly facetious, and ‘thrilling’ isn’t the word we should be using, //and// it’s being a bit unfair as the opening section served as little more than a scene-setting extended tutorial.
Still, when a game has you wake up, get out of bed, walk around in your pants, have a wee then brush your teeth (with a bit of sixaxis shaking) within the first 10 minutes of the game – all under player control – you know it’s something you have to talk about. While initially jarring, the subtle on-screen prompts soon become second nature, and the gentle, rather banal opening does a good job of making sure you know everything you’ll need to know throughout the whole game – there’s even a potentially copyright infringing fight sequence to battle through during the International Dad Simulator 2010 section.

Much has been made of the control scheme already – we’ll avoid calling it ‘innovative’, as it’s more a simple case of interesting presentation than a new landmark in input mechanisms. Less has been made of how Heavy Rain drags you as a player into its world. We admit, it took us a bit to suspend our disbelief but suspended it soon was, and we found ourselves relating to Ethan and his plight, sympathising with him and sharing at least some of his worry and grief through the situations the game throws at him. We can’t say the same for the other characters, unfortunately, as we simply didn’t get enough back story or involvement from what we saw of them.

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This will surely change with the full game, but it does seem that the story of Ethan will be the spine holding the whole woven tale together, and he seems an ideal character to carry it. We began disliking him for his smug, knowing grin as he enjoyed the best life had to offer, and by the end of our preview we actually felt a twinge of something for the poor bugger.

As well as Ethan Mars and his beardy grief we were able to take control of private dick Scott Shelby as he visited a lady of the night who had lost her child to the serial killer. This scene contained a long, flowing action sequence which gave us a good idea of how segments of this type will play out through the rest of the game – we made many mistakes the first time through and actually, for all intents and purposes, lost, but the game continued and simply took into account the fact that we’d been beaten up a bit.

Another few sections of the preview saw the story switch to FBI agent Norman Jayden as he investigated the crime scene of what looked to be the Origami Killer’s latest victim. This was very much your ridiculous CSI-style examination, using Jayden’s future-shades and Power Glove to pick up traces of blood, footprints, discarded cigarette butts and other such potential clues. It was another welcome change of pace and, dare we say it, one of the most enjoyable parts of the game, playing as a more ‘pure’ adventure game than other sections had. The final playable character, Madison Paige, was also present and correct, but we don’t want to ruin the story any more with too much information.

It’s hard to go into much detail without inevitable spoilers, but from what we’ve played of Heavy Rain we can see this is still one to look out for. The thing is, the reason you’re looking out for it may differ from that of others. If a brief demo can bring up such division through the office, it’ll be interesting to see what the full game can do.

We can’t wait to unravel the mystery around the Origami Killer.

By Ian Dransfield




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