Heavy Rain's story is a dramatic thriller modeled after film noir, featuring four protagonists involved with the mystery of the Origami Killer, a serial killer who uses extended periods of rainfall to drown his victims. Ethan Mars is a father who is trying to save his son from being the next victim, while investigative journalist Madison Paige, FBI profiler Norman Jayden, and private detective Scott Shelby are each trying to track down clues to the Origami Killer's identity.
The player interacts with the game by performing actions highlighted on screen related to motions on the controller, and in some cases, performing a series of quick time events during fast-paced action sequences. The player's decisions and actions during the game will affect the narrative; the main characters can be killed, and certain actions may lead to different scenes and endings. A playable demo was released on 11 February 2010. The demo was released prior to this date for people who took part in a Four Day Challenge on 5 February 2010. A patch to allow use of the PlayStation Move controller to perform the quick time events was released in September 2010. It won 2010's Game of the Year from CNN and Gaming Union. Heavy Rain also won GameSpy and IGN's 'Best PS3 Game of 2010'.
Heavy Rain is akin to many interactive fiction games, requiring the player to move the character and have him or her interact with the objects or other non-player characters on the scene to progress the story. The game is divided into several scenes, each centering on one of four playable characters. The choices the player makes or the actions performed or not performed will affect later scenes in the game. For example, it is possible that a character dies or becomes detained, and will not be present in a later scene. There is no intermediate "game over" in Heavy Rain; the game will progress to a number of different endings depending on the sum of the player's performance even if all the characters become incapacitated in some manner.</blockquote>
Within most scenes, the player can control the main character by moving them around the environment; they can also hold down a button to see what thoughts are going through the character's mind, and trigger them to hear an internal monologue on that thought. When the player is near an object or another character they can interact with, they will be presented with a context sensitive icon that represents what control they need to do. These controls include pressing a button on the Dualshock controller, moving the analog sticks in a specific manner, or rotating the motion-sensitive controller in a specific way; in the version with PlayStation Move support, further actions based on the Move controllers are also present. These actions may lead to additional actions to fully complete the interaction. Some scenes impose a timer on the player, requiring them to complete the necessary actions in time to avoid the death or incapacity of that character. In other scenes, the player does not have full control of the character but must instead be prepared to respond to these icons in the manner of quick time events, such as during a hand-to-hand fight or while driving frantically on the wrong side of the road; the player does not receive a game over if these events are completed incorrectly, but may possibly alter how future scenes play out.
Additionally, the game includes a difficulty level functionality that can be changed by the user at any point during the game through the menu. While adjusting the level will not alter the storyline of the game directly, a higher difficulty will influence the prompts, for example, requiring more inputs during sequences in order to avoid a failed action.
There are four main playable characters. The player controls one character at a time, generally playing different character between each chapter of the game. The characters were voiced, motion captured and modelled after several actors.
- Ethan Mars: An architect with a wife and two sons. Two years prior to the main story, his elder son dies in a car accident that leaves Ethan in a coma. Now awake, Ethan remains depressed and stricken with grief, and lives alone, estranged from his wife and distant from his other son, Shaun. Ethan soon discovers that Shaun may become the next victim of the Origami Killer, and is forced to go to extreme lengths to save him. He is voiced by and modeled after Pascal Langdale.
- Madison Paige: A photojournalist living alone in the city. Suffering from chronic insomnia, she occasionally checks into motels, as they are the only place she can properly sleep. She eventually finds herself involved in the latest Origami Killer case, conducting her own investigations. Her voice and facial motion capture were done by Judi Beecher, and her likeness and body motion capture were provided by Jacqui Ainsley.
- Scott Shelby: A retired police officer, currently working as a private investigator conducting an investigation into the Origami Killer. He is voiced by and modelled after Sam Douglas.
- Norman Jayden: An FBI profiler sent to support the police force with their investigation into the Origami Killer. Jayden possesses a set of experimental augmented reality glasses called an "Added Reality Interface", or ARI. It allows him to rapidly investigate crime scenes and analyze evidence. He is also struggling with an addiction to the drug triptocaine. He is voiced by and modelled after Leon Ockenden.
