Heavy Rain demo impressions
When we learned that the Heavy Rain demo was available to download a week before its official release, we were excited. After all, Heavy Rain is our #2 Most Wanted Game of 2010 and the anticipation is overwhelming.
Did the Heavy Rain demo exceed our expectations or were we left disappointed?
Obtaining the Heavy Rain demo was no easy task. We had to sign up to the Heavy Rain Four Days website and then use those credentials on the precinct 52 page which then took us to a mini-game. After selecting the four correct pieces of evidence we would finally be rewarded with a demo voucher.
There was just one problem. The website had so much traffic making it nearly impossible to access any of the pages on the site. After hours of frustration we finally managed to get our Heavy Rain demo codes so we could play the game. It was definitely worth all the trouble.
If you have been keeping up with the Heavy Rain footage then this demo will not be new to you. There are two sequences to play through and they are both entirely different experiences. The tutorial for the demo has us controlling Detective Scott Shelby as we learn the controls of the game while walking down an alley. As Dectective Shelby you make you way to an apartment complex to question a prostitute about the death of her child. The next section of the demo takes place in a crime scene and you play as FBI agent Norman Jayden.
It takes some time getting adjusted to the awkward control scheme, but it works for the most part. In order to walk you have to hold the R2 button and then use the left analog stick to navigate in the direction that you want to go in. There is no manual camera control but you can switch the cinematic angles with the L1 button. In addition to using the right analog stick to activate context situations, there are also moments when have to press or hold the appropriate button(s) in order to proceed. The controls will put off a lot of gamers at first, but the learning curve is short.
The demo is hitting the PSN this Thursday and we don’t want to spoil each individual scene for you. Part of what makes Heavy Rain so good is seeing it and experiencing it for the first time. The visuals are very realistic and there is a lot of detail everywhere you look. It’s not just the environment either. Each character has their own personality and it shows in their mannerisms and in the way they think. It’s interesting being able to control such flawed and human characters. How often do you get to play as a detective that might randomly have an asthma attack? Exactly.
The fight scene was easily my favorite part of the demo and Shelby’s scenario seems to have the most freedom. I found myself coming back to the same scenario over and over again just to see what could change. Even after four playthroughs I was still able to witness new scenes and get more out of the story.
The actual fight itself has a lot of freedom but the end result will always be the same regardless if you win or lose. The actions that go on in the fight though are pretty dynamic and even a few misses can result in many new sequences to watch. You don’t need to go to each extreme to see something new and that is absolutely awesome.
The crime scene isn’t as action packed or intense as Shelby’s fight, but it is equally as intriguing. Make sure to analyze everything possible because it is very easy to miss small details that are further away from the body. I just wish there was more to listen to in this section. Holding L2 and pressing the appropriate face button allows you to hear what the character is currently thinking. Perhaps there should have been more during the crime scene to make up for the lack of dialogue. This part of the game will only be as interesting as the player allows and that might not sit well with many people.
The reactions to Heavy Rain are going to vary. To show this, here are additional impressions from six other awesome PS3Attitude writers:
I have to admit, I’ve been looking forward to playing Heavy Rain for some time now. The demo has only cemented my opinion that this is a day one purchase.
Where do I start? The graphics are amazing, but not in an “oh my god!” flashy way. It’s very clever and very subtle and it only really hits you part way through one of the scenes that if you squint ever so slightly that could be a real woman on screen. In my opinion this is the first game that has ever gotten a person’s eyes right. They actually convey emotion, and you can see what they are feeling.
The atmosphere is great too. I don’t know if it was just me, but the graphical style combined with the lighting and music just gave me a constant sense of foreboding.
Not only has the story hooked me in, but the demo has changed each time I’ve played it depending on what actions I have done. The replay value for this one could be off the chart.
Bad points? Well the walking mechanic is a bit clunky, and I’m still not a fan of QTE’s, but I’m willing to put these quibbles aside. The release date can’t come fast enough.
The Heavy Rain demo was everything I thought it would be. While others may have been expecting a more traditional type third-person fare, I knew that what Quantic Dream is attempting here is something akin to a somewhat more passive interactive experience. Can something that is described as ‘passive’ classify as a ‘game’? That depends on who you ask.
The tone and presentation of Heavy Rain is sublime. Graphically, it’s impressive, but not overwhelmingly so. There’s been much made about whether or not Quantic Dream have surpassed Naughty Dog in the visuals department but I think such comparisons are moot. Uncharted 2, to me, is more impressive – purely because it has to move at a frantic pace. Heavy Rain might have more nuances and subtleties graphically, but so it should – it’s presented at a much more confined and tailored metre.
