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Is the Heavy Rain Mall Scene Uncanny-Valley-Tastic?

| 29 Jan 2010 18:06

Does this clip of the "Mall Scene" in the upcoming Heavy Rain move you emotionally, or does it move you straight into the Uncanny Valley?

WARNING: SEVERE SPOILERS

If nothing else, you really need to give Quantic Dream credit for trying something new with Heavy Rain. Rather than reducing the "Mature" rating to stand for "blood, guns, and tits," Heavy Rain is trying to present gamers with genuinely adult scenarios - as in, the pressures of taking care of one's family, or the sorrow of loss.

It's a remarkably ambitious goal, and one the Quantic team should be applauded for. But it's also dependent upon the characters being easy to relate to and likable - and for Quantic's tech to make them seem genuinely human. Heavy Rain is one of the best-looking games we've ever seen in still shots, but... well, I don't want to influence anyone's judgment.

Go ahead and watch the video above, which stars architect Ethan Mars as he takes his family to the mall - it's a direct prelude to the really depressing gameplay demo from last October, which means that the video will contain significant spoilers. Watch the video now, before you read any further and I start talking about it.

Did you watch it yet? No? Why are you still reading this? Go watch it!

Seriously, I can wait. I've got all day, guys - I'm just words on a computer screen. Watch the damn video; I don't want to influence your opinion before you view.

Okay, you watched it? Really? I'm trusting you, here.

Great - glad to hear it. Now that you watched it, we can talk about it:

Honestly, it doesn't do it for me. I think that it's an absolutely brilliant idea, and the gameplay looks like it works fantastically and completely revolutionizes how we think of mere "quicktime events." But this is so very movielike - intentionally so - that I can't help comparing it to a movie in my mind. And there, it starts to fall apart. These characters are squarely in the middle of the Uncanny Valley for me - their facial expressions and movements are so close to being human but just far enough to feel weird. The voice acting isn't as great as I'd like it to be, either (though it's better than some other clips we've seen of the game...)

Maybe it's just me, and maybe it's that my work computer means that I need to watch this in SD rather than HD - does it look any better when blown up?

Heavy Rain is such a magnificent idea and I want it to work so badly. But if the entirety of the game is like this, I can't see it being nearly as immersive as it needs to be to sell itself to gamers.

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