The game's prologue opens with Ethan Mars, spending his life with his family. He later loses track of one of his sons, Jason, at a busy mall. Jason is soon found, outside on the street, and Ethan jumps to try to save him from an oncoming car. Jason is killed, while Ethan is injured and falls into a coma for six months. Two years after the accident, Ethan is suffering from depression, a fear of crowds, and blackouts that last for several hours. He is estranged from his wife, and his remaining son, Shaun, is distant with him. While at a park with Shaun, Ethan has another blackout, and wakes to find Shaun missing.
Shaun's disappearance is soon tied to the serial murders of the Origami Killer. The criminal's modus operandi is to abduct a young boy during the rainy fall season, after which their bodies are found several days later in a remote location, drowning being the cause of death, along with an origami animal figure in their hands, and an orchid on their chest. FBI profiler Norman Jayden, having come to assist the police with the Origami Killer, concludes that the child is locked in a location where, after 6 inches of rainfall, their bodies will be completely submerged and die from drowning. They realize that they have less than three days to find Shaun.
Ethan retreats to a motel to avoid the media. He receives a letter that directs him to a locker, and finds a shoebox containing a mobile phone, a handgun, and five origami figures. The phone instructs him to complete a set of trials written on each origami figure to display the lengths he is prepared to go to in order to save Shaun, after which he will receive pieces of a street address. The trials present increasing risk as they proceed, from subjecting himself to physical pain and electrocution, cutting off part of his finger, killing a man, and drinking poison. As he attempts these trials, he meets Madison Paige, who helps him to recover physically and emotionally from the trials. Madison begins her own investigation into who may have arranged the trials.
Jayden, working with Lieutenant Carter Blake, investigate two suspects, but come up empty-handed. Ethan's ex-wife visits the police and informs them of Ethan's blackouts, which lead them to Ethan's psychiatrist. Blake is sure that Ethan is the Origami Killer, while Jayden continues to follow the trail of evidence to confirm otherwise.
During these events, private investigator Scott Shelby begins visiting several of the victims' parents for information, and obtains several items that relate to the Origami Killer. One parent, Lauren Winter, insists on helping him, seeking closure on the matter. They are led astray by a wealthy playboy claiming to be the Killer, and are threatened off the case by his adversarial father.
Late in the game, the player takes on the role of a fifth character, that of the Origami Killer as a child, having lost his twin brother John in an open pipe in a construction yard that was flooding with stormwater and unable to convince his drunken father to come help. This child is revealed to be Scott Sheppard, who after being sent for adoption, changed his name to Scott Shelby. Shelby arranged for many of the trials under the "John Sheppard" name, trying to seek out a father that could do what his own father could not. He used the story of conducting an investigation to collect and destroy the evidence he had sent to the fathers.
The final scenes of the game focus on whether Ethan, Madison, and Jayden, individually, are able to successfully find Shaun in time to rescue him, and identify Scott Shelby as the Origami Killer. The ultimate outcome of the game's final scenes are dependent on choices and actions the player has made throughout the game; three of the four characters may die at some point, or fail in a way that they do not reach Shaun's location before he drowns, or allow Shelby to escape. The details of the epilogue will vary depending on both minor and major events that occur through the game. Generally, a news report giving the status of the Origami Killer case is shown, and the surviving characters' lives beyond the game's events are shown.
Heavy Rain Chronicles
The Chronicles are prequel segments that take place during the initial murders of the Origami Killer. The first one, The Taxidermist was released on 1 April 2010 available for purchase from the PlayStation Network. It was also included with the original game when pre-purchased from select retailers.
In July 2010 David Cage of Quantic Dream announced that the Chronicles downloadable content was put on indefinite hiatus due to Heavy Rain: Move Edition taking up the production time allocated to the Chronicles and that after completion of the Move Edition, development would probably move on.
The first episode, The Taxidermist follows Madison as she travels to visit Leland White, a taxidermist, to interview in connection with the Origami Killer. Finding his house empty, Madison breaks into the house and discovers an upstairs area containing several female corpses, stuffed and posed in various positions, including a freshly killed cadaver in a bathroom. After collecting information, Madison hears Leland's car return, and hides in various rooms in the house before escaping and reporting the killer to the police, though he is revealed to not be the Origami Killer.
