An unfunny bus ride

During my active time as a video game editor, I have followed and accompanied no video game release more closely than Heavy Rain for the PlayStation 3. The game from Quantic Dream had impressed me from the moment it was announced. Probably because the previously released Indigo Prophecy had an enormous impact on me: This innovative gaming experience, this interactive thriller with its perspective shifts, its fresh narrative and its cinematic approach, had really blown me away a few years earlier. Heavy Rain, as promised by chief developer David Cage, was supposed to take all of that to an even higher level. I was there when the game was announced at the Games Convention 2008, was allowed to take part in a small press presentation at gamescom 2009 – including an hour-long one-on-one appointment and interview with David Cage – and was invited to another press event in Frankfurt at the end of 2009, which took place in a specially branded Heavy Rain bus.

And my article output at the time was huge: two interviews with David Cage, two exclusive previews, an FAQ that answered the most important questions about the title, and countless news articles. Sony’s German PR department liked my coverage – and they liked my excitement for the game. So much that I received the final version of the game some time before the official launch. My review was allowed to be published before Heavy Rain was released – only three other German-language video game magazines were allowed to as well.

As a special treat, I was invited to the premiere party of Heavy Rain in Paris with the other German press representatives. Joint journey with the already mentioned Heavy Rain bus. Chic hotel in best Paris location. Premiere party with red carpet in a French cinema – including dinner with David Cage, Terry Gilliam (the Monty Python-Terry!) and the representatives of the German Sony PR. It could have all been quite nice, but unfortunately there was one small problem: Heavy Rain was really bad.

That’s what I wrote in my review. With my 60 percent rating, I was almost 30 percent below the – up to this point handpicked – rating average of the national and international video game press. I really didn’t expect Heavy Rain to be a weak game with major story flaws. Just as little as Sony’s German PR department had expected a review with a 60 percent rating. These first reviews were published on the day before we left for Paris. We took the branded Heavy Rain bus, which was filled with me, the other press representatives from Germany and the staff of Sony’s German PR department – including their Head of PR. I would describe the mood during the five-hour drive there towards me as “reserved”. Well, of all the possible video game magazines, I was chosen to do a pre-release test, and the PR department of each country had to report “their” national ratings to the people in charge at Sony UK. No doubt there were some critical questions why the German PR department had chosen me out of all possible reviewers. At the premiere party in the cinema, text excerpts and individual quotes from the reviews published so far were projected on the walls – I hadn’t really provided any useful quotes in my review for this or other marketing campaigns: “Even if David Cage likes to see himself as a writer, director and director, he provides proof here that in Hollywood he wouldn’t even play in the C league of film directors.” Now that really didn’t lend itself to being a poster child for the walls of a premiere party. “Then the game gets thick horn-rimmed glasses and squints from now on borderline deceptively through the environment […]”, also seems rather unsuitable for advertising, even when read several times.

The premiere party was still nice. I drank a lot. Mainly alone. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to set the alarm clock when returning to the hotel at night and not only missed the agreed interview appointments in the hotel lobby the next morning, but was also still in bed during the agreed bus departure time. Fortunately, a member of Sony’s German PR team knocked (hammered) on my door long enough for me to wake up at some point and catch the bus in time. In time, because the Heavy Rain bus had been waiting for me outside the hotel for over an hour. Filled with me, the other press representatives from Germany and the staff of the German Sony PR – including their Head of PR. I would describe the mood towards me during the five-hour drive back as “reserved”.

Heavy Rain was released in 2010 for the PlayStation 3, but has now also been released as a remastered version for the PlayStation 4 and PC – in a bundle with Beyond: Two Souls, which is also not very convincing. If you want to get an insight into Quantic Dream’s video game philosophy, you should rather go for Indigo Prophecy or take a look at their latest game Detroit: Become Human.

This post is also available in: German