The First Hour Of... Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain is unlike any other video game. It's mature and mundane. It's heartfelt and honest. It's utterly captivating. Yet it very clearly isn't for everyone.

For the uninitiated, Heavy Rain is something of an adventure game. It wants to tell a story in a most un-videogame type manner. It tells its story through the eyes of multiple protagonists, allowing the player to push and prod them in various directions. It's part-thriller, part-character study.

I've played through the first hour of Heavy Rain. Here's what happened...

00:00 - Closeup of a man's face. Eyes. Nose. Brow. Pores. He looks lost. Disbelieving. Unable to comprehend what he sees. I can't see what he sees. Fade to black.

00:01 - Cut to a bedroom. Screen splits into six panels. Each panel takes us nearer to bed's occupant. He's asleep, sprawled on his stomach. It's daylight outside. The curtain flaps in the breeze. Pushing the right stick up prompts the man to sit up on the edge of the bed. Pushing it again makes him stand. It's the same man from the closeup.

00:02 - Holding R2 makes him walk. Left stick chooses the direction. I walk the man to a side table. He picks up a framed photo. It's a photo of his wedding day. The woman in the photo is not in the bed. Pressing L2 lets me hear the man's thoughts. He thinks he should shower before getting dressed.

00:03 - I walk the man to the bedroom door. A note has been slipped under the door. It's from a woman, Grace, the man's wife. She'll be home soon.

00:04 - The man leaves the bedroom. A bird in a cage sits on a table outside the bedroom. I ignore it. I walk the man into the bathroom. He takes a piss. I make sure he flushes.

00:05 - I walk the man to the shower stall. Moving the left stick turns his head. It lets me sees what he can interact with. I push the right stick down and the man undresses. He steps into the shower and washes. The camera cuts between shots from inside the stall to a view from outside the bathroom door. I feel unnerved.

00:06 - The man steps out of the shower and picks up a towel. I shake the controller. He dries his hair. I shake again. He dries his back.

00:07 - I walk the man to the sink and push the right stick. He picks up his toothbrush. I shake the controller. He brushes his teeth. I push the right stick again. He picks up an electric shaver. I gently push down on the right stick. He shaves one side of his face. I gently push up on the right stick. He shaves the other side.

00:08 - I walk the man out of the bathroom into the hall. L1 switches between camera angles. I walk the man into a second bedroom. It is a children's bedroom. There is a bunk bed. On a shelf are three juggling balls. I push down on the right stick and the man picks them up. I push up and he throws one into the air. Prompts tell me which face buttons to press to keep him juggling. I push down on the right stick and the man puts the balls back on the shelf.

00:10 - I walk the man back to his bedroom. He opens the wardrobe and gets dressed. I walk him to the balcony door. He opens it and steps outside. I motion for him to lean against the rail. The sun is bright. He looks down over his garden. Birds are chattering in the trees. He looks content. I can hear a car as it drives past the house.

00:12 - Back inside, the man walks downstairs. Party decorations hang in the living room. "Happy birthday Jason." I listen to the man's thoughts again. Grace and the kids will be back soon. He thinks he should get some work done first.

00:14 - I walk the man past the kitchen, through the living room and into a study. He sits down at the desk. A drawing board covered in a large sheet of paper lies before him. He picks up a pencil. I push the right stick and he draws perspective lines across the paper. Closeup of his eyes. I tap face buttons as they are prompted and he draws a building. He sits back in his chair.

00:17 - I motion for him to pick up the pencil again. I gently push the right stick as he adds detail to the building. I hold down combinations of face buttons as he develops the architectural complexity, giving it shade and texture until it is complete. He smiles.

00:20 - The man rises from his desk. I walk him into the living and past a bookcase. I motion for him to reach for a book. "Creative Architecture." He thumbs through the pages. Closeup of his face. He looks happy again. He returns the book to the shelf.

00:22 - I walk the man to the back door and open it. A car pulls into the driveway. Two young boys run through the front door. The man greets them with a hug. One of the boys must be Jason. He asks his dad if he's now old enough to drive a car. His dad laughs.

00:24 - A woman, Grace, is at the front door holding three shopping bags. She asks for Ethan's help. The man, Ethan, walks over and takes the bags. I hold down two face buttons while he walks to the kitchen. Grace begins unpacking and asks Ethan about his work. He says it's nearly done. She asks him to help get the plates out of the cupboard.

00:27 - I walk Ethan to the cupboard. I push the right stick to open the door. It is stuck. Grace says it is always sticking and I should give it a push. I thrust the controller to the right and the door opens. Ethan takes the plates out and begins setting them on the table. I move the right stick to quickly and a plate clatters on the table. Grace tells me to be more careful. I gently push the right stick to finish the task.

