Preview: Heavy Rain

Features editor Brad Hilderbrand got his filthy hands on Heavy Rain at E3 earlier this year, but I managed to get some quality time with a newly-revealed scene called "Hassan's Shop" that differed to the Junkyard scene that was previously previewed. It begins with detective character Scott Shelby entering a shop, with heavy rain (duh...) falling outside. The cinematics and the gameplay are equally beautiful, and so when you are first given control of Scott in the shop, you are unaware that the cut-scene is even over. This is compounded by the somewhat bizarre control setup, whereby meddling with either analogue stick or the d-pad will have no effect on the Scott's movement at all, unless a shoulder button is held. The player is evidently tasked with interrogating Hassan, and has a number of questioning techniques at his disposal in order to get information on the origami killer and a missing child, with one method involving playing on Hassan's emotional distress at having had his son Reza killed also.

Failing to gain any decent information, Scott walks to the rear of the small shop to get an inhaler for his asthma. Meanwhile, a petty criminal holds-up the shop, aiming a gun at Hassan and being completely unaware that you are also in the building. Given no particular instruction, I quietly walked to the counter, but was too clumsy and slow to prevent a bottle from falling from a shelf after brushing Scott's coat, as I missed a crucial triangle button prompt in a QTE. This alerted the criminal, and I was forced to raise my hands (with R1 and L1 controlling each arm) and attempted to reason with the man. It was mildly funny to annoy the crook by constantly raising and lowering my hands, never quite reaching the top. The options available were skewed and fuzzy as they darted around the screen, each mapped to a different face button, effectively conveying the appropriate level of tension in the scene. I had multiple playthroughs of this demo, and although I did the most extreme things available, and experimented with every possible outcome I could, I was saddened to see that most conversation trees lead to the same conclusion. Although you can bypass some sections of dialogue with savvy decision making and reflexes, no one can die in this scene and the bad guy is either left on the floor or runs away, though you can make it so that Scott gets grazed by a bullet. The opening interrogation is also mainly for show and a small amount of exposition, and all methods of questioning are fruitless. Also slightly disparaging is the fact that essentially, the game progresses with by disguised QTEs, a popular complaint from the game's detractors.

So little can be obtained from a short demo for a game such as Heavy Rain, and so it is hard to know what to expect. There were two graphical glitches I saw occur, but again this is likely due to the lack of pre-release polish, debugging and QC at this stage of development. Visually and conceptually, Heavy Rain remains an ambitious and potentially mind-blowing game. It is probable that it can only be judged once the player has completed the game, much like Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy before it. In fact, the game very much feels like that game did, and is best described as the next logical evolutionary step from it. I hope that Heavy Rain consists of more than what was offered in Hassan's shop, but if this scene was one of a hundred other hugely varying moments all combining into a cohesive and engaging game, then Heavy Rain really can be all it is hyped up to be.

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