Heavy Rain Extended Hands-On

We get our hands on the latest preview build of Quantic Dream's upcoming story-driven thriller.

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Heavy Rain is a game that defies definition. Combining a thrilling storyline with a heavily cinematic feel, it aims to conjure up the kinds of emotions elicited by a great film or one's own life experiences. Developer Quantic Dream has gone to extreme lengths to ensure that you aren't merely playing a game, but instead are participating in an absorbing emotional experience. That may sound a little contrived, perhaps even a little unbelievable, but from our latest hands-on, it's clear that Heavy Rain is unlike anything you've played before.

The focus of the game is on character interaction and behavioral choices rather than on all-out action. How you act towards others and the choices you make can dramatically affect the outcome of the game. It's even possible that one of the playable characters will die and you'll continue the story without that character. We encountered many different characters in Heavy Rain, though only four of them are playable. The main characters are the backbone of the game's story, and all of them will meet or interact at intersecting points. The story is adult-themed, dealing with murder, kidnapping, and even rape. It's told via cinematic visuals, which make it feel as though you are at the heart of a dramatic movie. Camera angles are carefully chosen to reflect the mood of a scene, with out-of-focus shots and wide-angle pans sprinkled liberally throughout. Most of the scenes look like they were filmed with a handheld camera, giving the game a gritty crime-thriller feel. There are also moments when the screen splits into several portions, showing multiple views of characters.

The control scheme is unique to the game and mostly involves a series of simple button presses and quick-time events. These are overlaid as white graphical instructions indicating which button or analogue stick movement is required to perform an action. For example, opening a door requires moving the analogue stick up and then to the right, as if you were using a door handle. The speed at which you make some movements can directly affect how a scene plays out and how characters react to you. If you quickly move the analogue stick to shut a door, it will slam, giving the impression of anger. Thoughts also play an important part, and by holding down L2 you can see them swirling around your character's head, with an icon to indicate which button to push to activate them. They can give clues as to what you should be doing or insight into the game's story.

We were lucky enough to play through the first 11 scenes in the latest preview build of the game. Please note that because of the story-driven nature of the game, the following contains spoilers.

Heavy Rain kicks off with a prologue-cum-tutorial, where you take on the role of Ethan Mars, an architect with a wife, two children, and a house that seems to have been designed entirely by Ikea. The opening scene sees Ethan sprawled out on the bed, with the screen splitting into six sections, showing various angles of the sleeping protagonist in the sun-drenched room. You are also introduced to the main musical theme that runs throughout the game--a piano-led piece that holds plenty of sadness within its chords. After getting Ethan up, showered, and dressed, we walk downstairs; one thought tells us we should probably get on with some work, though another thought wants us to hang out in the garden. Ethan either indulges in some architectural drawing or simply lies down in the garden until his wife arrives home.

Moments like this help to build a connection with the game's characters.

Upon Mrs. Mars' arrival, we find out that it is our son Jason's 10th birthday, and she's preparing for his birthday party. We help bring in the shopping and lay the table, and we even give Mrs. Mars a passionate kiss. We also play games with the kids out in the garden, spinning them around, carrying them on our shoulders, and even engaging in toy swordfights with them. Though these actions are seemingly mundane, they help to build up an emotional attachment to the characters.

The next scene sees us in a busy shopping mall, where we are looking after Jason. He nags us to buy him a balloon, and we inevitably give in. This leads to the first heart-wrenching scene in the game, because while we're paying for the balloon, Jason wanders off into the crowd. With the camera focused on Ethan, you see Jason slowly wander off into the periphery with his red balloon slowly fading away. As we start to look for him, the music picks up, getting more dramatic as the scene plays out.

We push Ethan through the crowds, just looking for any sign of the red balloon as we shout out Jason's name repeatedly. The crowd gets thicker, and it gets more difficult to push through. We suddenly find ourselves on the edge of our seats, anxious that we may not find him. Eventually, we find Jason outside the mall, on the opposite side of the road. As Ethan calls out to him, a car approaches, and Jason runs into the road. Ethan leaps out to try to save him from the oncoming car, but they both get hit, and his wife screams out in agony as she sees them both get hurt. The red balloon slowly rises into the sky and the scene finishes.

Chasing Jason through the crowded mall is one of the most heart-racing scenes in the game.