00:29 - Ethan steps outside to watch the boys playing in the yard. They ask him to join in. I hold R2 and tilt the controller as Ethan carries one boy around the garden on his shoulders. Then I rotate the right stick as Ethan holds the other boy by the hands and spins him around in circles.

00:32 - Jason hands Ethan a toy lightsaber and they duel. I press face button prompts as Ethan attacks Jason or dodges his blows. I deliberately fail a few times and Jason stabs Ethan through the stomach. Jason is triumphant as Ethan feigns an exaggerated death. Grace calls the boys back inside for lunch.

00:35 - Ethan gets up off the grass and I motion for him to walk back inside. Grace and Jason are seated at the table. Grace calls for Shaun to come down. Ethan says he'll go get him. I walk Ethan upstairs. I can hear a faint sobbing. Ethan finds Shaun kneeling before the bird cage. "It's Merlin... He's dead. And it's my fault." Shaun cries. I motion for Ethan to kneel next to Shaun and console him. "It's not your fault, Shaun. Sometimes these things are meant to happen even if you don't want them to."

00:38 - Fade to black.

00:39 - Ethan and Grace are walking down a crowded street. The sun is as bright as ever. Cut to the inside of a shopping mall. Ethan is holding Shaun's hand. Grace is holding Jason's. The polished floor gleams under the artificial light. Grace tells Ethan to mind Jason while she takes Shaun into the shoe store.

00:42 - Jason starts wandering. I direct Ethan to follow him. A prompt hovers around Ethan, informing me that pressing X will call Jason. I leave it for now, content to just trail behind the boy and keep an eye on him.

00:44 - Jason finds a clown selling balloons. He asks Ethan to buy one for him. He does. As I fumble through Ethan's pockets for the correct change, Jason wanders off again. When Ethan finishes paying, Jason is nowhere to be seen.

00:46 - Grace catches up with Ethan and asks where Jason is. An erratic camera closes on Ethan as he explains that Jason has disappeared. He says he will find him. I head Ethan in the direction Jason appeared to take. This time I do press the X button. "Jason!" Ethan's breathing is now audible and his leisurely walk is now anxious.

00:49 - I motion for Ethan to lean over the railing and look down on the floor below. He spies a clearly distressed Jason downstairs near a merry-go-round. I recall walking past an escalators moments ago. Ethan stride seems to quicken as he retraces his steps.

00:51 - Ethan barges his way down the escalator and into a throng of bodies on the floor below. Jason red balloon is visible on the far side of the hall. I hold R2 and steer Ethan between the swarm of shoppers. I hit X repeatedly, hoping that Jason will hear his name. Ethan reaches a food court, but the red balloon has vanished.

00:54 - I turn him around again. I see the red balloon again and beeline towards it. The camera is pinned to Ethan shoulder and lurches violently with every time he shoves someone out of the way. Ethan grabs the boy with balloon, but staggers back when he realises it isn't Jason.

00:57 - I head for the street exit. Ethan again shoulders his way through the heaving mass. I'm feeling as anxious as he is. We stumble out onto the street and spot the red balloon on the other side of the road. Ethan calls out. "Jason!" The boy turns. "Dad?" He steps out onto the road.

00:60 - And that's a wrap.

My impressions thus far...

Let me admit I'm a huge fan of David Cage. His previous work in Omikron and Fahrenheit touched greatness even if there ultimately proved maddeningly inconsistent. For every moment of genius there was a sequence of downright clumsiness. So I approach Heavy Rain with optimism that perhaps this time he'll get everything right.

So far it's treading much the same ground as Fahrenheit. The mundane, even banal, opening is familiar in the way it echoes some of my favourite scenes from the earlier game. It works because it gets you inside the head of the character whose strings you are tugging this way and that.

Cage spoke about Fahrenheit's narrative as being like a rubber band: the arc remains the same for each player, but you can pull and stretch yours into different shapes. It's an apt metaphor, perfect for describing a game that elevates interaction as being distinct from choice. You play with the story Cage wants to tell; you're not here to tell your own story.

Sitting down with Ethan at his work desk allowed me to imbue his character with my own personal style. I could have moved him to abandon his work halfway through, distracted him with something else. Instead I wanted him to finish the task and, as a result, my Ethan is a man who takes pride in his work. The look of satisfaction on his face once he'd completed the drawing was reward enough.

