Overweight Precipitation

February 12, 2010 by Tim

The demo for Heavy Rain hit the PSN yesterday, for those of us that didn’t care to play the ARG for early access. I’ve been keeping Heavy Rain on my radar for the last few years, as I was a big fan of Indigo Prophecy. Now that it’s a mere couple of weeks from release, there’s been a lot of coverage and early reviews, and all signs are pointing towards a solid, unique experience.

I’m mostly drawn to the game for what it does different. If you’ve played the demo, you know that the control scheme is something fresh and new, and for the most part, works beautifully. It does suffer from Resident Evil syndrome due to the fixed camera angles. You’ll be walking in one direction, and then the angle changes and then you need to reorient yourself. As an additional quirk in the mix, a trigger causes your character to walk forward, with the analog stick only pointing him left or right.  I have a feeling you’re going to spend the first twenty of minutes of this game making your characters look like idiots walking in circles and into walls.

Rather than a HUD, or a universal action button, everything in the game is accomplished via a pretty nifty integrated UI which suggests button presses or analog stick directionals or even movements of the entire controller to accomplish a variety of tasks. In this way, the game plays out like a giant, elaborate quick-time event, and it works. For the most part, you’re able to guess what actions the simple commands will perform, which is a great testament to the design.

The demo deposits you in a couple of sections of the game, the same ones you’ve probably seen two or three times over by now if you’ve been following the game at all. While this gives you a great glimpse at the gameplay and the UI, it does absolutely nothing to draw you into the game. If you don’t go in with an idea of what the whole game has in store for you, I don’t think the demo will turn you into a believer.

For those asking the question “What’s this game about”, the big draw is choices. It’s one of those games that advertises choices, and different outcomes based on those choices. However it doesn’t bridge those choices with lots of action gameplay, like Mass Effect might. Instead Heavy Rain seems to be all about choices. And people. Apart from the occasional quicktime fistfight that gives you a dose of action, Heavy Rain’s gameplay seems to focused at a much slower pace.

And this is one of the other things that intrigues me about the game. It’s trying something different with no apologies. The idea of walking your protagonist through brushing his teeth, or setting the dinner table is not one that immediately shouts “fun”. But in the context of a murder mystery with interwoven characters, all of whom are drastically affected by the choices you’ll make in the game, this slower paces seems to offer a chance to know and appreciate your characters better. I’m looking forward to finding out if the game’s focus creates a more emotional experience that might otherwise be lost in “gotta get to the next quest, gotta get the next big gun”.

And finally I’m interested in seeing how drastically the choices feel like they change the game. A lot of games advertise this nowadays, and to be honest, Mass Effect is the only title that really made me feel like I was changing my story. And even then, it was only recently with Mass Effect 2 that I felt like “Wow, I’m making a lot of decisions here that could be effecting not only this game, but Mass Effect 3 as well.” If Heavy Rain can deliver even more of that, I’m anxious to see it.

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