The tone of the game then changes dramatically as the intro credits roll, with developer and voice actors' names interspersed across the now rain-soaked city. A series of wet faces are shown, showcasing the immense amount of detail that has gone into the facial animations. When it's over, we take control of Ethan once again, this time looking like a broken man--unshaven, living in a dingy house, and with a look of immense pain and unhappiness on his face. We find ourselves trying to rebuild Ethan's relationship with his remaining son, Shaun, more of which you can read about in our previous preview.

We then take control of Detective Shelby, a private investigator researching the Origami Killer. His car pulls up next to a run-down inner-city motel, where he's aiming to question Lauren Winter, a prostitute who has lost her son to the murderer. Though she is reluctant to talk about her son's murder, we are presented with various conversational options with which to convince her. We can sympathise with her, send her on a guilt trip by mentioning other children who have disappeared, or simply try to force the information out of her. We choose to send her on a guilt trip. She eventually gives in, and we are able to choose from a set of questions to ask. However, we aren't able to ask her everything, as questions must be chosen quickly during conversations.

Lauren Winter is one of the many characters who have lost a child to the Origami Killer.

At the end of the questioning, Lauren asks Shelby to leave. Upon entering the hallway outside her room, Detective Shelby suffers an asthma attack. We have to quickly pull an inhaler out of our pocket. The quick-time button icons are blurry, disappearing in and out of view, indicating the distress that Shelby is in. After recovering, we hear screams from Lauren's room and break the door in to find her being beaten up by an old client. This brings us to the first fight scene in the game. Combat is also handled by quick-time events, and the speed at which commands have to be entered gives us a sense of fear and urgency as we fight off our attacker. Missing a button press gives our opponent the upper hand, allowing him to land a few punches. The camera cuts rapidly during the fight, much like a scene from a classic action film. We are thrown around the motel room and are smashed into glass, and we have to use household objects as weapons. We eventually dispatch our assailant, after which Lauren thanks us and we leave the building.

The third character in the game is Norman Jayden, an FBI agent with a drug addiction. We are at a crime scene where the Origami Killer has struck again, killing another young boy. The scene has already been infiltrated by the press, with journalists scattered around and commenting on the murder. It's here that we are first able to use the Added Reality Interface. The ARI is a pair of glasses that adds a heads-up display to Jayden's surroundings, allowing him to detect and analyse evidence. Walking around the crime scene, we find traces of blood, footprints, tyre tracks, and pollen from an orchid plant--a calling card for the Origami Killer. We also chat to Lieutenant Blake, the police officer in charge of the investigation. He seems less than happy to be speaking to us, but he does furnish us with information on the case and past evidence the police have gathered.

The level of detail in the game is astonishing.

The next scene puts us back in control of Ethan. We are in the park with an unhappy-looking Shaun and try to cheer him up by playing on the merry-go-round, the swings, and the seesaw. Shaun asks to ride the carousel, and while he's on it, Ethan blacks out. When he comes around, he is alone in the middle of a road. We get him up and proceed to look for Shaun. After frantically running around looking for him, it dawns on Ethan that his son is gone. He falls to his knees, crying in anguish and getting soaked in the rain as he finds that an origami figure has been placed in his hand.

At this point the game cuts back to Jayden. We are in the police station awaiting an appointment with Captain Perry. We find out that he has assigned us to the Origami Killer case, citing pressure from the media as his reason for getting the FBI involved. Perry's secretary, Charlene, takes us to our office, which is effectively just a large cupboard. It is here that we see more of the ARI's functions. We are able to virtually convert the room into a Martian planet or a location under the sea, which helps Jayden concentrate on analysing case files and on using virtual maps to find out where evidence has originated from.

Norman Jayden is an FBI agent with issues.

Jayden's drug addiction rears its ugly head when he suddenly starts shaking uncontrollably. You have the option to take a drug called Trip To or try to resist and get a drink of water to calm your nerves. The button actions are also blurred and shaking, and if you try to make it to the watercooler, they get harder and harder to see, indicating Jayden's deteriorating condition. Ethan also makes an appearance in the police station, reporting his son missing. The following scene sees Mrs. Mars in tears, knowing that she has now lost both of her sons, and she lashes out at Ethan in her grief.

The final scene puts us in the shoes of the fourth character, Madison Paige, a journalist researching the Origami Killer. Madison suffers from insomnia, and after she wakes up in her apartment, we try to get her to nod back off to sleep by first taking a hot shower. When we emerge from the shower, it's clear that something is amiss. A creepy figure keeps darting around the screen, which Madison first dismisses as her imagination. When we try to get back into bed, a masked assailant attacks us, leading to another dramatic fight scene. As soon as we fight off our attacker, another appears, and we are left helpless as to how we can fight him off.

