This past week the demo for Heavy Rain finally released, giving those of us with an interest in David Cage's vision a chance to see if we are still interested in his newest offering, releasing next Tuesday, February 23 in North America, with a different region receiving the game every day of the week thereafter.
The demo has three parts to it (four if you wish to include the trailer, with which I was not impressed), and they offer a glimpse at two of the four playable characters. Of particular note is that you may, or may not, wish to go to the options. The only difficulty options are easy or hard, and the demo automatically selects hard.
First you'll play Scott Shelby, a retired private investigator. Navigating an alley serves as your tutorial, which is highly recommended, as the game feels quite different. That is not to say the control scheme is overtly difficult, but it took me a moment to get used to walking and the camera (which can still be a bother, though not critically so--in the demo). You'll learn a few quirks of Shelby's, be able to hear his thoughts, and move to the next portion of the demo.
Shelby is looking for a lead on the Origami Killer, the serial killer who is behind the mystery in Heavy Rain, and thus heads to a previous victims' mother's apartment. The method of conversation is a bit aggravating, as it features floating words keyed to the base four buttons (triangle, square, circle, x). I spent a bit of time just trying to discern all my options. However, while conversation is occurring, you can also often walk around and still interact with the environment. Things don't pause just because you are speaking.
The sequence ends with a quick-paced QTE sequence, the main worrying part about my pre-order of the game (not a fan of QTEs at all). However, it was not as bad as I feared, primarily because I often get button-happy and will press the wrong one in my excitement. Unlike with my recent play of Bayonetta, this did not penalize me as long as I pressed the correct one in the appropriate frame of time--which I managed quite well.
The second person you play is Norman Jayden, an FBI agent. You'll be investigating a crime scene, and have some pretty fascinating tech to do so. Since the first part of the demo already ran you through the basic controls of the game, this one is much more focused on the technology and tricks Jayden has at his behest, and allows you to be more investigative.
After finishing the demo, my thoughts were much more pleased with my decision to pre-order. The QTE sections were more forgiving than to which I am accustomed and the game handles pretty well after being in its world for a bit. While the graphics are impressive, I still found the facial animations to be somewhat stiff at times. Because the graphics are so fine, it became all the more apparent when I wanted more 'acting' from the faces that I was not necessarily receiving. This is not to say it is terrible, and there are moments when it becomes fascinating to watch, but it is not consistent.
If you're on the fence about Heavy Rain, I would most certainly recommend the demo, which I definitely found an engaging experience.