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Since the PlayStation 3’s release over five years ago, I’ve been making a list of exclusives I needed to play when I finally owned the system. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was on there along with the Uncharted series, but at the top was Heavy Rain, the interactive drama from Quantic Dream. After thoroughly enjoying their previous psychological thriller, Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit), I was ready for whatever the studio had to offer.
Of course, being a system exclusive is annoying when you don’t own that system, so a full two years after its release I’m finally getting my paws on the game full-time (along with pretty much every other PS3 exclusive I was interested in). Was the wait worth it? We’re about to find out in Heavy Rain’s first hour.
If you’re interested in Quantic Dream’s previous work, I have the first hour of Indigo Prophecy available for your perusal. It was actually one of the first reviews I ever wrote, and the game really kicks off excellently. I’m definitely curious to see if Heavy Rain can replicate that energy.
Before we begin, I actually have the entire first hour of the game available on video. You can follow along, skip through the video, or forget about it altogether. Nate usually edits his hours down, but I wanted to keep the minute-by-minute details, and being so cinematic, Heavy Rain presents rather well without interruption. Look for more of these in the future.
00 - I select New Story and the first hour of Heavy Rain begins. “Sony Computer Entertainment...” “Quantic Dream...” Loading... The opening cutscene begins.
01 - We’re treated with a split screen of a man’s house, he’s lying in bed, sad sounding piano music is playing. The game tells me I can interact by following the button presses on screen. Walk around by holding R2 and pressing the left thumbstick in the direction I want to go. Why can’t I just walk with the thumbstick like a normal game?
02 - I poke around the character’s room until the game tells me I can listen to the man’s thoughts by holding L2. The man says he needs a shower.
03 - He’s now peeing in the toilet. I can do anything I want! Wow, I’m totally shaving right now, this is more mundane than real life.
05 - After the electric razor and the toothbrush, I finally direct him into the shower where we’re treated to actual male nudity. Yes, Heavy Rain is rated M for Mature.
06 - Time to head downstairs... oh, he wants to get dressed first.
07 - After a slow walk down the steps, Ethan details in his mind everything he’s interested in doing, including coffee, garden time, and even work. The controls are pretty simple, sometimes you’re required to hold a button or direction, other times you have to slowly ease it, very delicate like.
09 - I pick up a radio car controller and the game drives it around, obviously showing off its directorial skills. Too bad I can’t control it. Poking around the house now, when you near an object you can interact with, a little icon appears near it telling you what direction to push, typically up or down.
10 - Ethan sits down at his desk and starts drawing some lines, looks like he’s an architect. There’s a moment where I have to quickly press a series of buttons so he draws a big house successfully. Yay.
13 - I wandered around the backyard until a cutscene triggers with Ethan’s kids and his wife getting home. It’s his older son’s ten year old birthday. The wife plops some grocery bags in my arms, need to hold multiple buttons at once to carry them.
14 - I slowly set out four fragile plates, I’m a little rough with one of them and am scolded by the wife. Who sets out plates like this? I think this game’s obsession with letting you do everything may be its downfall.
15 - Ooh, Ethan makes a pass on his wife and they make out. “I know what’s on your mind, Ethan. But now is not the right time for it.” Ouch.
18 - Time to play with the kids in the backyard, dad spins Jason around and puts Shaun on his shoulders. Then I sword fight with Jason and purposefully fail some of the quick time events. Hey, gotta let the birthday boy win, right?
22 - We head inside, but where’s Shaun? Upstairs holding his dead bird, well, that’s sudden (and foreshadowing). The screen fades out and the scene switches to a busy mall with lots of split-screening. Wife and Shaun shop for shoes leaving Jason with dad.
23 - “Jason? Jason!” Little kid has wandered off, I can see him about twenty feet ahead of me but my character decides that he’s not important enough to actually run after. I catch up to him in front of a creepy clown selling balloons. He asks for a red balloon.
24 - Dad needs to pay, and I start frantically searching my pants for my wallet as Jason wanders off. You can see the red balloon disappear into the distance.
25 - Wife shows up and starts freaking out, Ethan is now moving a bit quicker in his search for Jason. “JASON!” Music heats up, my heart starts beating a bit faster... freaking out a bit here!
