Heavy Rain E3 2009 Preview


Posted June 3, 2009 - By Sterling McGarvey

Heavy Rain E3 2009 Trailer »

At this point, it seems as though just as many people are waiting on Heavy Rain to collapse under its own hype. That’s a shame, because I had the privilege of attending a behind-closed-doors glimpse at another section of Quantic Dream’s eagerly anticipated title, and it’s one of the best titles on display at this year’s E3. And that's no overblown superlative.

Hopefully you’ve seen our 20-minute demo, with walkthroughof the game in action. Or, at least, you’ve read Billy’s recent preview. Both detailed the “Mad Jack” section of the game, in which FBI profiler Norman Jayden investigates a junkyard for an abandoned car left by the notorious Origami Killer. Today, I saw the “Mad Jack” section for a third time, and got my first glimpse at “Madison at the Blue Lagoon,” another 20-minute portion of the game. In this chapter, news photographer Madison Paige enters the Blue Lagoon nightclub to interrogate Paco Mendes, the club’s sleazy owner, about an apartment building he also owns that’s tied to the Origami Killer. Of course, it’s never as simple as described.

During the “Mad Jack” demo, Cage allowed Jayden to die so that he could describe what happens when you lose one of your four playable characters. If Jayden survived the junkyard, he could also come to the Blue Lagoon to question Mendes, with a different outcome. Different characters can investigate the same thing to glean different information, Cage said. While Jayden can use the strong arm of the law, Madison can use her feminine wiles.

Madison tries to get past the bouncer guarding the VIP section, but to no avail. As she looks around, she notices a girl dancing on top of a box at the club. Mendes waves the girl into his booth. Knowing that she needs to get this crucial information from him, she decides to jump atop the box and do a little hip-swaying of her own, to little success. Mind you, all of these actions, from questioning people to thinking of a next move to dancing atop the box, are all quick time events that force you to make important snap judgments. There’s rarely a moment in Heavy Rain that you won’t be in control of every little action.

That includes taking Madison to the ladies' room, where she decides to get a little sexier to grab Mendes’ attention. Yes, you’ll put mascara on her eyes. You’ll put on lipstick. And you’ll unbutton her blouse and rip a few inches off her skirt to show off some leg. When she emerges and tries some moves atop the box, Mendes takes notice. After a little chit-chat, she talks him into going somewhere a little more private.

And this is where Heavy Rain really seems to distinguish itself from other adventure games. It’s very dark and mature, like any Hollywood thriller about serial killers. And like another game I saw earlier today, Uncharted 2, it plays upon emotional impact. You don’t want to see something bad happen to her, but the characters are often at risk, even if Madison is packing heat for this interrogation. During this demo, she gets Mendes into the room, but suddenly gets cold feet and backs out. He pulls out a gun and tells her to strip. It’s here that you can see the difference in each character’s internal monologue. During calm moments, you’ll see rotating words that move slowly and are easy to pick out. When it’s tense, they become scrambled and flitter around the character.

With a gun aimed squarely at Madison, you can imagine how jumbled the words look. She starts taking off her blouse and skirt, and as she shakes her hips (which you control with the SIXAXIS), she reaches for a lamp and hits Mendes over the head. The scene cuts to Mendes, tied up in a chair. Again, using the SIXAXIS, you can slap Mendes to wake him up (or to punish him for being a nasty slimeball). When he comes to, he threatens to kill her rather than give up his important secret. Putting a gun in his face shuts him up. As security comes by to check in, Madison has a few seconds to decide what to do. In our demo, she throws the guard’s attention off by faking an orgasm from behind the door. The guard walks away with a grin on his face, and she's back in business.

Mendes’ eyes go wide with shock, but he still won’t talk. Madison opts for torture and goes for his family jewels. An uncomfortable situation requires discomfort, and this instance forces you to hit a rather unergonomic sequence of buttons until Mendes howls in pain and gives up his information.

What’s most important here isn’t just this tense and dramatic situation, but the way that you play it. Madison could’ve made several different choices, and the outcome would’ve been different. Had Jayden lived, it could have affected Mendes’ reluctance to talk to her without having his testes twisted. That’s a driving motivation behind Heavy Rain.

At the end of the demo, Cage revealed that none of the game’s four characters can be killed until the halfway point of the game. He also mentioned that should all of them meet their maker, the story will follow an arc to a conclusion, but you won’t see a “game over” screen. I asked him about the game’s save system, since he’s mentioned that the game will frequently autosave to continue the plot. I also asked what would happen if players miss an important clue in the game. It seems that if you pass up some detail, you will miss it, and the story will continue. He also said that he hopes that at least for the first playthrough, gamers won’t try to toy with the save system. Ideally, he wants them to go through, just to see how the story unfolds, before trying to heavily tinker with the outcome. We’ll see if that happens.

For now, Heavy Rain still manages to impress, a year after Sony officially unveiled it. Cage promises that we’ll see two more characters, one coming at GamesCom, the final at Tokyo Game Show. Until then, I plan to pop in my copy of Indigo Prophecy for another spin. 

Heavy Rain E3 2009 Preview


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