Hype is an awkward thing for any game to deal with, and often developers do themselves little favour with the way they talk up their products. The problem we, as consumers, have, is that we’ve been burnt too many times before, been sold on a pitch before the game landed and ended up disappointed, flame war starting husks. Every now and then another game comes along, whispers sweet nothings about change, revolution and grown up gaming and, like the fools we are, we believe them. 2010, however, may well be the year when believing is okay, because 2010 is the year that Heavy Rain comes out.
The new game from the developers of Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy (depending on where you’re from) Quantic Dream, Heavy Rain promises a film noir atmosphere, mature themes and not a whiff of the supernatural. The story, which centres around the titular Origami Killer, is perhaps the most interesting thing about the game.
Four narratives are woven together, and, whereas in traditional videogames the death of a playable character signals a game over screen, in Heavy Rain it alters the events that befall the others.
Even the control system feels new and fresh, and whilst some may accuse the game of being a string of Quick Time Events, the most loathed of all devices (by me, anyway), they’re missing the point. Whilst actions are controlled by responding to onscreen prompts, in Heavy Rain it feels intuitive, and, more importantly, sensible, to be doing so. Plus there’s none of the ‘miss a button, go back to the start of the sequence’ nonsense that blights so many other games. Here, if you miss a press, then the game continues, albeit in a different way. It’s that level of intelligent and thoughtful design that’s making a lot of people excited about Heavy Rain.Why You Should Be Excited
Fahrenheit was an exercise in story telling that stretched the boundaries of the medium we all love, then lost its way and went a bit mental. And, to all intents and purposes, contained scenes of necrophilia. However, it did a lot of good, and some of the seeds that game sowed are bursting into beautiful gaming flowers with Heavy Rain. This isn’t just a new way of playing, it’s a step towards a new way of looking at the medium. Narrative is King, and the archaic schemas of progression that have tied down interactive digital entertainment for so long appear to have been thrown into touch.
The great hype machines of PR-topia may have whirred into action long ago, and it’s easy to get bogged down in the claims and assertions that surround this game like a hyperbolic fog, but all signs are pointing to this being the game that finally breaks videogames as a medium for story telling. The characters are endearing, the tale itself finely crafted over three years of development and the visuals quite frankly breathtaking.
Whereas other games have morality and choice systems that change the end of the game from option A to option B, Heavy Rain looks to have choices that will change the game second to second, the consequences of your action remaining until the whole of the story unfolds. In a world of endless continues, Heavy Rain offers something different, and if the videogame industry isn’t going to get crushed beneath endless clones and copies, then something different is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Heavy Rain is out on February 26th for PS3.