Heavy Rain is unlike any other game. Except, of course, Fahrenheit. One might take issue with Cage's declaration that it is "not a video game anymore" because, ultimately, it is. However, he's right in believing it stands apart. He's pioneering new territory for the medium and we're fortunate to be able to explore it with him.


Comments

    Wow, this opening seems really, really boring. It confirms my suspicions that this is not really a video game, and more of an interactive movie, which begs the question:

    Why not just make it a movie?

      Because your interaction with each scene is the whole point.

        I know you said stuff like, you could let him finish his work or distract him from it, but do things like that actually make a difference on the game? It seems very mundane at the moment, tell me when you get to the more action-y sequences

          You'll have to clarify what you mean by "make a difference" before I can answer that.

            For example, if you choose to play your character as an asshole, someone who skips his work, neglects the dishes, is mean to his kids, would it end up changing how the story unfolds? Or is it just a linear thing.

            On the note of your original point: I can see how this kind of game can be interesting, having control over a complete strangers life really gives you an incredible level of immersion, but for me it just feels like it would be tedious. But perhaps i'm being too harsh, i'll definitely try it out when it's released (my friend owns a PS3 and is a sucker for games like this, so i'll borrow it :P)

              Yes and no, to be honest. Cage has a story he wants to tell. You cannot change that. Heavy Rain isn't Fallout. Yet at the same time it isn't a strictly linear experience like most other games. Everything you do will change the experience in some way, even if it's just a really subtle shift in your own appreciation of a particular character. Certain events may or may not happen, or may happen at different times and unfold in different directions, based on what you've done. But ultimately every player is playing through the same story. If you can get your head around his rubber band metaphor, you'll realise how appropriate it is when you play.

                sounds like one of those things i need to play for myself to understand :P

      I know this is late, but I’ll throw in my 2 cents

      The slow opening was done on purpose. The game needs to first establish the normality of the characters lives, these characters are just like regular people, their lives for the most part are boring, work, chores, playing with the kids, nothing too exciting. Then boom, this man’s kid gets abducted. The slow opening is needed to show the monumental shift in the lives of one family because of these tragic events. Would the kidnapping of the son have had such an impact if the game didn’t set you up with a picture of the family life?, without it you have no motivation to save this kid because you have no connection with the character, you have no idea what life was like with or without the kid, so why bother. That’s why no one ever cares about the story of action movies where the buffed up action hero has to save kid wife or kid, he was snapping peoples necks before his kid was abducted and he will be doing it after. You show the normal family life turned on its head, and you have the kind of movies that win Oscars.

    I had the feeling that the man behind Fahrenheit was the guy behind Heavy Rain. Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy was a very enjoyable game indeed.

    Hopefully this game will bring some new ideas to the table, while keeping the fun of Fahrenheit in there.

    Oh, by the way, please quickly toss this on the pile of crap so someone has a chance of winning it. :)

    Wow. I never played Fahrenheit, but it looks luke I might play this. Only thing... Do you know if it's possible to avoid the topless scene? It might just be me, but those sorts of scenes in videogames make me uncomfortable.

    If so, it's a definite purchase. Otherwise, it's a probable one.

      Like most things in this game, the topless scene should be avoidable through your choices on how to deal with the situation. As soon as the scene begins, I believe you can become hostile and get into a fray with the enemy, instead of dancing for him.

      The entire scenario may be avoidable, but getting topless is definitely not a requirement for dealing with the situation your character finds themself in.

        Thanks for the answer!

        It's a definite purchase, then. Now to actually find out when it comes out. :P

    I'll be finally buying a PS3 for this game. I deliberately skipped over what you wrote for fear of spoilers (I want to discover how to do the dishes on my own!) but what I glanced at sounds fascinating for the medium of video games. Can't wait.

      I think it's OK to read the whole thing. I've really just covered everything up to the opening credits - there's still plenty of game beyond that and that's where the story really starts. But if you are paranoid about spoilers, just read my closing impressions.

        Hey David, I know it's early days, but do you think that level of "playing with the set story" will be gripping enough to get you through the whole game?

        Manipulating the set story is essentially what you do in every game apart from the openest of open world RPGs. But it's the complex interaction with a game (eg: controlling the precise movement of your character, maually aiming at a target) that immerses you as a participant, as well as the narrative/visuals/etc.

        This coming from someone who hasn't played Farenheit though...

    I personally think this story is a lot better than Fahrenheit, a father looking for his son is a hell of a lot better than solving a murder mystery with the supernatural and cults and all that garbage. Cage already said that this game would feature no supernatural stuff didn’t he?. Good idea.

