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Hands-on: Heavy Rain introduces Scott Shelby

I don't think I'm being too cynical or jaded when I say that it's hard for me to get legitimately excited for video games anymore. I love playing video games, and I heartily appreciate the good ones -- but the games that fill me with keep-you-up-at-night anticipation are few and far between.

After playing Heavy Rain for the first time on the show floor at PAX, something tells me my slumbers will soon be interrupted by Quantic Dreams' upcoming ... well, for lack of a better term, interactive movie.

The small sliver of gameplay I witnessed was a scene titled "Hassan and Son," where newly announced character Scott Shelby attempts to gain some information about the Origami Killer from his most recent victim's father, Hassan, a convenience store cashier. The conversation doesn't end well for Scott, who retires to the back of the shop to grab an inhaler. As he peruses the aisle, a jittery young man enters the store and holds Hassan up at gunpoint.

It's an instantly intense situation that the player now has to diffuse. The methods of doing so -- even in this single five-minute-long scene -- are extremely plentiful.

A guy who got to play the game before me decided to take an unconventional route when dealing with the armed robber, defying his request to put your arms up (an action you perform by holding down L1 and R1, which you then have to continue to do while facing down the robber), and shouting constant, aggressive threats. His reward was a bullet in the shoulder -- not enough to kill Scott, but likely enough to affect his right arms' performance for the next few weeks.

The player who went after him managed to stay out of the robbers' line of sight. He crept down the aisle towards his assailant, deftly catching a precariously placed box (with a hasty quick-time event), grabbing a bottle off one of the shelves, then, with a stern swing of the SIXAXIS, violently rapping the gunman upside his domepiece.

I attempted to emulate the previous player's actions, but failed to catch the aforementioned box, drawing the ire of the gunman. While keeping my arms above my head, I attempted to calm the robber's nerves, and asked him about his family members. In a beautiful piece of storytelling, the gunman -- who shared his name with me in a moment of vulnerability -- opened up about his daughter, who he realized would be ashamed of his current actions.

He was likely on the brink of walking away peacefully when he caught onto my clever ruse, and turned his attention to the cashier once again. I bull rushed him, and pulled the weapon from his hand (QTE!), threw him to the ground (QTE!), dodged two of his blows (QTE! QTE!) and, with a flick of the controller (QTE!), knocked his degenerate ass out.

What's difficult to understand without actually playing the game is that most of the interaction that takes place in Heavy Rain isn't through quick-time events -- sure, the intense action sequences are primarily composed of QTEs, but this isn't really an action game. It, much like Indigo Prophecy, is something else entirely.

The highlight from my time with the game wasn't the QTE-filled brawl, though that handled well enough, mostly using intuitive context-sensitive analog stick movements. Rather, the takeaway from my time with the game was a conversation with an armed robber about his daughter -- or, to be more specific, the way his aggressive sneer (beautifully rendered, thanks to Quantic's powerful mo-cap technology) dissolved to into a frightened snivel as the conversation drew on. It was a completely unique and exciting experience -- something Heavy Rain appears to be chock-full of.

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