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Heavy Rain

The Origami Killer app?

For a game closeted in so much mystery and intrigue, Quantic Dream has been surprisingly forthcoming about how Heavy Rain works and what it's about. We know that it sees four playable characters - FBI profiler Norman Jayden, private detective Scott Shelby, architect Ethan Mars and journalist Madison Paige - on the trail of The Origami Killer. We know that Ethan's son, Shaun, is kidnapped part way through the game and that, according to the Killer's MO, the player has four days to save him before he turns up drowned on a stretch of wasteland.

But it's still hard to predict exactly how the French developer will proceed, not least because its games - notably Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy - tend to encourage experimentation and present alternative outcomes based on your decisions, but mostly because each section of Heavy Rain that we get to play evades easy classification. Were you to show us the four levels that we've seen so far without the on-screen prompts for input that help guide the player's behaviour, you could probably convince us we were seeing four different but technologically similar games.

The Eurogamer Expo demo highlights the difference by showcasing a pair of scenarios. The first we've already covered in depth - it's Norman Jayden's run-in with Mad Jack. The other was at gamescom in August, but we spoke at greater length about Ethan Mars's night in with his son, so it bears more consideration. It sees Scott Shelby visiting a convenience store to question its owner, Hassan, whose son Reza was one of the Origami Killer's earlier victims.

Quantic Dream's use of multiple camera angles goes beyond gloss - at times it's a vital gameplay feature.

Shelby is another of Quantic Dream's unlikely heroes - a portly forty or fifty-something private detective with a mild, avuncular manner - and Heavy Rain's unusual conversation system invites you to gently quiz Hassan by selecting from interrogation angles that literally swirl around Shelby's head. As the owner refuses to speak about his son, one can decide to sympathise, reveal that Ethan's son is in imminent danger, press forward less elegantly or even leave the store. Across a few playthroughs it becomes clear that there is one outcome - Shelby gets nothing out of the man, but before he can leave he asks if he sells asthma inhalers, and retires to the back of the store to find one.

Once you get to the back of the shop and locate the inhaler, the door jangles and a restless young man enters. He paces around before Hassan inquires whether he is after anything specific. He is - the contents of the cash register. Just as Hassan stubbornly refused to help you with your inquiries, however, so he proves reluctant to fork over his takings, even as the antsy robber waves a gun in his face.

Shelby, meanwhile, creeps around the aisles at your behest. Heavy Rain's movement controls are less obvious in promotional videos that mainly focus on one path of action through a scene, and inevitably stress the on-screen interaction prompts instead, but you're in control throughout, using the left analogue stick to turn Shelby's head and holding the R2 button to move him forward.