I have just completed several playthroughs of the Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain demo released yesterday on Playstation Network. I was cautiously optimistic approaching it, having known the studio only from it’s Omikron: The Nomad Soul game released back in 1999. (Having loved Omikron, I have no idea how did I miss their 2005’s Fahrenheit (a.k.a. Indigo Prophecy).)

When the game comes out, undoubtedly the reviews will range all the way from calling it a “x-hours long quick-time event” to “the most cinematic experience ever”. Personally, I think it will become an instant cult classic, and can only hope the commercial reception will be as good. But that – only time will show. For now we have a demo:

In the beginning I was quite skeptical about the game’s interface: Quick-time events (pressing a sequence of buttons as they appear on the screen) have been done to death in various action games, and I was worried that Heavy Rain will turn out to be nothing else but a failed interactive movie incorporating tired, old game mechanic. Fortunately, my worries were unfounded. The developer handled the matter with great finesse and after a short adjustment period the concept feels absolutely natural.

The button mashing, in fact, creates a very immersible experience, and soon you no longer feel as if you are pressing the controller buttons, but rather as you are actively participating in your character’s actions. Simple button sequences control the dialog, movement and quick actions. Longer and more difficult sequences, often featuring a number of buttons that need to be pressed at the same time are used when performing more complex manoeuvrings. You struggle to stay in control just as your character does.

Honestly though – you have to give it a try. I would not be convinced reading someone else’s “quick time events done right” argument and would probably remain skeptical until I had the controller in my own hands and tried it for myself.

Heavy Rain Demo: Sleazy Place gameplay via gametrailers.com


The demo contains two short chapters from the game (as well as a brief tutorial), featuring the main gameplay styles: a conversation/interrogation, fight sequence and an investigation mode.

The conversations are done extremely well. Voice acting is convincing, character models look great and the movement is captured with great attention to minuscule details. (When I talk about voice acting being great, I refer to the English language version. I have tried the Polish one, which was plain dreadful, flat and unconvincing.)

Heavy Rain is not one of these games where you can take hours to explore every single dialog tree, go through the same questions and answers several times etc. The two conversations featured in the demo are on a timer: One takes place during the crime scene inspection, the other literally has an alarm clock ticking. You have to pick what will you ask and how will you evolve the dialog in the time allowed. Even after several playthroughs I am sure I still haven’t explored all the options.

Heavy Rain Demo: Crime Scene gameplay via gametrailers.com


All the dialog and choices you make affect the unfolding of the story. Sometimes you will get your answers, other times you won’t. If you stay silent for too long, the partner may just carry on with the talk or cut it off. You have to think and decide fast if you want to stay ahead of the game. I am not sure how far will the ramifications of your choices carry in the final game, but from what the developers claim, it is going to go far beyond simple good/evil ending seen in many of today’s games.

The fight sequence was probably the most simple gameplay style. In no way was it bad – the fight choreography was great, with may ways to affect the outcome. All in all though, it was just a quick-time event, in it’s purest form (and I am not too big on these).

Finally – the investigation. The 3D glasses and glove of the FBI agent are every geek’s dream. Overall, it felt like what the detective mode in Batman: Arkham Asylum should have been. You use your scanner to look for clues, analyze them and follow the trail. Sounds fairly simple, but it is a lot of fun.

It’s safe to say I am pretty hyped about the upcoming release of Heavy Rain. The demo only sharpened my appetite and raised the expectations to dangerously high levels. But, hell, if anyone can pull this off – Quantic Dream can.

Heavy Rain: European Cover Art


Heavy Rain releases for Playstation 3 only on 23rd February 2010 in North America and 24th February 2010 in Europe.