    I've been keeping an eye on this since it was announced. I played but never completed Fahrenheit.

    I think I'll wait to hire it out before purchasing it, as I've heard you'll either love or hate it.

    My heart was actually racing as I got to 00:51
    Either Im a boring and mundane person (I really am) and/ or Id love this game...

      OK so now that ive gone and googled HR and read about it, Im really intrigued. I love thriller "find the idenity while chasing the bad guy" books from the likes of James Patterson and Cody McFayden. And by reading a few synapse's and quotes from Cage I am truly wanting to play this.

      The idea that any of the protagonists can die at any stage and the story will not continue, but shift, alter and change itself for a new ending excites me much the way that Obscure and Obscure2 did.
      But the idea that all of the protagonist can die and a story ending (probably depending on your story completion) is still provided, not just a simple 'Game Over - Load - Exit' really, REALLY excites me.

      Quick time controls for fighting, conversations and thought processing rather than a specific set rules of controls (X weak attack, [ ] Strong attack, /\ magic attack etc.) Can be some of the most riviting and heart pumping gaming.

      No idea why i've been ignoring all information about this until now, guess im shallow like that. Sorry Cage.

      It's not just you mate, I was feeling the same way! I had to stop reading for a second and realise I was just looking at a snappy intro/preview...now I want to know what happens to that damn boy! Thanks David, now I will be even more broke in the early months of 2010!

      Same here. I was also disappointed when the time was up. I didn't want it to end! This shows that the game can immense you as the character and feel what they feel. Such amazing work, can't wait for March!

    I had been vaguely keeping an eye on this but now I'm very interested.

    This actually emphasises what I believe to be the true strength of video game story telling over other mediums. Whilst many think that the ability to choose an outcome of a story is the mediums defining feature, I find more often than not that branching paths just lead to a diluted story as the developer has to also split their available time over all the routes (or just cheats by pointlessly branching right near the end, or pretending to branch but not really and keeps coming back to the same common point)

    Where I think the real strength in video games story telling lies, is that through even the most rudimentary amount of interactivity the game makes you a part of the story rather than just an observer. By doing this, even if the outcome is fixed and immutable, the characters victories/defeats, high/lows become your own, rather than just someone else's, making for a much more emotionally engaging experience.

    I am really looking foward to this.

    Although i do love a mindless game in which i could give a crap about the main character (Borderlands for example) nothing beats a game where i can sympathise and connect with a character.

    I suppose its in the same way as a movie, one of my favourite movies of all time is The Shawshank Redemption. Didnt really have any action, was story and character focused and heavy on dialogue but it all just worked and made me feel something for the characters and sort of invested in them.

    Very much looking forward to this, but i can see it as a game i need to be in the mood to play. Unlike other games that i can just jump into, play, then leave.

    Day 1 buy for me.

    I'm looking forward to this game with lots of interest. I really believe in games being a great storytelling medium. This game appears to be tying in more conventional movie techniques with gaming interactivity. Time will tell how successful it is. I'm hoping it works out well.

    I've never played Fahrenheit, but I think I'll try and find it now. I've heard about it in the past, but not enough to make me go to the effort to secure a copy.

    I guess to each there own and this is MY opinion but this seems boring to me. From your first hour preview its much of nothing for the first 45 minutes and with the limited gaming time I have, I wont make it that far unless its got something early to get me interested.

    The more I see of it the game (and the creator) it seems more of a miss than hit for me.

    This is one of the few games that make me wish I had a PS3.

    Let's just hope it doesn't go the way of Indigo Prophecy / Fahrenheit and get all weird towards the end of the game.

    lol, anyone that has been following the game should be aware of the above scene... and roughly what happens next...

    So it's with interest I ask...

    David, did an hour really take you to this point in the game? or were there some 'selective' editing to create your own suspense for your readers? ;)

    Sure there may have been another 1-2mins to heighten the drama a touch more, but it seemed very co-incidental where you stopped it... :p

    Of all the minor things that were done in this playthrough, shower, brush teeth, playing with the kids, working, etc... will subtlely alter reactions from your character and the NPCs also.

    It will really make you wonder "What If", with probably 99% of your decisions throughout the game.

    What I would love David Cage/Quantic Dream to do 6 months after the release of the game is post up the various Story Flow Charts for each of the characters if it's actually indeed possible.

    With all these choices the game has, and the rumoured double digit multiple endings, there is no way you will be able to play out every single senario.

    Come on February 2010!

      Yeah, it was part coincidence, part selective editing. It's always hard to know precisely when the hour is up because I'm writing the whole time I'm playing. It was close though.

