by Christopher Park
previewed on PS3
Renovating the Adventure Genre
After the surprising commercial success of Quantic Dream’s previous game, Indigo Prophecy, it only seems appropriate that its latest game, Heavy Rain, mirrors a lot of the gameplay conventions and storytelling methods that made Indigo Prophecy such a successful game in the first place. Set as an early 2010 release for the PlayStation 3, Heavy Rain looks to focus on the type of gameplay that made Indigo Prophecy a great game, while cutting out what made that game just as equally notorious.
If there was one thing that was almost universally agreed upon, it was the top-shelf quality of Indigo Prophecy’s story. It truly was the game’s primary focus; the game was built around the story instead of the other way around. That looks to hold true for Heavy Rain. The game focuses on the enigmatic Origami Killer, as he or she acts as the central mystery that four playable characters will try to unmask.
Narrating a Nightmare
Heavy Rain’s director, David Cage, has billed the game’s story as a noir thriller with zero supernatural and fantastical elements. That should ease cautious optimists who were not too thrilled with Indigo Prophecy’s second-half, which became mired in Mayan mythological and other weird-as-hell stuff. Cage aims to present something much more personal, instead of the humanity-ending, cataclysmic scenario Indigo Prophecy’s narrative started driving towards.
The personal experience starts with the characters. Only two of the four characters have been revealed so far – Norman Jayden, an FBI profiler and Madison Paige, a journalist. Besides a few tidbits here and there, like how Norman suffers from a drug addiction, there is not much to go on so far. All that is known is that they will be going after the Origami Killer for personal reasons, as Cage has said that Heavy Rain’s recurring theme will be a simple question of how far you would go to save someone you love. Well, love can be a powerful emotion, platonic or otherwise, and if that is something Heavy Rain can really tap into, then this might be a story worth playing through.
“Playing” in the loosest sense of the word, though. Much like Indigo Prophecy, gameplay will once again take a backseat to the narrative. Gameplay consists of context-sensitive actions and quick-time events. Players will walk around environments and interact with objects, people and the gameworld when allowed. In these instances, pressing the L1 button brings up a character’s thoughts, which can be used to hint at actions the character needs to take to progress. For example, Madison (for journalistic purposes, probably) enters a night club, attempting to catch the attention of the night club manager. Bringing up her thoughts hints at the idea of using one of the podiums to dance in a titillating fashion to draw the attention of the manager.
Once entering an action sequence, like the suggestive dancing, the game turns into a series of quick-time events, where you press whatever button the game commands you to press. Some are more action-oriented, like Norman’s struggle for survival in a junkyard, as he combats a husky thug in the rain. These struggles are bit more open-ended, because taking certain actions will lead to different consequences. For example, failing to pop some pills for Norman when the quick-time button appears might lead to larger, devastating consequences. Double-vision and other severe withdrawal symptoms will kick in, leaving him vulnerable, which then might lead into a sequence where Norman will be tossed into a new quick-time event where he needs to get out of a car that’s been rolled right into a crusher.
Continuing the Story
Even if you fail to get Norman out of this situation, the game’s narrative will tread on, weaving Norman’s death into the overarching story. Heavy Rain’s story sounds like it will be extremely flexible, allowing for blunders and radical choices taken throughout the game. Even if you manage to get all four characters killed, Quantic Dream claims the game will wrap itself up in a meaningful way.
One thing that is uncontested is the game’s visuals. Heavy Rain looks superb, making good on the very first tech demo shown at E3 ’06, which still looks visually impressive. Characters animate and emote convincingly and for such a character-driven game such as this, that is a very important quality to maintain. The audio seems to hold up just as well, with the voice-acting making the characters all the more convincing.
It’s been years since Quantic Dream’s last game and after idle speculation and pondering, it looks like they’ve been working on something very big. As long as you can stomach the game’s sparse gameplay, Heavy Rain has the potential to captivate with a story worth solving and characters worth remembering.