26 - Oh geez, we get an over the shoulder view of Ethan as he wades through the super thick crowd. Red balloons keep showing up but it’s never Jason. “JASON!!” Holy crap, where is he?
27 - Across the street? “Jason!” No, oh God don’t run across the street. They slo-mo the dad’s dive in front of the car to save Jason, looks like he takes the brunt of the damage. The red balloon slowly drifts away.
28 - The game’s opening credits begin playing, wow, a 28 minute opening. It’s raining as the camera shifts from street to street, showing intersections and developers’ names.
29 - Then we get close up of people staring dead-like into the camera. Umm...
31 - “2 years later”, and we’re staring at a much scruffier Ethan. Shaun walks out of school and the two barely glance at each other. I climb in the car and go through the motions of putting on my seatbelt and hitting the accelerator.
33 - Shaun and Ethan walk into their much smaller row house and Shaun immediately starts watching television. I sense this is going to be depressing.
35 - Dad tries to talk to son, but he’s mostly unresponsive. Jason’s death hit this family hard. There’s a schedule on the wall for Shaun that I guess I’m supposed to follow, includes doing his homework and eating dinner. There are many clocks on the wall so I always know what time it is.
37 - Feel like I’m killing a lot of time just sitting around, this game is too realistic!
41 - After curing Shaun’s cold, we finally sit down to do his homework. I thought I would help him, but he just does his thing for a few minutes and then Ethan checks it over. Pretty bored, though I guess this is stressing the total change in the characters’ lives.
44 - Shaun is just watching TV so I head into my overgrown backyard and attempt to shoot a basketball. I honestly don’t understand the onscreen controls at the time, not realizing you’re supposed to quickly lift the controller up to shoot. Oh well, not like I would have gotten experience for it anyway.
46 - Making dinner for Shaun now, decide on a pizza instead of a microwaveable meal, though Ethan still insists on cooking the pizza in microwave.
47 - Juggling some fruit with quick time events with Shuan as my audience, he actually likes it! A positive response from the kid!
49 - Somehow this whole scene is still going on, it’s seriously been almost 20 minutes.
51 - Shaun is going to bed now, dad is about to tuck him in, but he needs his teddy bear. Ugh. Luckiliy I saw the bear earlier so I know where it is.
53 - Shaun tells me what happened to Jason wasn’t my fault, I tuck him in and leave the room, slowly closing the door.
54 - A moment later, Ethan is freaking out having some kind of panic attack. Must have blacked out, he “wakes up” in the middle of an empty street in the rain. He’s holding a piece of origami.
55 - Loading... staring right in the face of some other guy. I receive trophies for “Interactive Drama” and “Good Father.”
56 - The man whose face we were just staring at pulls up in front of a sleazy looking motel and heads inside. He’s looking for Lauren Winter.
58 - She’s apparently a prostitute, but this guy isn’t in the mood for a trick. He says his name is Scott Shelby, a private detective, he’s interested in her son, a victim of the Origami Killer.
59 - Some dialog options circle his head, kind of hard to read, I try to convince her to tell her story, but she’s not really interested.
60 - Lauren finally starts opening up about her son and his dad that walked out on her after his death. She starts smoking, but that’s the end of the first hour of Heavy Rain.
Minutes to Action: 3 minutes until I was peeing
Bias: Two competing biases here: I’ve been wanting to play this game forever (plus) and I have two young boys and seeing my character’s son killed is disconcerting to say the least (negative). The plus outweighs the negative, but Heavy Rain has been a depressing game so far.
Would I Keep Playing? Yes, and not just because I’ve been wanting to play the game for two years, but Heavy Rain was pretty fun at times. Yes, the second half was really quite dull, but once the game switched over to the private detective I felt the momentum picking up again.
It is disappointing that Heavy Rain’s first hour doesn’t blow you out of the water like Indigo Prophecy’s. No, not every game has to hit the ground at full speed, but we’re barely treading water for about 40 minutes. Coming from the same studio, I had a lot higher expectations of the amount of action we’d see.
I’m lowering my expectations a bit for the rest of the game, but I really do hope Heavy Rain still manages to exceed them.