Heavy Rain Demo Impressions: Game Noir at its best
Is Heavy Rain going to change the face of gaming? Unlikely. However, our recent run through the demo which just got released today on PSN does promise to be an experience unlike any other game. But just like their previous effort, Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain is not going to be everyoneâ€™s cup of tea.
For those of you, who want to stay away from the plot details completely, this preview does not feature any plot spoilers (even for the demo). The demo has two scenes apart from a short tutorial, one featuring Private Detective Scott Shelby following a lead to his investigation of the Origami Killer, and the other is FBI agent Norman Jaydenâ€™s investigation on a crime scene.
One debate that continues to rage on about Heavy Rain is the nature ofÂ gameplay. Can a series of Quick Time Events (QTEs) constitute genuine gameplay? However, Heavy Rain doesnâ€™t feature too many QTEs. What it features is context sensitive actions. Now you can easily say that there is hardly any difference between the two. Take the case of a portion of the demo where Norman has to climb up a slippery slope. This would have been a QTE segment if it required the player to periodically press buttons at intervals. However, the context sensitive actions of the game require you to mimic the process of maintaining a relatively firm footing on the slippery slope. The player is required to press and hold a series of buttons till they disappear, which mimics the process of keeping your feet planted onto the controller quite well.
If we were to consider the fight scene in the demo, it is much close to QTEs than anything else, but with a difference. The player has to be on his toes, ready with the required button press/ right stick movement/six axis movement. However, missing a button press does not mean that you have to do it all over again (that would have been a QTE sequence). It simply causes you take a hit which may or may not tip the odds in the opponentâ€™s favour, or even cause a bruise or a cut. Itâ€™s essential, however, for anyone on the fence to play the demo. The interpretation of this aspect of gameplay (as mindless button presses or relevant context sensitive actions) is a personal thing.
The other aspect of the gameplay is hard to judge from the demo, however it does seem promising. Iâ€™m talking here about how a given scene playing out in a certain way impacts future scenes. I played the Scott Shelby scene three times, with three separate outcomes (not radically different, but each outcome held the possibility of a distinct impact on the future of the story). Similarly, the outcome of the crime scene investigation varies on how many clues you find, which no doubt will have a bearing on Norman Jaydenâ€™s investigation.
The big â€˜ifâ€™, of course, is just how much these outcomes impact the future scenes. If Quantic Dream gets this right, then they have an excellent game with immense replay value in their hands.
One thing that Heavy Rain (or atleast the demo) nails from the outset is the atmosphere. From its somber music, to its grim setting within a world where all is not quite well, Heavy Rain is geared to take us through a dark and twisted tale which promises to be a cut above the rest when it comes to gaming. The graphics are absolutely gorgeous, and contribute greatly to the mood that Heavy Rain is trying to create. At this point though, it is difficult to comment on the overall quality of the voice acting, but it did seem adequate enough. What is mind blowing, however, are the character models. Simply put, it doesnâ€™t get better than this. The effort that has gone into creating characters whose expressions and gestures successfully communicate a wide range of emotions has to be commended.
All put together, we have a game which has brought something new and unique to the table in terms of gameplay, story-telling and character animation, and for that it is worth taking a look in.
Heavy Rain may not change the face of gaming that we are sure of, but it is going to be one hell of a ride.