Heavy Rain

Posted on 02 May 2010 by Fahad Majidi

Most game presentations consist of a bored developer robotically reciting lines as they endure the tenth demo of the day, but not David Cage’s, the man behind the ambitious PS2 adventure, Fahrenheit. As we watched one of his colleagues play through a demo of Heavy Rain, he was like an overexcited toddler, yelling at the screen and enthusing wildly – “Oh no! The killer’s coming up the stairs!” he’d hoot in a broad French accent, his arms flailing crazily.
“Quick! Hide in the cupboard! Oh no, he’s spotted you!” He loves his game, and you can’t help but be convinced when he tells you that Heavy Rain is a game about pure emotion. Incredibly, the level he showed us, isn’t actually part of the game at all, it’s a demo Quantic Dream put together to slow off the control system and the technology: the characters and locations in it don’t tie in with the plot of the main game at all.

“We want to keep it a secret,” explains Cage, “so don’t assume anything when you see this level. It’s completely separate from the story of the Original Killer.” When you actually consider that this hyper detailed, fully scored, amazingly cinematic scene is a demo, you really start to get an idea of how ambitious Heavy Rain is and begin to relies the scope of the Cage’s vision.
When the demo begins, the female protagonist is riding through a leafy suburb on her motorcycle in the pouring rain. The sun is setting and houses are draped in a warm, orange glow. She’s investigating the address of a suspected serial killer and parks her bike outside his home. You control character in Heavy Rain by holding down R2 and ‘steering’ them with the analogue stick, A bit like in Killer 7, but with more freedom of movement.
She begins her investigation by checking the killers’ bins and mailbox. Actions like this are performed exactly as they were in Fahrenheit; pushing the analogue stick in a certain direction, and controlling the speed by how much pressure you put on it. So if you nudge it forward gently, the character will reach the mailbox until you push the stick fully forward. The idea is to make you feel like you are interacting with the environment realistically, rather than initiating pre-set animations with a single button press.
Finding no clues outside, we decide to knock on the door of the house. This seemed strange. What’s she going to say? “Oh, hey, you don’t know me, but I hear you are a serial killer..” But for the sake of the demo, knocking on the door showed off a new type of interaction that lets you decide how the character will approach the situation. Jerk the Sixaxis up and she will be cautious and say something like, “There’s nobody here, best leave now”. But swing it the other way and she will urge herself to investigate more by going around the back of the house.
There’s a context sensitive thought for most actions, letting you err on the side of caution or bravely blunder into situations. Both come in handy depending on your circumstances. Nobody answer the door so we walk around the corner to the back yard, spot an open window and climb into the kitchen. The detail in the killer’s house is stunning, “We hired architects to help design our interior,” says Cage. “Unlike a lot of gamers that have unrealistically large rooms to avoid collision issues, our spaces are real and we tweak the movement of the character so you don’t get stuck.”

Everything seems normal on the ground floor – well, apart from a large collection of eerie stuffed animals – so we go upstairs to investigate further. And, predictably, things turn grim. We find a room full of what look like mannequins. We can’t quite see because the windows are covered in newspaper, letting only a little sunlight bleed through, but there’s something odd about the models. Closer inspection reveals that they’re actually stuffed women. The lunatic has them posed around his room; one sitting down, one toweling herself off as she emerges from the shower.
We take photographs evidence and our work is done, but wait… what’s that sound outside? The screen splits and we see the house’s owner pull into the driveway. The killer has returned and we’re trapped inside his house. The face modeling in Heavy Rain is outstanding, especially the blubbery, pockmarked fizz if the serial killer. His steely, dead eyes and the way he mumbles to himself as he stalks around the house in genuinely terrifying. Our character’s face starts to contort with fear – you can actually see her pupils expand and her forehead glisten with perspiration now, to escape the house, we need to sneak out.
Cage takes us through two escapes scenarios; one where the character slips by unnoticed, and another where she gets into a direct confrontation with the killer. In the first she watches him in the split screen moving around the house and finds an opportunity to sneak past and get out via the garage, but in the other he spots her, and she’s forced to defend herself. This is where the game turns into a reaction based QTE (quick time event) section. You run around in real-time, and use the analogue stick to interact with objects.
When you initiate a scuffle, you follow button prompts to fight him off, until you gain an opportunity to escape. As you move through the house with the grinning psychopath stalking you, your character’s movement becomes more panicked; stumbling and clattering into scenery as you desperately try to find a way out. You feel chillingly vulnerable, which is the very idea behind the game; the emotions of the character escapes the grasp, and drives off on her motorcycle, but not before a button bashing session as you struggle to start the engine. As you peel off into the distance, the killer slumps slowly back to his house and shoots himself in the head. And with that, the demo ends, Cage covered in sweat, turns and says to us, “And that was Heavy Rain.” We applaud, stunned.

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Alexia the Fashion Girl Says:

    Awesome, that’s definitely what I was searching for! You just spared me alot of looking around

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