Gaming: Heavy Rain Demo Review

Just a quick note on this – It’s a pretty cool, interesting game. I really wanted to tell people about my thoughts on this game because it is so unique.

It’s not just the rain that feels heavy
I just played through the demo of Quantic Dream’s latest game release, Heavy Rain. The demo centers around two specific gameplay scenarios, a private investigator’s foray into the killings that the game’s story centers around and the other is an FBI agent who is assigned to also look into the killings. There are some really neat things about this game mainly in how you interact with the characters you portray, and how you make those characters interact with their environment, which also is unique.

Play the Tutorial
If you don’t play the demo, and you just go right out and grab this very interesting game, it may be worth your time to become proficient with the game’s interface components.
Basically Heavy Rain plays almost like a third person RPG. You take on the role of a character, and direct them to do things to progress the story and close in on any goals presented by the game. That’s where, in my opinion, the simplicity of the Heavy Rain character UI ends. The game explains to you what you need to do to interact with the major real-world components, (people, places, and things). For example, to get out of a car, you’ll see your character sitting, and an “interaction” icon will appear telling you what to do with the “R analog” stick. You can control the velocity and force of said interaction by how fast and hard you interact with the designated control. On top of that, there are a lot of key sequences to deal with to interact with the environment. Another example is a fight scene which tells you which keys to press, or a dumpster which you must squeeze past.
During the fight sequence, you will need to press the keys or analog sequences (similar to God of War but certainly a different feel), and this will both determine the length of the fight, the amount of damage you might sustain, etc. So in essence, it’s almost like a “choose your own adventure” book because you actually have consequences of your actions that can be either good or bad, naturally. It gives the game a sense of realism and grounding that you don’t see in too many games these days. All of this can lend to a bit of a learning curve for the gamer, but that’s a good thing in my opinion.

Pace, not a Race
There is a feeling, in either of the scenarios of the Heavy Rain Demo, that offers a sense of urgency and necessity about finding the killer combined with a down to earth almost business like aspect, or more of a “job” aspect if you will, that sort of keeps the urgency at bay and gives leave to a bit more of determination, but I think you have to play the game from the beginning to truly see which way you’ll be pulled emotionally. Trying to hurry through some of the discussion portions won’t necessarily give you the result you desire, and that could have severe consequences later on in the game since you have to perform menial tasks like interviewing witnesses and interacting with “real” police officers who may not have patience for your impatience. One thing that I found myself impressed by, not just the graphics (which are ridiculously awesome, really.), but the actual amount of police work the two characters you get to interact with actually are in charge of performing. Some of these options, especially when interacting with individuals, surround your character like sort of a “word halo” which has a key press associated with it but the time for pressing these keys is only while you’re interacting with an individual, or even yourself.
By interacting with yourself I’m referring to your thoughts which have their own “word halo” type menu by using the L2 trigger, but only at the right points in time. Your character may also need something like an Albuterol Inhaler for asthma, or sunglasses because of the environment. The characters will try to let you know what they’re thinking and you can also make decisions about their lives based on that information. (really, their lives, they can die)

The Cool Factor
I don’t know what the folks at Quantic Dreams were thinking of when they introduced some cool gadgets for the FBI agent, but I can tell you they are cool. They’re not entirely realistic, but if you’re any sort of technologist you know that this thing (ARI Database) has some awesome features that exist in real life, just perhaps not consolidated into the form factor you’re presented with in the game. The other thing about this cool gadget is you get to wear shades at night. These shades do night vision however. Not only night vision, they interact with a glove that you wear and enables you to get visual and audio data about the environment as well as a sort of “pinging” system to discover clues and forensic evidence that might go missed by the police in the game, or is just plain hard to see. At first I found this to be just a bit ludicrous and wasn’t sure how this would improve the gameplay, but man, does it really help. It’s also really fun to kind of “sound” the ground all the time as you walk around and see things pop up and get descriptions of said clues and evidence. Be prepared, especially when cops are around to see a lot of “this sample is from one of the police officers on the scene” type messages. I think when you play the scenario though, you’ll see just how truly useful this is to the large amount of dark/night time game play you have to go through. After a few times and seeing how this thing worked on the scene I was examining, I became impressed as it’s a really good addition to how you interact with the game and how the character interacts as well.

But should I even consider buying this?
Unlike other games in the past which have truly endeavored to be the “best cop game ever” this game gets close, at least from what I’ve seen, but also it’s going to be much more than just an investigative practice game. It’s not a CSI game but it has CSI things about it, it’s not a Cop Game like law and order, and it’s not just a serial killer game. It’s all of these and none of these at the same time. The personal interactions between the NPC type characters and what you make your character do is compelling, the environment is extreme in many ways but not overpowering, and the story sounds really good and sufficiently creepy to compel you to try and finish the game and solve the crimes. So I would say if you own a PS3, like RPG type games, or even something like Resistance 2, or RE5, then you will like this game. If you like something more cerebral, this game has that too, and I’d still think you’ll like it, possibly even more than you expected. Decisions are a huge part of the game play and making good and bad choices chooses your path to success or failure. In my opinion, again, awesome game, worth a buy. Just don’t expect it to be over too quickly, but for this game, I think it’s exactly what it needs to be. Slow enough to imply intensity, and quick enough to make you feel urgency. I can’t wait to play the whole thing and give a review. I think it will be awesome.

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