Storm's A-Comin'

We've finally gotten the chance to play a few hours of Heavy Rain. Want to hear what happened? Good, because we want to tell you. Oh how we want to tell you.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: December 14, 2009
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Portly, grizzled private eye Scott Shelby clearly has seen better days. His face is haggard, something we noticed when, upon loading his chapter, the game offered a gorgeous zoomed-in view of the character looking around. Individual pores and budding signs of a beard were obvious, and the eyes looked like they had something happening behind them; like there was actual thought happening -- something that was obvious in all the characters' loading screens where you're given a similar close-up. Shelby, though, was clearly in search of information. Hired by one of the families of an Origami Killer victim, he first ventured into a brothel of sorts and then a convenience store. In both cases, the residents were also parents of the victims, but neither were exactly forthcoming... at first.

The first interviewee, a prostitute, at first simply tries to shut the door on Shelby. Eventually, though some clever verbal prying, she opens up, guilted into thinking of other victims and their families. Shelby may well have the best voice actor of the bunch, conveying a sort of heaviness and placid, though not distant demeanor. He's clearly seen plenty and knows his stuff and after his time is up with the escort, he thanks her and drops off his card, passing someone in the hall before having an asthma attack (yet another hold-R1-and-press-buttons-sequence). Recovering with the use of his inhaler, he can opt to try to help the girl from the man who just busted in or leave her be. Not being uncaring assholes, we went the former route, which kicked off the first of the game's likely many action sequences.

When one thinks of a typical Quick Time Event, the icon-based, split-second-timing events seen in everything from Shunmue on the Dreamcast to Resident Evil 4 on the PS2 to the upcoming God of War III (and a bazillion others), one normally sees them as I kind of trial-and-error sequence. Mess up, and it's game over. Heavy Rain on the other hand, seeks to make these as dynamic as possible, and as such the tussle with the obviously stronger thug we fought as Shelby was hardly a mis-tap away from failure. In fact, it was a seamlessly branching series of challenges; Shelby could dodge a broken bottle or get sliced with it, could avoid being slammed into a fridge or get checked into the chill chest, could have his head put through a glass wall or quickly shift his balance.

All of these sequences were determined by little pop-ups that floated and turned inside the world rather than being a static button prompt. They were legible, but contextual, meaning if Shelby needed to grab something with his right hand, the option to do so (say, by flicking the right stick to the right) would rest near his right hand. Face button prompts for punches or dodges were thrown out in rapid succession. By the end of the fight, he could escape relatively unscathed or cut and bloodied by the ordeal. It sounds a little goofy to say it, but this is a different kind of QTE, and made for an absolutely thrilling confrontation. But it wasn't the only way Shelby resolved a conflict.

His section sequence had him popping into a convenience store that was eventually held up. Through the use of multiple simultaneous camera angles (think 24-style), he crept unseen down the small isles and tried to surprise the perp. Multiple things could happen while doing so; broken debris in one isle could make noise, or a bumped bottle could alert the robber. We ended up being caught, but it was at this point that Shelby's mouth did most of the heavy lifting. As we slowly tried to talk down the gunman, hand being held up with the L1 and R1 buttons, we slowly took steps toward him while distracting with various questions. Eventually, though, talks broke down and a short scuffle erupted before we finally were able to cuff him, opening up the store owner to a bit more help on the case.
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