A very dark film noir thriller with mature themes.
Action/Adventure Role-playing Game Survival Horror
Sony Computer Entertainment
Heavy Rain – new genre in gaming?
Dublin, Ireland – Quantic Dream offers Faceoffgames an opportunity to get to grips with a rather unique video game. The title Heavy Rain is set on the east coast of the United States. It is at its root an interactive experience that is story driven. A dark thriller that combines dialogue and exploration of crime scenes in a series of highly cinematic action packed sequences. You are seeking the serial murderer know as the Origami Killer. This name is derived from the fact he leaves an origami in the hands of his victims.
David Cage & Guillaume de Fondadaumiere
Guillaume de Fondaumiere, Co-CEO of Quantic Dream and Executive Producer of Heavy Rain is passionate about this game with good reason. It is a video game designed to produce an emotional response. To let us experience a range of emotions while playing which we are more akin to investing in a movie. This is the Everest of game design and not a completely new concept, but has Quantic Dream reached the summit by succeeding in creating a new genre in gaming?
While we may enjoy shooters and the like, I’m thinking titles such as the Grand Theft Auto series – there is something missing! We leave our sense of humanity aside when we pick-up the controller, there is no empathy for a legless character – it’s more a source of amusement. The fact that I write “it” indicates the disassociation felt by myself and dare I say it the gaming public?
So how does Heavy Rain draw us in? In truth, the game works as a story. You have to make moral choices. You write your own story – every significant action has a consequence.
There are four main characters. To date; two have been revealed to the public, Madison Paige based on French-American actress Aurelie Bancilhon and Norman Jayden based on British actor Leon Ockenden. The other two main characters are set to be revealed at Gamescon in Colgne, Germany.
Can you lose some of these characters and still finish the story? Yes, as you play all of them, however if characters die will you feel distraught? You might because you’ll exclude yourself from certain scenes that would otherwise be made been available to you. But then, this gives you an incentive to play the game again and experience it in a new way. The story has different paths to the ending.
This brings us to the storyline which has been a closely guarded secret by Quantic Dream. David Cage President and Co-CEO of Company personally wrote a 2,000 page script that encompassed more than 30,000 words. This gives you an idea of the scale of this project. So what can we tell you about it? Well you wouldn’t want someone to tell you the end of a really good movie would you? Read on we won’t, I promise!
There have been 3 scenes of a possible 60 released to the gaming press:
1. The Taxidermist scene
This is more like a trailer as is not actually part of the main game but a promotional feature piece that was requested by Sony. Quantic Dream haven’t decided how this first playable will be used. Maybe as a bonus scene that players can unlock in the game.
2. The Mad Jack scene
We have played the Mad Jack scene which takes place in a junkyard. The character you play here is Norman, who works for the FBI. He has already done some investigation and believes that a car the Killer used came from this yard.
The interface is seamlessly integrated into the 3-D environment and all actions are contextual. The conventional game control set-ups have been changed in favour of a more dynamic arrangement. You use R2 on your controller to move forward. L1 to switch your camera angle as you are always offered two points of view. L2 allows you to listen to what your character is thinking, this brings you into the story. You know Norman is looking for a blue Chevrolet Malibu ’83 as he stops his car and walks towards the open garage and begins to investigate. Norman has a special gift called ARI (Augmented Reality Interface) which Guillaume likes to call “pocket CSI, this enables you to scan your environment and check for probes”, he says. You can immediately gain information about the environment, you could find: blue paint, blood or residues of Orchid pollen – the killer likes to leave a flower on his victims’ chests. There is also a database built into the game for managing your crime scene intelligence which you can use for future reference.
“Hey Craker what you doin in there?” Mad Jack appears, with a gun to the back of your head as you stare into the orbital holes of a fleshless skull floating in an acid bath. Does your heart race and do palms sweat? Can you identify with Norman? “One of your cop buddies asking too many questions”, Mad Jack continues.
