GC09; Hands-on with Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain has got the gaming community in a spin, what with the stand-out realistic graphics, amazing sound and impressively large script.
But the game has also gained a fair number of detractors, stating that the ‘quicktime event’ gameplay is hackneyed and more akin to Dragon’s Lair than a PS3 blockbuster.
So it was with great interest that we grabbed a DualShock 3 controller and headed off into the world of Heavy Rain for the first time. Here’s the story of what it really feels like to play…
Playing as Norman Jayden, an FBI agent with an ‘issue’ that requires constant medication to keep in check, we started proceedings at a car junk yard. Was it raining? Of course it was…
The controls at this point in the game are fairly simple. You hold down one of the shoulder buttons and use the left stick to walk. The right stick moves the camera. No quicktime events (QTEs) to see here. Jayden has a particularly natty pair of FBI sunglasses that provide him with the ability to find clues and classify objects, with a neat ‘holographic’ head-up display effect, that you can put on and take off with a sweep of the analogue stick.
After meeting the owner of the junk yard, who naturally dismisses any knowledge of the car you’re looking for, you move around the garage looking for clues. It isn’t long before you start to find tyre tracks, traces of blood and other telling evidence. That car was here, and it looks very much like someone got into a fight.
Without giving the story away, the junkyard owner eventually faces off to you now that he has seen you have gathered enough evidence to implicate him, and this is where the mighty fight scene ensues.
The QTEs come thick and fast at this point, and the game feels no less accomplished than – for example – the boss battle sequences in titles like God of War II. During this fight, you’ll also be faced with choices to make that rotate on the screen, ready for you to decide how you are going to react to certain circumstances.
Within the fight it is true that you have to be quick to press the right button or sweep the stick in the correct direction, but if you hit your marks without issue you’ll be rewarded. If you miss one or two, you still have chances to redeem yourself. If you miss a few, however, it could be the end for that character, and therefore that entire chunk of script.
The key here is that Heavy Rain mixes a number of traditional gaming elements with serious aplomb. You have the kind of narrative decision making, investigation and problem solving that has been the staple of many a graphical adventure game over the years, the excitement of confrontations that could be straight out of your favourite movies and the freedom to explore your surroundings however you see fit.
The controls seem easy to grasp, which leaves you open to being able to get into the story. And that is, after all, Heavy Rain’s unique proposition – the storyline. Quantic Dreams are promising that Heavy Rain will make you think and feel differently about video games as a narrative, and on the evidence of our measly fifteen-minute hands-on experience, we’re inclined to think that it will do just that.