In 2006, Quantic Dream unveiled the first tech demo for Heavy Rain to an unsuspecting closed-door E3 crowd. The theme was apparent from the start
Heavy Rain begins with the main character, Ethan Mars, face down asleep in his trendy two story loft. On-screen prompts tell you that pressing up on the right thumbstick will cause Ethan to rise from his bed. Holding down the R2 button causes Ethan to walk, with the left thumbstick causing him to change his direction. Every aspect of his life is mapped to a motion – picking up and admiring his wedding picture, bending down to pick up a note from his wife, and cleaning up the house to prepare for his son Jason’s birthday party.
Getting into what’s going through Ethan
Sitting in my in-home studio, I finally knuckled down to take care of some architectural work before my wife came home. Using the gesture controls I drew out my plans, erased and re-drew some sections, and generally brought an entire building to life. I finished my work just as my wife Grace pulled into the driveway. Hopping up, I welcomed her home and helped her place the groceries on the counter. Setting the table for our son’s birthday dinner, I helped tidy up the room before stepping outside to play with my boys, Shaun and Jason. Unfortunately, this happy birthday came with a sad footnote as our pet bird Merlin dies shortly before the party starts. I (Ethan), being a good father, tried to console his son – this touching moment is the first of many I experienced in Heavy Rain.
Taking the kids to the mall for a bit of fun, Jason and I are left to roam the crowded mall while mom checks out shoes for young Shaun. Wandering down to a nearby clown to get a balloon, Jason wanders off with his balloon while I paid the tab. Unfortunately, tragedy isn’t quite done with this family as Jason is lost in the surging crowd. Frantic, I live out every parent’s worst nightmare as I search for my son, calling into the crowd. The worst possible sight a parent can see comes to pass as Jason makes his way into the street and is killed by an oncoming car. Everything changes for the family, tearing it apart and beginning our story.
Several years later, a gaunt and broken Ethan picks up his young son Shaun for his visitation time. Rain pounds down on his late model sedan as Ethan makes his way to his dingy apartment for visitation time with his son. Wordlessly, Shaun settles in front of the TV, avoiding any real contact. Watching some TV to pass the time, Ethan gets a small snack for his son, promising that homework can wait until 6:00pm. This family is broken, but we don’t know the half of it…
Heavy Rain is best characterized with one of the first achievements you receive – an interactive drama. Bolstered by a fantastic and well executed soundtrack, Heavy Rain does it’s best to completely immerse the player utilizing incredible facial motion capture, solid voice work, and very realistic animations, the story is presented in a very moving fashion. Dealing with topics such as death, grief, and loss, the family drama feels very real – something that isn’t usually conveyed well in games. The overarching theme is a tough one
The game isn’t told just from the perspective of Ethan – you’ll play four characters through the course of the game. Beyond the personal family strife of Ethan’s family, you’ll also play as Private Detective Scott Shelly. Shelly is working hard to find the Origami Killer by interviewing the families of the 7 victims to date. Shelly will search the dark underbelly of the city for information, but his well-honed hunches will be the key to unraveling this mystery. The slightly less grimy portions of the city are handled by another playable character, Agent Norman Jaden of the FBI. Utilizing a pair of glasses and a glove that, when linked, allow Jaden to create video memo recordings of his crime scenes, as well as send out a pulse that highlights hidden evidence as large as a murder weapon or as small as DNA or a latent scent. His technology will make up for his rookie status as the mystery unfolds. I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that the ARI interface is the stuff of sci-fi and CSI dreams.
Further into the story you’ll be introduced to a photo journalist named Madison Paige. Awake again in her apartment in the pre-dawn hours, she suffers from insomnia. Her story is no less dramatic than Ethan
The interaction of these four characters and the way their stories interact and intersect make up Heavy Rain. Each one will be touched by the Origami Killer, and each one will be forever changed. While the game starts off somewhat slow in pace, once it locks you in you won