Heavy Rain has – appropriately enough – created quite a storm on the internet, with a combination of clever marketing ploys and controlled leaks whetting gamers’ appetites for this sequel of sorts to Quantic Dream’s Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in the US).
Like that title, notable for its well-plotted mature themes and immersive, cinematic gameplay, Heavy Rain looks set to inch one step closer to that ‘interactive movie’ goal so many developers strive for. From the evidence of trailers and early gameplay footage, director David Cage may well have pulled it off – with the assistance of his ensemble ‘cast’ of virtual actors and actresses who bring the dark tale of the Origami Killer to life.
A PS3 exclusive, Heavy Rain looks impressive on the graphics front. The four playable characters (an FBI profiler, a photojournalist, a private eye and an architect) all look realistic; with convincing animation, facial expressions and subtle movements creating just enough suspension of belief to make you forget they are merely modern-day descendants of the likes of Sam & Max or Guybrush Threepwood.
Indeed, from what we’ve managed to pick up of the gameplay, Heavy Rain looks as if it is an expertly polished and stylish point-and-click adventure for the 2010s. Context-sensitive menus and actions pop up when characters are near objects they can interact with; labels appear corresponding to controller buttons allowing the player to choose to do everything from applying mascara to putting an opponent in a headlock. Carrying out actions, whether significant or everyday, looks to be intuitive, fluid and well designed.
In another echo of adventure games past, the player can control dialogue responses by selecting from a number of options. Here, they float above the character’s head like thoughts, with the situation and their state of mind dictating how fast and clear they appear. Like other games which use this branching-dialogue device, this will allow several different plot paths to play out, increasing the game’s potential replayability.
Perhaps the most promising aspect of Heavy Rain is its plot. Little in the way of detail has been revealed, but trailers and gameplay footage suggest a brooding, mature and intricate story centred on the four main protagonists; each connected to and affected by a mysterious serial killer on the loose. Cage has been quoted as saying the theme of the plot focuses on what people will do for love in the face of deadly threat and adversity, suggesting Heavy Rain’s story will be thought-provoking and emotionally rich.
We’re looking forward to this title a lot. Its mixture of innovative controls, immersive action and cinematic scope promises to advance the adventure genre considerably; whilst its twisting, branching plot sounds intriguing and compelling.
With games such as Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock 2 already featuring strong stories and themes, the release of Heavy Rain might just help make 2010 the year which silences the “games are just for kids” critics once and for all.