Heavy Rain

The weather forecast.

Normally, when presenting their games to the press, game developers try to explain them as fully and as best they can. They choose representative sections to demo and strive to get their vision for the whole project across in interviews. David Cage likes to do things differently.

The first time he showed Heavy Rain - the "Taxidermist" demo at last year's Leipzig Games Convention - he explained that what we were seeing wouldn't appear in the game itself. The second time journalists were summoned before the French writer-director and head of the Quantic Dream studio, he went one further: he didn't actually show anything at all.

This third time, he's got nowhere to hide, or so you'd think. Quantic has brought alpha code of a scene that will appear in the PS3 interactive drama, and we're even being allowed to play it ourselves - but Cage isn't done playing cat-and-mouse. It's the first of four scenes he's going to show over the next few months, he says, each one so different that it's going to make you doubt what Heavy Rain actually is. Beware of jumping to conclusions, he warns, because they'll be false. We're beginning to think that he's enjoying this.

"It's difficult to understand, don't worry, that's normal, but the more scenes we show, probably the more lost you'll be," Cage says in his light, unassuming tone. "We'll show you things that are really, really different from what you've just seen. And that's going to be a pleasure."

On that we have to agree. What we learn and experience of Heavy Rain at this preview - quite a lot, in fact, despite Cage's coyness - doesn't do anything to change the impression that it's the most interesting game of this year. We await a chance to see the next scene at E3 with as much excitement as anything else at the show.

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The characters are realistic, but the backgrounds almost painterly.

The first thing we learn is that Heavy Rain will have four lead characters, and you'll play through their scenes in turn as you move chronologically through the events of four days. Each will have a different angle on the story, and we'll be introduced to them all in the coming previews. This time, we get to meet FBI profiler Norman Jayden.

Jayden is a young forensics and profiling expert working on the case of the Origami Killer, a serial killer responsible for a series of murders on the east coast of the US. The police have been working the case for months, but have no suspects. Jayden is professional, methodical, clever, obsessive... and a drug addict, slave to a pharmaceutical called Triptocaine. Players will need to manage his addiction, taking the drug to retain Jayden's self-control at key moments, but risking deeper addiction as they do so.

In the only hint of science-fiction we've seen in the game, Jayden uses a high-tech glove-and-glasses device called ARI - "Added Reality Interface", a Pentagon prototype - as an investigative tool to look for clues in his surroundings. It turns him into a one-man mobile CSI lab, detecting fingerprints, DNA and blood traces, and highlighting them in the environment, unlocking clues. It can also be used as a virtual reality interface, re-skinning his surroundings and providing Quantic with a visual tool for out-of-scene investigation and storytelling.

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