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Everything we'd seen up until the point we finally got to play Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer
wasn't actually Heavy Rain
. It was either an early tech demo ("The Casting"
) or a gameplay proof of concept ("The Taxidermist"
). The one thing present in every version: emotionally charged situations. Quantic Dream says it set out to tell a gripping story, so it developed the technology needed to create game characters that players could actually see as real people -- and environments that look as lifelike as they do dreadful.
Before we played an all-to-brief scene from the game's total of around 60, designer David Cage dropped a couple of major details on us. First, players will assume the role of four distinct characters in the game, each with their own scenes and whose paths never intersect as they attempt to answer the game's tagline -- "How far are you prepared to go to save someone you love?" –- and solve the mystery of the titular Origami Killer.
All four main characters can die -- and there's a proper ending to wrap things up.
It turned out the character we'd play as, an FBI profiler named Norman Jayden, could face (and potentially succumb to) death to this end, in which case players will continue on, never seeing that character's scenes. In fact, all of the characters can die and there's a proper ending to wrap things up in that case, too. All four characters will also bring something unique to the table in terms of what they add to the gameplay experience. In Jayden's case, it's his ARI –- an "augmented reality
" system that allows players to see and analyze invisible clues in the environment.
The scene we played, "Mad Jack," took place in a junkyard run by ... well, Jack –- a character Jayden believes may be tied to the killer. As rain poured down (yes, heavily
) Jayden's car drove up to the run-down garage, its tires leaving deep tracks in the mud which quickly filled with water.
We got our first taste of what we were told is a final interface – and it's very slick, very unobtrusive. It's essentially clean, crisp white text and button icons that orbit Jayden or appear over anything he can interact with. They're contextual – bringing up the choices as we pressed another button to make Jayden walk through the downpour, his arms crossed from the cold, we were presented with what was on his mind: the cold, the investigation and his drug dependency. Agent Jayden is addicted to a synthetic drug, and his access to it – or lack thereof – factors into gameplay.
We could have approached the piece of heavy machinery being manned by Mad Jack, but instead ventured indoors. With a quick movement of the right analog stick we activated his ARI, casting a green hue over the environment. Clicking the right stick sent out a "pulse," revealing evidence – footprints, liquids, airborne particles – invisible to the naked eye. We walked up to tire tracks, pressed a button, and Jayden touched them with his special ARI glove. The system analyzed the tread pattern and confirmed a match to the model of car used by the killer. The footprints were also his (or hers). More disturbingly, an analysis of splotches on the garage floor confirmed they were human blood. Following an obvious trail of it, we came to an acid bath – and uncovered the human remains still inside.
Here's where the demo switched from detective work to live-or-die action. Mad Jack didn't like that we'd discovered his secret and tried to kill Jayden. This lengthy sequence, comprised of quick time events, continued through the shop and out into the rain. We found after watching others play it that how players perform with each action results in a fitting outcome. There are only so many mistakes allowed, though, the penalty for which is Jayden's death by a variety of means.
At one point, his nose begins to bleed from drug withdrawal, and if players aren't able to perform the very tricky button combination presented to them, he'll black out and wake up inside his car – inside of a compactor. This especially intense sequence required us to knock open the glove box while handcuffed to the steering wheel, retrieve a gun from it and use it to blast the restraints off in a very impressive way. There were a couple of instances where we needed to shake the Dual Shock 3 in order to tug at Jayden's bonds – a sign that SIXAXIS actions will undoubtedly pop up elsewhere in the game.
Our note upon completing the demo reads, "Whew!"
We got to play out the entire sequence, though, as the freed Jayden and Jack slugged it out in the rain and mud using their fists and anything they could grab as weapons, finally prevailing when Jack was ground up under the treads of his own equipment. Our note upon completing the demo reads, "Whew!"
From its interface (which will become harder to see as characters become more stressed) to its amazingly lifelike actors and settings, there's really nothing on any current platform we've played that looks or feels like Heavy Rain
. Ultimately, though, so much will depend on the storytelling, but given the experience Quantic Dreams has in this department, our hopes are high. Well, until the last third, anyway.