The graphics is where this game will make or break you emotionally. The rendering of characters that have been scanned into the game in incredible detail is something special. Actors are actually scanned into the game: Norman’s face has a scar on the right side of his face. This is because the actor playing him has that same scar.
Time to make your move or you’re going to be one character less and Norman is going to have more than a fanciful scar on the side of his cheek. You’ve got choices, maybe duck and swing a hoist and if the tables turn you could find yourself pointing a gun at Mad Jack saying: “enough f~#king around, you are going to tell me about the man with the blue car”.
“Go f~#k yourself in the ass”, yes Mad Jack is quite a man until he’s threatened with some gas tanks instead of a straight bullet. Yes you too can be creative in every way and such subtle methods of persuasion work well! Jack will tell you of a man named Paco who owns a nightclub called The Blue Lagoon. While Norman has the gift of ARI, he also has an addictive weakness, the drug known as Triptocaine, so you might have to act fast, pulling your pills to ease the pain and stop your world from swirling. Manage this and you’ll get out alive.
3. Madison at the Blue Lagoon
Madison is a journalist who for some unknown reason can’t find sleep accept in motels. Guillaume says: “she bumps into another character and is then dragged into the Origami case”, before he begins to demo the nightclub scene for us.
Madison has been given a lead and is going to the Blue Lagoon to investigate. She needs to find the owner of the club. Where better to ask than at the bar? She is looking for Paco Mendez and the barman points her to the VIP lounge. Nice and easy hey – but then bodyguard blocks your entrance. Madison needs to be inventive to find a way to draw Paco’s attention as he sits there in his zebra skin jacket. Try leaning on a dancing podium and smiling? It won’t work. Paco the ladies man has a wide variety of choice. Perhaps Madison could dance on a podium. Still no response! You can also listen to what Madison is thinking, “time to play the sexy girl”. Now that might echo your own thoughts if you’re identifying with her.
While powdering your nose in the bathroom, you can fix your make-up, play with your hair, rip your skirt and unbutton your blouse. The movements are all intuitive. If I had to criticise anything here it would be the eyeliner which seemed more like a razor blade to me. But then I’m no expert. Now Madison can make her way back to the podium and make it her own. “I hope you know what you’re doing!” she says. With rhythm, movement and more than before on show Paco wants her in his VIP lounge.
Guillaume says, “Madison normally puts you in delicate situations but she usually has a plan”. We play on, Paco invites Madison to his private apartment within the nightclub. “Show me what you can do girl – do your thing!”, he says. Paco is pulling his gun, it’s a dangerous situation but you got to play. You have options striptease being one. Guillaume favours this, demonstrating the scene to us, we appreciate his work. Paco is hypnotised by Madison’s ass as it swings and sways while she bends over and places her hands on a lamp and then smack you’ve guessed it? We’ve hit the monitor with our hands – no Madison has laid Paco out with a swing of ehem – the light! Guillaume had explained earlier that motion capture was really important to conveying a reality.
Interogation by Madison
Now Madison takes her chance to question Paco and she goes to town on him having strapped him to a chair. A bodyguard comes back to check on all the commotion and says from outside, “Boss everything alright?” Madison has choices; you always have choices in this game. In this case, one of which is to fake an orgasm. Guillaume hits the right button. The bodyguard leaves the couple undisturbed. Now she has Paco literally by the balls, she starts to interrogate him with a twist about an apartment he rents out on Malborough Street and to whom? It wasn’t so hard and Paco gives up the name Don? You have your next lead…
Heavy Rain lets you make multiple choices and in doing that you find your own ending. You are investing in the game emotionally whether you realise it or not. Is it an emotional rollercoaster? Well, that depends on how you as an individual identify with the characters. If you do, then Quantic Dream has done what they set out to achieve which is pioneering and they are to be congratulated.
There are 58 sets in the 60 scenes that make up the game. Playtime is approximately 12-13 hours depending on how you play through the game. The example is based on all your characters remaining intact. There is no online element to the game at the moment, nor is there any downloadable content but it is something that is being considered according to Guillaume.
Heavy rain is due for release in the first quarter of 2010. It could just be emotional!