The mystery behind Heavy Rain became a little clearer today after Quantic Dreams walked us through an incredible playable demo.
First up, the full name of the game is Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer. The title is important to the game's plot, but Quantic Dreams held back on why. Needless to say it's got something to do with paper folding and killing. Or has it? Yes, of course it has.
Anyway, the demo shown to us was a short level in which the lead character - a female newspaper journalist named Madison - goes to the house of a suspected serial killer to snoop around for info.
You control the leading lady from a third-person perspective, with the camera taking up cinematic positions in the environment as you walk through it. Think Silent Hill and you'll get the idea.
It might sound odd but you walk forward by pulling the R2 trigger. Instead of directly controlling which direction she walks, the left analogue stick moves her head and she'll adjust herself to move in that direction in a natural way. It's not on rails - you can make her walk in any direction you want - you just control her head and that indirectly controls her direction.
The whole game places emphasis on choice and making true-to-life scenarios and decisions. For example, when you approach the house you get the choice of whether to knock or ring the doorbell. Speech appears around a SixAxis-shaped icon and you can choose to speak as you knock by tilting the pad in the direction of the phrase you want to say. Groovy stuff.
SixAxis control is also used in other contexts, such as shaking it up and down to open a stiff window or shoving the pad forwards to push a barrel so you can stand on it and peek through the window. Once inside the house we find out that everything is interactive. EVERYTHING. It's like a new-age Shenmue, giving you the investigative freedom to check out just about anything.
Later in the demo, we discover dead bodies upstairs, at which point the killer returns home. With the screen split down the middle, you can see him on the left as he enters the house and gets a beer from the fridge, while you're on the right.
Here's where the game's choice and open-ended nature is exposed. According to Quantic Dreams, at this point you could sneak out, attack and kill him or call the police and hide until they get there.
If he notices anything you moved or looked at, or hears a noise he'll get suspicious and look for you, at which point you can hide in any number of places in each of the rooms. Get caught and it activates a QTE-style chase scene, similar in ways to Shenmue, but you have more control over your character.
The real interesting thing is that Quantic Dreams promises that, no matter what happens, the story will progress, whether you kill him, escape or are killed yourself. Yes, even the main character can be killed and the story will continue, says Quantic.
The devs didn't go into too much detail about how that actually works, but it says the whole plot is effected by every scene that you play, and your actions have consequences on the entire story.
Graphically, it looks incredible, particularly in the cluttered interior of house. And a solemn piano background ambience really sets the tone of the mood.
The demo was short but detailed and gripping enough to get our Spidey sense buzzing. Quantic Dreams stressed that the events in the demo are entirely separate from the main story in the game. Which really does leave us wondering what we can expect from the final game.
Before that though, in fact way before that, we'll bring you more details on all of the clever control nuances and the events of what we have to call an incredible demo.