We've seen games with no 'game overs' before. The recent Prince of Persia presented us with a hero who could not die. But Heavy Rain promises something different. Your character can most certainly die, but the story will continue with or without them. It's an interesting concept, and with Fahrenheit mastermind David Cage at the helm, Heavy Rain is fast becoming one of the most exciting upcoming PS3 exclusives.
The story of Heavy Rain revolves around a serial-killer, named the 'Origami Killer' for his unique calling card - an origami bird left at each murder scene. You control four characters who each encounter the Origami Killer in some fashion, although they will not interact with each other, meaning that playing different characters will not result in retreading the same ground. Only two of the characters have been revealed so far, Norman Jayden, a drug-addicted detective hunting the Origami Killer, and Madison Jade, an insomniac photographer. David Cage has promised that the story will be more 'real' than Fahrenheit, with none of the sci-fi or fantasy elements which eventually overtook that game.
The game will be composed of chapters which last around fifteen minutes, with the game swapping between characters as you progress. Currently, there are more than sixty of these chapters. The 'no game over' concept of Heavy Rain is tied into this chapter concept. If one character dies, then the game simply switches the player's control over to another character in the next chapter, with the story taking into account the previous character's death. However, even if all four characters die, the player doesn't reach a game over but rather a proper game ending, written to provide closure at that point in the story. The developers at Quantic Dream have built this mechanic to give players full control over their own story, advising that there is no 'right' way to play or finish the game, only unique stories that each player can experience.
So far, the gameplay appears to be composed of a lot of context-sensitive commands. Instead of having a HUD, buttons float over objects which you can interact with. The way you interact with objects is also analogue, for instance opening a car door requires you to complete the full motion of turning the handle, as if you only turn it half-way, the door will not open. There's also a CSI-like aspect to the game in the form of the A.R.I. glasses, or Added Reality Interface, which allow you to examine crime scenes and locations in great detail, detecting blood, footprints and even scents in the air. Finally, combat in the game is performed via quicktime events, although they're more advanced than those seen in other games. Essentially, you'll have multiple chances and ways to turn the fight in your favour, so if you miss one button-press, the fight will simply take a different direction and continue, until of course you die. These quicktime sequences are also used for other events, such as injecting Norman with his drug of choice while suffering withdrawl. As for saves, Cage has promised a 'transparent' save system which works in the background to save whenever a noticeable event occurs, so that you won't have to manually manage saves yourself.
Of course, the reason why Heavy Rain is on a lot of gamers' radars is because of its state-of-the-art graphics. The facial detail on some of the characters, Madison in particular, is astonishing, but it's the animation which steals the show. In every scene shown so far, particularly the combat sequences, the animation has been breathtakingly realistic, perfectly flowing as quicktime events branch out and change paths.The game also appears to stay at a reasonably fluid frame-rate, even during the crowded party scenes which Madison has been seen in. From what we've heard of the voice acting, it's ranged from very good to a little iffy.
Sony are anticipating a Q1 2010 release for Heavy Rain, but Quantic Dream have promised to keep gamers in the loop as they reveal information piece by piece. We'll be learning who the third and fourth characters are at Gamescom in Germany and TGS in Tokyo over the course of the year, along with a lot more information, which we'll continue to keep you updated with.