Madison Paige: insomniac, journalist, and lover of showers.

With that, our time with Heavy Rain draws to a close. The game is shaping up to be an incredibly emotional experience. Though many actions are controlled by quick-time events, you never feel as though you are anything but fully in control of the characters. The decisions you make are reflected throughout the course of the game, and the focus on story is refreshing. The game is also graphically stunning. Facial animations reach levels of realism that were once just the subject of PlayStation 3 tech demos. We have yet to see much of how the characters cross paths or how linear the gameplay will be. There are many great ideas on show, and the storyline and cinematics are so rich that it's easier to compare the game to movies such as Seven and L.A. Confidential than to other video games. Heavy Rain is scheduled for release in early 2010 on the PlayStation 3.

Discussion

357 comments
psychomas
psychomas

Can't wait for this game, I loved Fahrenheit, I'm sure this one will be great too! One thing Quantic Dream is great at is the story!

MrJorsh
MrJorsh

Spencer- They are not hiding the fact this game is different. If you want to play a normal 'game" they release about 25 a week. Talk about not wanting to shell-out 60$, I think about "Terminator Salvation", "NCAA Football" etc..

MrJorsh
MrJorsh

Played the demo, so I can give a lil' insight. The mood is amazing, and rivals the R.E series. One thing that really stuck out to me is the music. Very haunting, which only adds to the atmosphere. The controls are very simple, so simple in fact, a little kid could follow the prompts, but it fits well. If you play games for the story as much as the actual gameplay, GET THIS GAME! It's awesome to see a publisher defy what a "game" is supposed to be. With EA manufacturing junk after junk, this is a breath of fresh air. How can it be argued the PS3 is not the better system. Arguments? none

dadoitz
dadoitz

i want to buy this game....yess, what i dont want is to know the story, and key plot moments, whats with these guys always putting spoliers on here, if it is a thriller, why not keep it a mystery, otherwise youll play the game and know the opening scene

Spencer24892
Spencer24892

This looks entertaining enough but I'm not going to shell out $60 dollars for this "game". I like to see developers thinking outside the box, but different and unique does not necessarily mean better.

LeonK54
LeonK54

This game is the reason i decided to buy a PS3. I could have bought an XBOX360 or a Wii for a $100 dollars less. Thats how much i want to play this game!

gb7
gb7

This game looks as boring as a game could get. Oh sure it is a different kind of experience, blah blah blah. Saving my $$ and if I want watch drama I can tune into General Hospital.

zymbo
zymbo

I really enjoyed the Indigo Prophecy. It was a story that you could really connect to and sympathize with the characters. This looks like it will be much the same. Well...it might be time to bite the bullet and finally add a PS3 to my collection.

game-on-man
game-on-man

Birdfeed is right on the money. jealousy is why they are bashing it......... I think it will be good........a demo would be nice though.

game-on-man
game-on-man

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

samaside
samaside

I definitely think this game is going to be something new and something more than post people are expecting. I, for one, find it very intriguing. From the moment I found out about it I was hooked. I feel like it may not get the best reviews because I can see it being very slow paced and those who are more action oriented are likely not going to like it. However, I do think that if it works out - and it seems like it will - it will provide a lot of support for this method of story telling.

The_Greg
The_Greg

this game will invent a new kind of amazing.

DarthChristian
DarthChristian

i think i may even pay the full 60 bucks for this

Irish-J
Irish-J

I got a 360, but thank goodness I bought a PS3!!!!! I'm very exited about Mass Effect, but games like this, MAG and GOW 3 makes the PS3 worth every freakin penny! 2010 is gonna be the gamming year for me, gonna be calling in sick to work.....A LOT!

druunken_Ma5ter
druunken_Ma5ter

so happy i traded my 360 for a ps3....wayyyyyyyyy better exclusives.... and system

BrooklynRome250
BrooklynRome250

Heavy Rain, White knight Cronicles, and the biggest of them all GOD OF WAR III, Deep sigh......... Take a sec.... U need to breathe.

teck157713
teck157713

"How far will you go to save someone you love?" seems to me that every character will die in the end...

RGDT021
RGDT021

I'm looking forward to the sequel: Heavy Rain 2: The Search for Fuzzy Wind

coold_steam
coold_steam

amazing i say .. how your acts will determine the outcomes of other ..you can control the environment around you ..