Heavy Rain was announced at E3 2006, where a tech demo entitled The Casting was presented to the media and general public, with a trailer made by Jake Parkinson and Sergen Baldwin of Preston, England. The graphical user interface of Heavy Rain was created with the middleware Menus Master by Omegame. The software was also used for Jayden's ARI glasses, placing a 3D interface within the game world. Game physics, clothing and hair simulation are made available with Havok Physics and Havok Cloth.
Heavy Rain was originally planned to be released also for the PC and to use Ageia, with two separate versions of the game to handle the presence or lack of an appropriate physics processing unit on the computer. However, the game became a PlayStation 3 exclusive and the PhysX engine was replaced by the Havok engine.
Director David Cage described Heavy Rain as "a very dark film noir thriller with mature themes" without any supernatural elements, and that "the real message of the game is about how far you're willing to go to save someone you love."
In an interview with Belgian magazine Chief in 2008, David Cage gave a brief overview of Heavy Rain's narrative and ambitions. A translation was then made on Kotaku, as follows:
"Heavy Rain is about normal people who have landed in extraordinary situations. I wanted a much more personal story. The first thing that came to my mind, as a father of two little boys, was that the main theme should simply be a father's love for his son. This is not a game about saving the princess or the world. Its [sic] purely about a father's love. The main story will revolve around four different characters, and we're putting the spotlight on their perceptions. The question 'what is good and what is evil' is the key here, that will be just a matter of viewpoint...I believe heavily in moral choices, I'm going to use them A LOT. They're not about being good or bad, but about finding the right balance."
In the same interview, Cage commented on the setting by saying "I don't want to do a big free-roaming city like GTA, because the flow of the story will then be hard to control. Nevertheless, I do want to incorporate big sets, with a crowd, heavy populated areas like a mall and a subway are going to be in there. Of course, the gameplay has got to make use of that aspect too." While the city remains nameless within the game, it is strongly influenced by the environs of Philadelphia. Cage cited his like of M. Night Shyamalan movies, several which are situated in Philadelphia. Working with a scouting agent that assisted on the Philadelphia film, Cage and his team visited the city, taking in many of the poorer neighborhoods and meeting with the residents there to capture the despair, poverty, and fear they saw.
The main characters are looking for a serial killer known as The Origami Killer.
Cage has also stated that “I would like people to play it once…because that’s life. Life you can only play once...I would like people to have this experience that way.” He goes on to say, "I'm fine with [reloading to avoid a bad result], but the right way to enjoy Heavy Rain is really to make one thing because it's going to be your story. It's going to be unique to you. It's really the story you decided to write...I think playing it several times is also a way to kill the magic of it."
In early 2007, a poster of Heavy Rain appeared on Quantic Dream's under-construction website. Shown on the left, it included The Origami Killer as a subtitle to Heavy Rain, which is not present on the game's cover.
The Casting technology demo
The Casting, shown at E3 2006, is a non-playable, real-time 3D prototype technology demo. It was running on a non-final PlayStation 3 console development kit in 720p display resolution. The demo showcased a complex virtual actor (hence the other name, "Virtual Actor Demo"), highlighting numerous expressions and motion-captured animations. It also showed various technical features of the game engine, all embedded in a brief, emotional story. However, the plot of the tech demo has nothing to do with the story of Heavy Rain itself. The story was written and directed by David Cage, and although he chose not to credit himself in the demo, his voice can be heard playing the scene's director. The virtual actor in the demo is based on French American actress Aurélie Bancilhon, and she was eventually placed in the game as the character Lauren Winter. Quantic Dream highlighted that the technology demo is just a sample of things achievable in a limited amount of time, and that during the making of the prototype, they still were in the middle of research and development efforts for the game itself. A brand new demo featuring the character Madison Paige was showcased at the SCEE Press Conference at the games convention in Leipzig. The demo was titled "The Taxidermist", which showcased the in-game engine and quick time event gameplay elements, as found in Quantic Dream's previous title Fahrenheit. The demo also confirmed a 2009 release date. The whole video presentation is now available online.
