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Heavy Rain

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Heavy Rain is an interactive drama video game developed by Quantic Dream exclusively for the PlayStation 3. The game is directed by Quantic Dream’s founder and CEO David Cage. Heavy Rain’s story is a dramatic thriller modeled after film noir, centred around 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.

Gameplay

Heavy Rain uses a unique control scheme. A trigger button on the PlayStation 3 controller will move the character forward. It will take advantage of the button’s analogue function, allowing the user to control the speed of the character’s movement by pressing harder or softer on the button. The left analogue stick will control the movement of the character’s head and the direction the character moves in relation to where the character is looking. David Cage explains that this frees the movement of the character from the perspective of the camera. The rest of the game is played using a series of context sensitive actions such as picking up a bottle in a grocery store and hitting a robber on the head with it or pressing the “X” button to call the player character’s son, Jason, and quick time events, normally for chase and combat sequences. Players are able to bring up a selection of their character’s current thoughts by holding the L2 button and pressing corresponding buttons to say or do what they’re thinking. These thoughts will sometimes blur, and selecting them at the wrong time will affect the character’s reaction, causing them to say or do something in the wrong way.

Action sequences, such as when the player is being attacked, will be played out as quick time events. Players will be presented with various symbols, requiring them to either press buttons, move the right analogue stick in a certain way, or shake or tilt the controller. Failure to execute these commands take the story along a different path, and certain mistakes will lead to a character’s death. For example, in one scene, Norman Jayden is interrogating a suspect named Mad Jack when he starts to suffer from withdrawal symptoms and button prompts will show up. If he fails to take his drugs, he will be taken to a scenario in which he will have to escape from a car before it is thrown into a crusher, killing him. In scenes like these, a ‘timer’ scene (a portion of the screen that is devoted to show the player how long he or she has until their time runs out, or another event is scripted to occur, which is shown through several different camera angles) is shown at the bottom of the screen, indicating how long the player has to escape from his/her predicament. If a character dies, the game does not end, and play control switches to another character, with the events of the previous character’s death affecting the story.In the event that all four characters die, there is a proper conclusion to the story and the game ends.

Plot

Characters

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 is an architect with a wife and two sons. Two years prior to the main story, his eldest son was killed in a car accident that also left Ethan in a coma. He is now stricken with grief and depressed, separated 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 soon forced to go to extreme lengths to save him. He is voiced by and modelled after Pascal Langdale.
Madison Paige is 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. She is voiced by Judi Beecher, though her likeness and motion capture were provided by Jacqui Ainsley.
Norman Jayden is 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.
Scott Shelby is a retired police officer, currently working as a private investigator. On behalf of the previous victims’ families, he is conducting his own investigation into the Origami Killer. He is voiced by and modelled after Sam Douglas.

Synopsis

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 and his wife have separated, 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. 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 length he is prepared to go 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 affirms 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.

Ending

Ultimately, it is revealed that Shelby is the Origami Killer. While a young child, he and his brother John were playing at a construction site, and John became trapped in a pipe filling with stormwater. Shelby tried to get the help of his drunken father, but he refused, and John eventually died. Years later, Shelby created the trials to try to seek out a father that could do what his own father could not. He is presently using the “private detective” cover story to collect the evidence he had sent to these fathers and destroy it.

The final scenes of the game focus on whether Ethan, Madison, and Jayden, individually, are able to find Shaun in time to rescue him, and to identify Shelby as Killer. The ultimate outcome of the game’s final scenes are dependent on choices and actions the player has made throughout the game; any 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, follows Madison as she travels to visit Leland White, a taxidermist, to interview in connection with the Origami Killer.

As with the normal game, the plot can proceed along several paths, and this synopsis reflects “best” ending. 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.

Development

Heavy Rain was announced at E3 2006, where a tech demo entitled The Casting was presented to the media and general public.

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.

Creation

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.[23] 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.”

The right Republican

The battle to become the world’s most powerful person begins—with small groups of Iowans “caucusing” to choose a Republican nominee for the White House. It is a great opportunity for them. Barack Obama is clearly beatable. No president since Franklin Roosevelt has been re-elected with unemployment as high as it is now; Mr Obama’s approval rating, which tends to translate accurately into vote-share, is down in the mid-40s. Swing states like Florida, Ohio and even Pennsylvania look well within the Republicans’ grasp.

Yet recent polls show the president leading all his rivals: an average of two points ahead of Mitt Romney, eight points over Ron Paul and nine points over Newt Gingrich, according to RealClearPolitics.com. No doubt some rather flawed personalities play a part in that; but so does the notion that something has gone badly wrong with the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Rather than answering the call for a credible right-of-centre, pro-business party to provide independents, including this newspaper, with a choice in November, it is saddling its candidate with a set of ideas that are cranky, extreme and backward-looking.

That matters far beyond this election—and indeed America’s shores. Across the West nations are struggling to reform government. At their best the Republicans have combined a muscular foreign policy with sound economics, individualism and entrepreneurial pragmatism. It is in everybody’s interests that they become champions of such policies again. That is not impossible, but there is a lot of catching up to do.

Please sign on the dotted line

Optimists will point out that the Republicans, no less than the Democrats, tend to flirt with extremes in the primaries, then select an electable moderate (with Mr Romney being the likely winner this time). America is a conservative place; every Republican nominee, including those The Economist has backed in the past, has signed up to pretty uncompromising views on God, gays and guns. But even allowing for that, the party has been dragged further and further to the right. Gone are the days when a smiling Reagan could be forgiven for raising taxes and ignoring abortion once in office. As the Republican base has become ever more detached from the mainstream, its list of unconditional demands has become ever more stringent.

