For players of the Heavy Rain Four Days Challenge, we were greeted by a nice surprise yesterday – an early access code to the Heavy Rain demo. Of course though, the clues were posted on many gaming sites for anyone to gain access to this opportunity. To no surprise, the site crashed and everyone had to wait until it was fixed. The wait was well worth it.
To start off, you have two choices – play as either Scott Shelby or Norman Jayden. As you start the demo, there is a mini tutorial with Scott before his scene. To be honest, I was a bit sceptical about the controls based on videos but now that I have my hands on the game, they actually work really well. They are very fluent and although something to get used to, simple to use. To walk, you must hold the R2 button and use the left thumbstick to control the direction the character looks. While walking around, you are prompted by various button combos to interact with the environment. You can also press the L2 button to see what your character is thinking which, if you get stuck may give you clues as to what you should do next. The camera can be a little awkward at times, but it’s a small thing to think about.
This is the first scene in the demo where you play as Scott Shelby, a retired cop that is investigating the murder of a child. He enters an apartment building in hopes of asking the mother of the child some simple questions. This turns out to be a challenge as she doesn’t want to talk about it at all. It’s understandable after losing her son. After some dialog choices, if correct, you may ask her questions. If not, you leave a business card on the table in hopes of her calling and giving you more info. You leave the apartment and have an asthma attack. While this happens, a “paying customer” of hers arrives and she is attacked. If you are curious, you check to see if she is ok, or leave and not worry about her. Of course I chose to help her. This starts one of the most intense fighting scenes I’ve played. It plays out just like a scene from a movie – intense, fast and action packed. With timed button presses, you fight this other man in hand to hand combat. If you miss, the scene continues to play out, but with the other man having control over the fight until you correctly press the buttons again. Of course, this fight has to eventually end. The way it ends, depends on how you played the fight. If you didn’t miss a button, you’ll end the fight in complete control, leaving the other man stumbling to the door. If you miss a few buttons, the other man might be stronger, but he’ll still leave before finishing you off. Also, if you got hit a few times, you’ll notice cut marks and bruises on your characters face. After that, the scene ends with you limping out of the apartment. Then, you return to the menu, and can play as Norman Jayden.
In this second scene, you play as Norman Jayden, an FBI agent investigating the scene where the child was found dead. There isn’t much to do in this scene, but you get the idea of how to use Norman’s high tech glasses and gloves to investigate a scene. After exiting the car, you enter the crime scene to find the lieutenant on the scene. When you find him, he walks you around the scene, and at this point, you have many different questions to ask. All the thoughts, and dialogue options spin around your body. This is a neat setup for dialogue I find. You’re always looking at the character. No need to look below at the options like in other games. After choosing a few options, you reach the boundaries of the scene. At this point, the lieutenant leaves, and you have more options on the scene. With your glasses on, you see some items of interest. When you approach them and investigate, you see what it is, who it belongs to, who last touched it, criminal records of them, and so on. Eventually you investigate the body and see that the face is covered in mud like other bodies, and of course there is an origami figure, and an orchid flower with the body. After this, a few more options pop up to investigate, but that’s all there is to this scene.
During my first play through of this demo, I had a friend watch. He was overly impressed by not only the visuals, but just how much it resembled watching a movie. I mean, the game is basically an interactive cut scene, but while watching, you forget that it is actually a game. He literally told me that when I get the game, I have to wait until he is around. To him, even though he is a gamer, it is like waiting for the release of a theatrical movie. The voice-overs are a little weak, but the lips are perfectly synced to the voice. The music is very atmospheric, with a sad tone, but well done.
In less than two weeks, the full game will finally be released exclusively for the PS3. It’s been five years since the last true release in the genre; Indigo Prophecy from Quantic Dreams. Heavy Rain is said to have an intense and gripping story similar to a thriller movie. If you’ve played Indigo Prophecy, you’ll be familiar with Heavy Rain. If the demo is any indication of how intense the game will be, it’s going to be an amazing experience. If you can’t wait two weeks like me, then download the demo that is now available on PSN via code from the Four Day Challenge. Or, you can wait until the public release of the demo on February 11th and the full game February 23rd in North America.