From a technological standpoint, notable features of The Casting include full body and facial motion capture, real-time tears and wrinkles on the face, advanced skin shaders, and some advanced rendering features, such as depth of field, spherical harmonics, auto exposure and high dynamic range rendering. The technology enables animations of pupil dilation, tongue, eyes, fingers, and dynamic hair with physics. The game engine also supports real-time post-processing, with which E3 attendees could interact at the event. Hair physics is achieved by the use of Havok. Facial motion capture was recorded using Vicon MX40 cameras and system, and was enhanced with a muscle system.
At the 2009 Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, Quantic Dream released a new trailer and introduced two new characters, Scott Shelby, a private detective, and Ethan Mars, an architect. They had also some small playable demos for the audience, which showed Ethan and Scott. For the German television show MTV Game One Co-CEO Guillaume de Fondaumière gave a twenty-five minute interview, introducing and promoting the game, but also talking about the games industry as a whole.
The special edition of Heavy Rain, released in Europe and Australia, contained a PlayStation Network voucher for the first episode of downloadable content, Chronicle 1 – The Taxidermist, the official soundtrack and a dynamic XMB theme. Though the PlayStation Network voucher was supposed to contain the Heavy Rain soundtrack it was not available for download on the day of the game's release, but it was added on 4 March 2010.
Four Days Challenge
Starting on 26 January 2010, people were able to take part in the Four Days Challenge, which was an online search for the Origami Killer. People had to pool ideas and clues in order to find the Origami Killer. When European players registered, they gained access to an exclusive in-game Playstation Home T-shirt. U.S. players were given the chance to get a shirt during the Four Days Challenge. If Week 2 of the challenge was completed successfully, users received a code to play the demo early. If Week 4 of the challenge was completed successfully, users received a code for a free Heavy Rain dynamic theme.
On 11 February 2010, a demo with a tutorial, two in-game levels, and a trailer was released internationally. Prior to the release, it was privately available via redemption code to anyone who solved Week 2 of the Four Days Challenge. The demo follows both Private Detective Scott Shelby and FBI Special Agent Norman Jayden as they individually try to track down the Origami Killer through conventional interrogation of witnesses and crime scene investigation. The demo's opening features a tutorial not in the final game to get the player acquainted with the control scheme before starting the first scene. While no plot points are revealed, the demo sees Shelby visit a sleazy hotel to meet and question a call-girl named Lauren Winter, whose son Johnny was a victim of the Origami Killer. Jayden appears at a crime scene in search of clues in his investigation of the killer in a segment of the demo as well. The player is introduced to Lt. Carter Blake. The "To Catch a Killer" trailer accompanies the demo, containing some previously unseen footage from the game, as well as a recap of the four main characters, along with their possible motivations.
A prequel, Heavy Rain: The Taxidermist, originally planned to be released as downloadable content at the same time as the full game, was re-scheduled to be released on 4 March in North America. In Europe however it was released on the launch date with the Special Edition of the game, but due to issues with the soundtrack on PSN, customers had been advised to wait until 4 March before redeeming their code. It became available for the general public on 1 April 2010.
PlayStation Move support
At the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo during Sony's presentation on their new motion-sensing PlayStation Move technology, it was revealed that Heavy Rain would be updated to use Move controller. The patch adding Move support was released on 22 September 2010.
Quantic Dream designer David Cage had said in a Gamescom 2009 interview that a sequel would be unlikely:
"I’m not sure there will be a Heavy Rain 2. I’m not a guy who does sequels, because, when you work on a story, you have something to say. It’s a response to a moment of your life and what you want to express. There are so many great stories to tell. That’s why just doing sequels of sequels of sequels doesn’t make any sense."
Heavy Rain has been met with positive reviews. The UK Official PlayStation Magazine scored the game 9 out of 10, with reviewer Tim Clark saying; "I'm convinced it's one of the freshest, most exciting, and even important games on PS3 so far." The magazine praised the effective controls of the game, as well as the pacing of the story, which the reviewer described as key, and perfectly designed to create an "exhausting, exhilarating, and, crucially, involving" experience. He concluded by saying that, "Certainly there's nothing quite like it on PS3, or indeed any other system. Put gaming conventions aside, go in with no expectations other than this is something new and massively good-looking, and you'll be rewarded with a unique experience that lurches between genius and madness, manages to be genuinely emotional, and that you'll be bursting to talk about with your friends." Eurogamer France also gave the game a score of 9 out of 10, saying, "The game from Quantic Dream has touched me, unquestionably, as a player because it symbolizes today the culmination of a genre halfway between cinema and video game that has always seemed interesting in its intentions but rarely conclusive." The reviewer concludes by saying, "A high score, therefore, to welcome risk-taking that represents this type of production today."
