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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”