Birdfeed
Birdfeed

Really I just like seeing people bashing this game just because it is only for the PS3 and because it is a heavy story driven game, from the looks of it. The game is going to be phenomenal and people should just stop bashing it.

RGDT021
RGDT021

Protagonist looks like he has Down's Syndrome... may he die a painful death (hopefully involving midgets). "Heavy Rain" also reminds me of "Chubby Rain"... that movie within the movie 'Bowfinger'.

al_atreesy
al_atreesy

Looking forward to this one,when I'll just get a PS3 unit .Sony did a great job picking this one as an exclusive.I think there are more fantastic games like this one coming to this great console .it's going to be awsome for sure.

madSomnambulist
madSomnambulist

Yes, yes, yes. It's the character and story content cored in cutscenes of a JRPG combined with the world mechanics and play style of a good 'ol fashioned adventure game? Ooooh yes. Looks a whole lot like the previews of Final Fantasy versusXIII... this is a good thing. A lot of gamers have been waiting for the whole "games for adults" instead of "games with adult content" thing. I'm loving some new trends like this. Multiple endings, yes please! The games looks like it begs replays just to fork things differently and even in the few examples above of having to make a snap decision I can see it being important.

DFen
DFen

EPiCCCCCC!!!!!!!!! definitely buying this game, this is one of the only games I would really buy to understand the story and just enjoy it, I guess I gotta make a bunch of gamesaves to see all the endings then huh lol awesome

Helmed_Horror
Helmed_Horror

glad to see the makers of indigo prohpecies arnt dead yet. there game animations are really nice and you can see the differences from other animated games

burstlimit514
burstlimit514

Like uncharted 2 this will be a MUST BUY FOR ALL PS3 OWNERS. Also, this is some amazing technology to make a game like this. Imagine what will happen when the ps4 comes. Choices could be bigger in games like this one.

BoxOfPocky
BoxOfPocky

Well this is certainly something new. Hope it'll work out in the end.

newhighscore
newhighscore

color me intrigued. ill be watching out for this one.

tryagainlater
tryagainlater

I can't wait for this game. I hope it doesn't disappoint.

Leefx
Leefx

Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease don't get delayed!! I can't wait for this!

funnysplay
funnysplay

Playstation's got a lot of cool games and stuff. But this game might just be the reason ive been looking for to finally get one.

Notebook_holder
Notebook_holder

I can totally see me playing this with my family, and they'll think it's a movie like in that PS3 commerical

GetafixOz
GetafixOz

The thing I like most so far is that Im not sure what to think. This is a VERY good thing because games are just getting too fomulea driven, so something thats really story focused and doesnt try to be a "shooter" or a "RTS" or whatever... Ill buy it just to support a company for taking a chance.

shoot3r_24
shoot3r_24

the dude looks like Chuck Norris :D

UnitedGamerz
UnitedGamerz

I got a feeling this game is going to make me cry... WHICH IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

spinoff
spinoff

As long as Heavy Rain's story doesn't go into loopy land like Indigo Prophecy I'll remain excited.

FOX-GFX
FOX-GFX

Is a beautiful game ?

F_F_FAN
F_F_FAN

o my gosh perfect graphics perfect gameplay(hoping) i love this this game will be ultra addicting yea yea yea yea yea best best game woooo!>!>!>!>!

R_Cue
R_Cue

I quit reading this in the part where it says that there are a few spoilers. I really wanna play this game

naf456
naf456

man if i was a game designer, i would design a game like this. these sorts of games, really really proper annoy me (in a good way) that there so addictive. you want more and more and more until the credits come and you have either a sense of astonishment or disappointment from the ending.

forhekset
forhekset

I believe the gameplay element in this will be really good, even though people hate 'quick time' systems, I generally enjoy them if they're done well (like Jericho), but they also seem to be far more advanced and directly related to the actions themselves. So even though this gets pegged as say an interactive movie, I feel the gameplay will also be a strong point.

Abecale
Abecale

Im soooo stoked for this! Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy was awesome!! You really do feel connection and emotion playing that game, i have no doubt in my mind this one will be just as detailed and just as awesome.

Hellknite190
Hellknite190

Heh the bit where he is dodging and jumping over the police kinda reminded me of farenheit. But yeah this looks absolutely amazing. Cant wait til february 26th now

damodar_thade
damodar_thade

Looking forward to this, Indigo Prophecy was amazing.

_Ben99_
_Ben99_

I heard there is a blueray edition packed with a remote controller ...for you to "watch"...enjoy