British magazine GamesMaster gave the game a score of 91%, complimenting Heavy Rain for being 'incredibly original and compelling.', "The atmosphere is incredible - full of driving rain (which becomes central to the plot), fizzing neon lights, dank apartments and warehouses. It's a dark noir game, not a bright adventure." The title was also given a GamesMaster Gold Award. IGN's Chris Roper scored the game 9.0/10 commenting specifically on the game's "fantastic story that's one of the best in gaming." However, he pointed out that the game's beginning is very slow, and might turn off some players.
GameZone's Michael Lafferty, gave the game a 9.5/10, saying "There are some flaws, but taken as a package, Heavy Rain is a remarkable achievement in gaming that creates an interactive experience that goes beyond the pages of a good novel or film noir. This is a game that needs to be experienced."
Winda Benedetti wrote an article about the maturity of Heavy Rain as well as Remedy Entertainment's psychological action thriller Alan Wake for MSNBC, praising both titles for being "emotionally powerful" as well as having "... said goodbye to the tired alien invasions and over-the-top fantasy stories so often found in video games. Instead, they peer into the dark reaches of the very real human heart to deliver stories that are thrilling, chilling and utterly absorbing."
Emily Short, an award-winning interactive fiction writer, was generally pleased with the experimental gameplay of Heavy Rain, but found the game's story to be full of "stock bits" borrowed from films, leaving inconsistent characterization and gaps and poor pacing in its plot. She cited the disconnection between the motivation of the specific character and the motivation of the game's player, such as when Ethan is challenged to navigate a maze of wires charged with electricity; Ethan the character is guided to finish it regardless of ability, but the player is given the option to abandon the challenge if they cannot do it. She also considered that the characterization does not follow the game's claim of how choices matter, pointing out that the reveal of the identity of the Origami Killer was a "betrayal" of the way she had played the game to that point.
Ian Bogost, a video game designer and Assistant Professor of Literature Communication and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, counters claims made by Quantic Dream and other gaming media that Heavy Rain qualifies as an "interactive film". Bogost notes that "film is editing", in that filmmakers put together images and scenes in a compilation to evoke certain feelings and emotions, and to convey story and plot in a limited amount of time. However, while Heavy Rain strives for this, it retains elements of a video game, and Bogost considers the game to have a "rejection of editing in favor of prolonging"; examples given are the need to have the player provide interaction for most of the characters' motion, or having to control and watch Ethan throughout his search for Jason at the crowded mall. Bogost opined that this "prolonging" may actually be beneficial to the video game medium, as several scenes from the game's third chapter, during which Ethan runs through a routine schedule of homework, dinner, and bedtime for Shaun, allow for periods where the game waits for the player to interact with it; during these periods, simply by using mise en scène images of the house and characters, invite the player to think about what the characters are experiencing, "to linger on the mundane instead of cutting to the consequential".
Heavy Rain ranked as the tenth best-selling game in North America for February 2010. According to NPD Group sales information, the game sold 219,300 units in the region that month. Heavy Rain entered Japanese sales charts at number six, selling 27,000 units according to Media Create.
In weeks 1 - 15 in 2010 Heavy Rain outsold all Xbox 360 games within the EU, ranking it number 10 in European software sales for consoles. Heavy Rain debuted at number one on the UK sales charts for the week ending 27 February 2010, with higher sales than all multiplatform and single platform releases. Heavy Rain has sold over 1 million copies worldwide, surpassing the developer's initial pre-release estimates of 200,000 — 300,000. David Cage now expects the game to sell an additional 500,000 copies by the end of 2010. Ag GDC 2011, Cage announced the title has sold over 2 million copies.
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