There’s a high degree of polish on display here; from the initially baffling control system (which quickly becomes more intuitive as you use it) to some of the acting. I say some as I found a few of the characters terribly flat. Names elude me at the moment, but the woman in the apartment didn’t strike me as very convincing. Some of the cops at the crime scene were also far too generic for my liking, cut from the same hackneyed cloth we’ve seen a million times before. That said, what we’re got so far is still mature, gripping and insanely appealing to a gamer like me who always gravitates toward the peculiar and innovative.
Unsurprisingly, I thought it was excellent. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever played and seems to be far, far more than just a load of QTEs. The graphics were exceptional, especially the character animations, facial expressions etc. The lip-syncing is also the best I’ve ever seen in a game.
Like a lot of people I thought the section in the apartment was better than the crime scene, mainly because there seemed to be more options regarding what you could do. I actually tried it several times to see what the extremes could be.
It’s interesting (and I suppose predictable) that not all choices affect the outcome of what eventually happens. For example, when Shelby fights the tattooed guy, it doesn’t really matter if you get every button correct or miss all of them, because although he either beats up the guy or gets beaten up himself, they both end in the same way – the guy leaves and Lauren thanks you for getting rid of him. Similarly, if you try and leave the crime scene without inspecting the body, you get a visual clue to do so.
However, there are clearly other choices which do affect what happens. When you’re trying to get Lauren to talk about her son, if you trick her then you can ask her questions until the timer goes off, but if you try to buy her off she’ll get angry and tell you to leave, so you miss out on the dialogue.
It was also nice to see smaller, more trivial actions that some people may have missed, like looking through the blinds in the apartment, or drinking coffee in the crime scene. Neither of these have any relevance to story, but do give you a bit of a payoff for exploring.
What I have played so far has been fine, but I’ve got a good feeling that once I’ve played the full game I may end up considering it a masterpiece.
Before playing I feared QTEs would be used too frequently to compensate for a lack of proper interaction. The game is sadly full of these token button prompts, but they weren’t as bad as I had expected. Sure it seems like it’s constantly trying to prove that it’s a game and not a film, but it has it’s charms. I did find trying to avoid falling down a hill by tapping the shoulder buttons actually quite fun.
My other fear was that they game would be dull; I was wrong again – that fight in the hotel was one of my most exhilarating experiences I’ve had in a game of late.
It’s not quite as revolutionary as I had expected; in many ways it doesn’t feel like that great a departure from graphic adventure games like Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. It will be the most cinematic game ever though, and you get the impression David Cage probably loves David Fincher’s Se7en.
The graphics are tremendous, the settings are captivating, and the acting is spot on. Should the plot(s) live up to the early promises I think Quantum Dreams will be onto a winner.
Of course, not everyone liked what the demo had to offer.
My experience with HR was a mixed bag.
On one hand, there are the sublime visuals, great sound effects, incredible animation and myriad options in any given circumstance.
On the other, it was not much like a game, per se.
I felt like I was a movie director in the cutting room – looking at various angles, seeing what could be left in the production and what was superfluous. Not that it was an unfinished product, just that there was too much there.
There was the storyline to thread everything together during the apartment sequence, but the interactions still felt disjointed – his interrogation was malformed and mixed as a result of the fact that you could choose anything in any order. I would like to have seen a line or two tie each option together no matter what the order was – perhaps a big ask, given the nature of the script already.
The fight sequence was a real treat – if the whole game were along those adrenaline-filled lines, we would all be screaming for a midnight launch here in the UK. As it stands, it felt like that was in place so that we could see what was possible, rather than what they have produced.
The second sequence was a bit different – more like being on the set of CSI with a bunch of extras milling about and a weird filter on the camera. The investigation part was alright, but only in the same way as the “beat up” mini-quests in the original Assassin’s Creed were ‘alright’ – you could very easily tire of the same old thing time and time again – here’s ANOTHER crime scene… go play. A bit rubbish that no-one else found ANYTHING at all. Made me feel more like some weird Agent Smith than FBI guy – we want to see his imperfections, not just his shaking hands to remind us he is human!
Obviously, this is all based on a 20 minute demo of the game, so I am far from in a position to pass final comment.
And here is the perfect conclusion to summarize all of our thoughts:
Heavy Rain is definitely a niche title. There will be some people who absolutely love it while many will either hate it or just not give it a try. After playing the demo, I can only confirm my excitement for February 23rd.
The graphics look fantastic although I still don’t think they are quite up to par with what we’ve seen in recent trailers. While the demo is relatively short, it requires multiple playthroughs, especially the private detective portion.
The freedom allowed within the game is what makes Heavy Rain stand out. Don’t want to pay Lauren for your time? No problem, just don’t put money down on the table. Even though these decisions are not that significant in the demo, I imagine they can have quite a big impact in the full game.
Heavy Rain appears to be about story more so than anything. It won’t be for everyone but this has been on my must have list for a while now.
If you have played the Heavy Rain demo, tell us what you thought of it. We would love to read your impressions.