Nowadays, a candidate must believe not just some but all of the following things: that abortion should be illegal in all cases; that gay marriage must be banned even in states that want it; that the 12m illegal immigrants, even those who have lived in America for decades, must all be sent home; that the 46m people who lack health insurance have only themselves to blame; that global warming is a conspiracy; that any form of gun control is unconstitutional; that any form of tax increase must be vetoed, even if the increase is only the cancelling of an expensive and market-distorting perk; that Israel can do no wrong and the “so-called Palestinians”, to use Mr Gingrich’s term, can do no right; that the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and others whose names you do not have to remember should be abolished.

These fatwas explain the rum list of candidates: you either have to be an unelectable extremist who genuinely believes all this, or a dissembler prepared to tie yourself in ever more elaborate knots (the flexible Mr Romney). Several promisingly pragmatic governors, including Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, never even sought the nomination. Jon Huntsman, the closest thing to a moderate in the race (who supports gay marriage and action to combat climate change), is polling in low single figures.

More depressingly, the fatwas have stifled ideas, making the Republican Party the enemy of creative positions it once pioneered. The idea of requiring every American to carry health insurance (thus broadening the insurance pool and reducing costs) originated in the conservative Heritage Foundation as a response to Clinton-care, and was put into practice by then-Governor Romney in Massachusetts. All this Mr Romney has had to disavow, just as Mr Gingrich has had to recant his ideas on climate change, while Rick Perry is still explaining his appalling laxity as governor of Texas in allowing the children of illegal immigrants to receive subsidised college education.

On the economy, where this newspaper has often found the most common ground with the Republicans, the impact has been especially unfortunate. America’s commercial classes are fed up with a president they associate with big government, red tape and class warfare. A Republican could stake out a way to cut the deficit, reform taxes and refashion government. But instead of businesslike pragmatism, there is zealotry. The candidates have made a fetish out of never raising taxes (even when it involves getting rid of loopholes), while mostly ignoring tough decisions about cutting spending on defence or pensions. Such compassionless conservatism (slashing taxes for the rich and expenditure on the poor) comes with little thought as to which bits of government spending are useful. Investing in infrastructure, redesigning public education and maintaining unemployment benefits in the worst downturn since the Depression are hardly acts of communism.

We didn’t leave you; you left us

Elections are decided in the middle. If the Republicans choose an extreme candidate, they can hardly be surprised if independents plump for Mr Obama, or look to a third-party candidate. But there could be two better outcomes for them.

The first would be if Mr Romney secures a quick victory, defies his base and moves firmly to the centre. In theory, there is enough in his record to suggest that he may yet be the chief executive America needs, though such boldness is asking a lot of a man who still seems several vertebrae short of a backbone (John McCain, a generally braver man, flunked it in 2008). The alternative is that the primary race grinds to a stalemate, with neither Mr Romney nor one of his rivals able to secure victory. Then a Bush, Daniels or Christie just might be tempted into the contest. It is a sad commentary that this late in the day “the right Republican” does not even seem to be running yet.

NASCAR THE GAME 2011

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NASCAR THE GAME 2011

Career Mode

Players progress through the grandeur of the NASCAR racing championships – The adrenaline-pumping NASCAR Sprint Cup series. Career mode provides the opportunity to compete at all the real-world NASCAR tracks alongside 42 other NASCAR legends – battling for points, victories, cups, and other race rewards. Drivers perfect their pit-stops, and master their

racing reflexes in order to make ‘The Chase’, the final 10 races towards stardom and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship.

Ferocious Damage and Wrecks

Using the Eutechnyx Damage and Wreck System cars are catapulted into the air, barrel-rolling over one another. Metal twists and tears like cloth, whilst sparks and fragments scatter across the track. Debris that litters the track is actual parts off the car.

The damage system allows all areas of the car to realistically display damage build up, in direct relation to impacts and action throughout the race. Damaged panels react to inertia and vibrate realistically in relation to the car’s velocity..

Pit Stops

Pit stops and NASCAR go hand in hand. Throughout career mode, single player events and online multiplayer*, pit stop strategy and efficiency is a fun and immersive part of the race.

The pit stop sequences in the game mimic that of the real thing. Players witness their crew working efficiently to change all four tyres, refuel and dial out handling deficiencies in the car, all in under 14 seconds. All pit stop animations are fully motion captured from a real NASCAR Sprint Cup team.

Spotter

Spotter feedback informs the player of the drivers in the race that will work with him, to bump draft, block, or slingshot, all in real-time. Invaluable advice from the spotter also alerts the player to any hazards up ahead, opponents closing the gap or attempting to pass, as well as how to react.

The player’s Spotter advises with VO on the areas of the car concerning the team, as well as make real-time, calculated suggestions on the pit strategy.

VO advice is based upon the car’s current fuel levels, tire wear, and the player’s position in the race, in association with the number of laps left. Even the player’s position in the overall standings is taken into account – giving dynamic, informative and invaluable advice to the player.

Online Play

NASCAR The Game 2011 supports online racing, with up to 16 player races and offers players additional modes of gameplay and the chance to increase their online skill rating.

Players can join or create private multiplayer lobbies with ease, utilizing a choice of pre-defined race styles and additional race settings to create the race they want. Pit stops, tire wear, fuel consumption and caution flags can all feature in an online race if the player wishes.

Players have the freedom to race with any of their cars online, any custom paint schemes and any tuning setups. Online play and split-screen also allows players to race as any of their favourite NASCAR drivers.