Heavy Rain GamesCom 2009 PreviewBy Billy Berghammer - Posted Aug 21, 2009
If you’ve been following my work for the past few years, you know I’m a bit excited for Heavy Rain. At this year’s GamesCom, Quantic Dream revealed the last two playable characters, resulting in probably the most interesting game demo I’ve ever had. That’s a pretty bold statement, considering I’ve been attending game demos for over 10 years. Why was Heavy Rain so fascinating?
Because Quantic Dream barely showed anything. And it was freakin’ awesome!
We were introduced to Ethan Mars in the latest trailer, but a few journalists (including myself) were shown a behind-closed-doors demonstration of Ethan’s portion of the game. As found out at the press conference, Ethan was a successful architect, who married and had two children. One fateful day, while the family was at the mall, one of the sons disappeared and was accidentally hit and killed by a car. The demonstration started two years after the incident.
While I don’t have kids, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to lose a child. And this is what has happened to Ethan. He can’t work. He lost his wife. His whole world is completely in shambles. The demo begins with Ethan picking up his surviving child Shaun at school. They don’t really talk much as they drive home. Instead of the super flashy house he lived in during the trailer, their new dwelling is drab, boring, and dismal in comparison. It’s obvious their relationship has deteriorated and the loss of the son has had numerous adverse affects on their relationship. For the most part, it’s dead.
Shaun’s usual schedule is on a chalkboard. After trying to talk with Shaun numerous times, Ethan headed upstairs to check out his son’s room, where he finds a drawing of his brother getting killed at the mall. Obviously, Shaun is still quite traumatized. Upon returning downstairs, he hears Shaun sneeze, and warns him about coming down with a cold. Ethan heads back up stairs to fetch some medicine.
It’s then homework time for Shaun, while Ethan goes outside and shoots hoops in the rain to calm his nerves. After checking his son’s homework, Shaun returns to the couch and Ethan cooks him dinner. Post-dinner, Shaun once again returns to the couch. After repeated attempts to converse with his son, Ethan retreats upstairs to his former office where he watches an old video of both of his sons playing. Emotionally destroyed, Ethan weeps.
After he gets his composure, he tells Shaun it’s time for bed and they both go upstairs. Getting Shaun into his pajamas, he tucks him in and the demo ends.
And that's all they showed us at GamesCom. Really.
Basic everyday life is part of the emotion Quantic Dream is trying to convey. It was a very touching sequence, even though there was very little action, outside of a little basketball and pizza cooking. But Heavy Rain’s director and writer David Cage discussed the many different paths even this scene could take before rolling a video presentation that presented some of the other scenarios. What if Ethan barely talked to his son? What if he didn’t get Shaun to do his homework? What if Ethan completely ignored his son? Shaun might have to make his own food, fall asleep on the couch, or when getting tucked into bed, he might scream at his father, “I hate you, Dad!” The mind-bending part of is how that could affect how the story plays out later.
I was then shown the original GamesCom trailer once again and the impact of this scene hit home even more. The loss of Ethan’s son has played a very significant role in Ethan’s life, but how its effects will play into the game and the game’s full premise -- “How far will you go to save someone you love?” -- makes my head spin with theories.
Maybe it’s because I’m a highly emotional person, or maybe it’s because I enjoy psychological thrillers, but there’s something about Heavy Rain that gives me goosebumps and tugs at my heart strings every time I see it. Now that we know all the characters, I hope Quantic Dream decides not to show anything more until the game is released. Spoiling what’s really going on and how the Origami Killer plays into each of these characters lives is something I truly expect is going to be beyond fascinating.
Keep an eye on G4tv.com for an extensive interview with Quantic Dream’s David Cage next week.