Quantic Dream's eagerly awaited interactive drama Heavy Rain finally launches next week. We've written quite a few words about the PS3 exclusive already, including Tom's glowing 9/10 review, so we'll assume it needs no introduction other than to say that it's one of the most important, interesting and talked-about releases of 2010.
The imminent launch brought about one last opportunity to talk to the game's writer and director David Cage earlier this week. We sat down with the passionate French auteur for an actual fireside chat - in a cosy room lined with leather-bound books in a discreetly upmarket central London hotel - and talked about the reaction to the game so far, his own feelings about it now that it's finished, and what his next challenge will be.
Eurogamer: The first reviews of Heavy Rain have appeared now. How do you feel about the critical reaction to the game so far?
David Cage: I think they're very positive, I'm really pleased with most of the things I've read. I was expecting more polarised reactions and probably with a different ratio, I was expecting some kind of 50/50 between the people believing this is great, and the people saying "why doesn't the hero have a gun". And in fact this is absolutely not what I got, I got 90/10 if I had to estimate, with an average score of 9 out of 10, which I'm really pleased with... I believe that it's a game that allows journalists to be very good, also, in how they write...
Eurogamer: Well, it is nice for us to have something different to write about.
David Cage: Exactly. Because when you write about another first-person shooter all you can say is how great it looks, how many enemies, how many levels, etcetera. But here with Heavy Rain all journalists had to analyse the medium and take a position. And I think that was something really interesting to see and to hear.
Eurogamer: What's been your favourite response to the game so far?
David Cage: Honestly, there are many. I loved the Eurogamer preview, from Tom Bramwell. It was something that really surprised me, because the game led him to tell something about his own life. I thought that was so unique, so different, I mean how many games can lead you to talk about something you've lived in your personal life? Very few. I thought it shows that the game can resonate with people.
But I also loved another review from the Official PlayStation Magazine in the US, they wrote a fantastic review giving five out of five to the game, and during the whole review they didn't talk about the technology, about the graphics, about the animation or anything, they just talked about what they felt when they played. This is exactly what I wanted to read, forget about the technology, these are just tools. No-one cares. What is important is what the game achieves emotionally or not.
Eurogamer: Is there a particular scene in the game that you're most proud of?
David Cage: There's a scene that I really like, it's the one called Father and Son. It's the one that Tom mentioned in his preview. Because I think that this is really an anti-videogame scene. There is nothing spectacular happening, you don't kill anybody, you almost don't do anything, and it's about a very depressing situation.
And I think that you really feel how depressing it is, and you feel the barrier between the father and his son who can't really communicate - and I think that you don't play as if you want to be "good" or "bad", you just play as if you want to be this father trying to be friends again with his son and to do something with him, or as if you want to be this father who just, you know, carries the weight of the guilt and cannot communicate any more.
Eurogamer: I was surprised by a few things about that scene. One was how depressing it was, which is not something I'm used to from a game. The other was that it came quite early on - and that the game starts slowly with a few mundane, domestic scenes like that. Was that a deliberate choice?
David Cage: It was. I know it was a very surprising choice and the very few bad reviews we've got remain stuck on these scenes, saying "oh, I don't want to drink orange juice in a game". I don't think that Heavy Rain is exactly about drinking orange juice, but it was very interesting to see that this is what these people remembered from their experience.
That was a bet. It would have been easier to start with a spectacular scene with explosions and stuff...
Eurogamer: Don't you think it might have won over sceptics a little more easily if you'd done that?
David Cage: It's true, it's true, it was not an easy choice, and honestly we discussed this internally at Quantic Dream and also with Sony, because we thought that some people might say, "I'm not interested in this game, it's way too slow." But it was also a message to say, look you're used to these games where you need to press buttons like this, like a madman, and just making things as quickly as possible - this game takes its time. But invest the time and you will be rewarded, because you will be emotionally involved in this experience.