      Are we talking multiple endings like, say, KOTOR where the ending is drastically different, or Bioshock where you just get a different cutscene -_-.

    How is it that you have such early access to this game?

    I've been so looking forward to this ever since the very early "casting" demo from years ago.

    I'm considering purchasing a PS3 solely for this game (and other exclusives when I get around to it, of course).

    I also love David Cage. His keynote address at that show, maybe it was GDC or something, was amazing.

    This has been on my most anticipated list because I really enjoyed Farenheit on the Xbox.

    Cage seems to take the concept of Farenheit and emphasize a lot on emotion and depth within the story as opposed to Farenheit which in the 2nd half turned into a convoluted mind-fuck including supernatural themes.

    I really admire developers who are trying to do something new in video games and hopefully this will achieve my expectations.

    Just read the walkthrough. Wow, my hears beating quickly. That was very dramatic, I can only imagine what it would be like in the game. For some reason I got the impression from the videos that Jason was kidnapped, but I guess not.

    The boring and mundane nature of the starting sequence can be forgiven I think considering it probably functions as a sort of tutorial or guide as to how the game will operate.

    I can't wait for this game.

    Could possibly be good, depends where it goes from here. If it dipped back down again it could be a disappointment.

    The buildup kind of reminds me of the way "Trinity" by Infocom worked, which was fairly mundane but had a lot of subtle precedent for the later game. Trinity is one of the best games of all time.

    You sure know how to such a guy in, David. I think I'm going to have to purchase a PS3 just to find out what happens to little Jason. I must admit I gasped a little at that last line.

    Heavy Rain is sounding like the game I've been awaiting for years. One with a compelling, genuinely mature and down-to-earth narrative. I guess there's still plenty of time to introduce kung-fu zombies and internet monsters, but you've raised my hopes.

    So this is really an example of the pendulum swinging back from open world to truly linear storytelling. Much like MGS4 without resorting to cut scenes to achieve it.

    I think my preference will always be the classic super Mario world approach. The story and game are linear, with just a little exploration for those who go looking for it.

    A more modern example is Batman. You go from boss to boss but if you take the time to wander the asylumn for tapes and riddles your rewarded with an enhanced experience. but not a necessary one.

      Agreed. One of the things i disliked about MGS4 was that it was way, WAY too cutscene heavy. Batman had cutscenes, but they were interspersed with the action and good enough intervals to not take away from immersion.

      Heavy rain is taking this one step forward, by letting you PLAY the 'cutcsenes'. However, this is a dangerous path to walk, as you may end up with simple God of War style quick-time events, which no-one likes. Hopefully, they'll give you plenty of control, while still being able to let their scene play out.

        Also, thumbs up for the SMW reference. SMW is one of my favourite games of all time, and you've pretty much explained why. It's actually FUN to go out and try and find all the secret entrances to star world, and having them all actually gives you a gameplay advantage (you can warp back to the top secret zone for powerups really easily), instead of just 'Achievement points'

    I can't wait. I've been hanging out for Heavy Rain for over a year now, and reading this it seems to be the type of game which really shows why I got into gaming - it can tell a good story.

    I already have theories and ideas about the characters I've seen, and am counting down to the 26th of February. I can't wait.

    I absolutely adored Fahreneit, and having played a few mintes of this in the last month or two (the scene with the detective in the store and the car yard scene), I.Can.Not.Wait.

    This 'first hour' look has my pants bulging, just a little bit.

    Please sir, I want some more.

    There are two things about this. Do you think that conventional reviewing is ready to deal with a game such as this? Can IGN and other "mainstream" websites deal with a game that attempts to be complex in way that is not mainstream.

    Secondly, is gaming ready for games to be more "literary" in their interpretation of gaming. Adventure games need a resurgence. Is this the way to go about it.

    Gaming needs a shake up from the FPS mainstream garbage that is being thrown down our throats. We don't see a whole lot of FPS games challenging gaming or gamers.

    Hopefully this game is another in an unpopular genre that sells well and gives gamers a new perspective on what gaming "can" be rather than just looking down the barrel of a gun and shooting the clearly marked bad guy.

    This was really out of my radar, until all the previews about it came out. I'm excited.

    sounds really boring. I hate to judge things before they're out, but i read the first few bits of the post and the first 10 mins its your character getting dressed. I doubt all these people saying they'd rush out to buy a ps3 just to play this probably will.

    No matter how good/bad this is though, we can probably all guess that it'll be one of those games that slips through the cracks as it doesn't appeal to the masses. Still, good to see someone making something that isn't a FPS

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