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Impressions: Heavy Rain

Jem Alexander

Heavy Rain is not your typical game -- the experience promises to change and morph throughout the different scenes. While the Taxidermist and Mad Jack scenes are reasonably similar, with our protagonists infiltrating areas for clues and then making their escape after being discovered, the new scene shown off at E3 by Quantic Dream's David Cage illustrated how situations and gameplay styles will differ throughout.

This new scene does exactly what it says on the tin. Named "Madison At The Blue Lagoon," it follows the exploits of our female protagonist, Madison -- who you may recognise from the Taxidermist scene -- at a busy club called the Blue Lagoon. Madison has gone in search of the club's owner, Paco, in order to get new information regarding something. As usual, Quantic Dream's David Cage is appropriately cagey about giving away too much of the story.

In contrast to the other scenes we've been shown, which have involved only a couple of characters at a time, the Blue Lagoon is packed full of people. Madison weaves through them naturally and realistically as she makes her way through the dancing throng towards the bar. This game's graphical fidelity tends to range from "incredible" to "a bit iffy," but this scene looked great, despite the relatively large number of characters on screen. With a Q1 2010 release date and with the game 70% done, there's still time to iron out any graphical kinks.

Gallery: Heavy Rain | 79 Photos

This scene seemed longer than the Mad Jack level, so we won't guide you step by step through Madison's adventure at the Blue Lagoon. We'll gloss over the fact that Madison is required to tart herself up and do a sexy dance in order to get invited into the VIP area where Paco is hiding behind his security goon. And that there are sections where a steady hand is required to put on lipstick, eyeliner and mascara -- which left us wondering whether a particularly heavy handed player could leave the poor girl blinded for the rest of the game.

It may sound like a Charm Girls Club title at this point, but this is just a prelude to a far more intense and creepy part of the scene, even moreso than previous levels that have been shown. As Madison and Paco head upstairs to an empty room to "talk in private," it's clear things are about to get unsettling. David Cage verbalized what everyone in the audience was thinking: "Be careful. I want information, but I don't want to get raped." A philosophy worth living by.

Once the two characters are alone we learn that Madison has a tiny firearm in her handbag, so our worry lessens. That is, until Paco beckons her away from her handbag which she just put down on a nearby chair. A dumb move and one that has Madison quickly seeking an exit. Paco's not having any of it, however, and pulls a gun of his own, demanding she strip for him.

So begins Heavy Rain's stripping miniscene. It's pretty creepy and intense, but that doesn't mean we don't expect to see a lot of you playing it through to the end, resulting in Madison's potential rape and death. As Madison dances for the sinister, lip-licking Paco her mind is cloudy and erratic -- thanks to the stress -- so reading her thoughts as they zoom around her head is much harder than normal. Choose the wrong one and Paco will soon request another piece of clothing be removed.

Cage took it as far as is appropriate for what was technically a business meeting, with Madison down to her bra and panties, before selecting the correct option and knocking Paco out with a nearby lamp and tying him to a chair. As we describe it, it sounds more like a movie than a game, but there's input for every option or decision that the player makes. Be it a timed button press, a controlled push of the right analogue stick or using the SIXAXIS motion controls.

With Paco where she wants him, Madison proceeds to interrogate him. Of course, he won't co-operate, so she takes ownership of his most valued possession -- his genitals. Applying some crushing pressure -- "you don't have the whole experience, because it vibrates" the demonstrator told the audience -- she begins to get some information out of him, but not before one of his goons knocks on the door to check everything's ok.

Madisons thoughts are less erratic now and fake sex noises see that the guard gives them some privacy. In case you haven't noticed, this is not a game for children. It's not handled immaturely, either. This is an adult story told in a grown-up way to a post-pubescent audience.

The demo ended around then, but David Cage took some time to answer a few questions. He reiterated that the game is completely grounded in reality, unlike Indigo Prophecy, and that the only thing in the game that doesn't exist in real life (yet) is the ARI gadget used in the Mad Jack scene. The game contains over sixty scenes, each around 15 minutes or so, though depending if your characters die or not, you may see more or less.

Cage also said that he would love for Heavy Rain to be a storytelling platform, which makes sense to us. He can see it being used to tell any story in any genre. We're not sure how plausible that is from a licensing standpoint -- or whether Sony would allow others access to the engine -- but it's definitely something we'd like to see. Before that, though, we're really looking forward to the game itself finally hitting shelves early next year. Lecherous club owners, and all.

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