Penned as an interactive drama from developer Quantic Dream, Heavy Rain is a film-like experience translated into game form. Centered on an emotional journey into the world of a relentless killer, Heavy Rain challenges the player to give in to the narrative, and play with emotion and not just skill. With no right or wrong, path, Heavy Rain is every bit the “interactive drama” Quantic said it would be. Now, “How far are you willing to go, to save the one you love?”
Right from the get-go, Heavy Rain isn’t going to be for everyone. The only way to know if Heavy Rain is for is you, is to get your hands on the controller. The "interactive drama" formula of storytelling is refreshing and different than your normal adventure games. Compared to everything else currently on the market, Heavy Rain is an original, and something fans of "new" gaming experiences should check out. The last console game to come close to the "interactive story" tag-line is Quantic Dream’s own 'Indigo Prophecy' (2005), and compared to Indigo, Heavy Rain seems light years ahead. It is safe to say, all those who enjoyed Indigo, will love Quantic’s progression in Heavy Rain.
If you are caught up in the emotional rollercoaster that is Heavy Rain, then your vedict will be easy, you will love it! The game truly makes you care about its characters as it bounces back and forth among perspectives, connecting for that all important final chapter. Really, Heavy Rain has more in common with films than it does games. The game mechanics actually fall behind the story being told on the screen, and no matter what you thought of this concept before playing Heavy Rain, it will change. Heavy Rain does an outstanding job making each game feel unique with its dyanamic approach to storytelling. No doubt, Heavy Rain is one of the best story-driven gaming experiences you can have.
QTE – You’ll Never Be The Same
As you can tell we are fans of the story (which I will get into later), but thre is a game here too. The gameplay in Heavy Rain relays heavily on QTE (Quick-timed events) that flash controller instructions to corresponding with the characters actions. However, this is no ordinary ‘God of War’ QTE experience. In Heavy Rain the whole controller will be used, this includes use of the Sixxaxis motion controls that goes beyond plain button presses. In Heavy Rain you will be jerking the controller around in directions while holding buttons while controlling the analog stick(s). The controls are fluid and are perfectly matched up with on screen action. The subtitles that Quantic Dream captured is outstanding and the controller actually feels like an extension of the characters, something that has not be done to this extent in the past.
To embellish the creativeness of the standard QTE feature, a few interesting techniques have been included into the game to further the immersion. When you character is nervous, the icons will be blurry and garbled, and will move a lot faster to give a sense of anxiety. This is a wild effect, especially when you factor in the increasing intensity of the on-screen action and the musical score that tenses up into a shrilling crescendo. Not only that, but the controls add another layer of struggle and immersion. This was a nice surprise, as I didn't expect Quantic to do such as smashing job, or advancing past simple circle and square button presses.
No Right or Wrong, Just Choice
Another interesting fact about Heavy Rain’s QTE events is that it never fails you like other games. In any other game, failure to hit all the buttons on time usually comes with a death screen or "game over" being flashed on the screen. In Heavy Rain, you will role with the punches, missed presses and all. This is another way Heavy Rain builds its dynamics and adapts the story as you progress. In my first play through, I totally messed up the buttons and had to miss a big chunk of the plot, disappointed I decided not to replay the game and take it for what it is... and that is the beauty of Heavy Rain. Fail, or succeed, the experience marches on to create your own original tale.
Concerning the plot, I am not going to get to deep into the fiction behind Heavy Rain. Mainly because I don’t want to spoil the story, and I feel it's better when you don't know too much about the story. In my first play through I really did not know what to expect, except that this was billed a crime-drama game-- and there is some scourge labeled, the origami killer. That was it, and really that was all I needed to know. Having a clear slate will give you the most immersion possible, but don’t discount Heavy Rain if you know what it is about, or some of the juicer tid-bits in the puzzle-like plot. The best advise I could a new player is to play through the game once without replaying chapters, giving into the experience. Like 'Tyler Durden' said, "Let the chip fall where they may", immerse yourself in Heavy Rain.
Four to Catch one?
One aspect I should mention about the plotline, is that you will be playing as four different characters. The game springs back in forth among these characters who are unknown to one another, but joined by a common thread, the Origami Killer. Having four unique perspectives in one story is interesting, and is not as flustering as it sounds. The level of writing makes this possible and you will never be bored by one single perspective, actually, it is the exact opposite. Of course, each individual will enjoy certain characters more than others will, but as a whole, the game works. Interesting enough each character in Heavy Rain can permanently die, but that does not mean the game is over. Heavy Rain just keeps on rolling with or without the deceased character.
First Time was a Nightmare
Depending on how you play the game, you can come across several different ending scenarios that reflect in each character differently. Like I mentioned above, my first play through was a nightmare, and I was actually shocked at the ending. In disbelief, I headed back into the game for a second run, and I have to admit, some of the “wow” factor was gone, but it was still interesting and engrossing to go back and try things a little differently. Heavy Rain probably won’t stand as strong after the fourth or fifth play through, but you can get a solid 1-3 runs out of it.
This is How To Create Emotion
Creating emotions is one of the most challenging aspects a game developer can deal with when making a game. Having the player connect with a game on an emotional level is a hard trait to accomplish. With Heavy Rain, I believe Quantic Dream has done this by making each choice feel important. This moves from the simplest of actions like getting a teddy bear so you son can sleep easier, to more challenging choices, in which you have to take a life. In comparison other games, even role-playing games with epic proportioned decisions seems unattached compared to Heavy Rain. Killing one person in this world is a trying experience, nothing like that of a typical shooter. Now, we don’t want all our games to connect like Heavy Rain, a little escapism is good, but when it comes down to passionately charged decisions, no one does it better.
Perfection, So Close, Yet so Far
Even though Heavy Rain is a milestone development for the medium of gaming, it has some issues that pull it away from perfection. First is the "anexity effect" control scheme that can be confusing and hard to read when it is at its worst. This can cause you to hit the wrong button by mistake, forcing you into a decision you did not want to make. These instances are rare, but they can happen. To combat issues with controls, Heavy Rain has multiple difficulty degrees that can help you lower the intricacy of the button combinations. This helps, but it is not a fix-all cure.
Also, the characters movements in the game are a little "wooden" when not in a pre-rendered cut-scene. The characters can easily get stuck on the objects in the world, and at times, even simple movements like turning a corner become frustrating. Helping you along is the ability to change the camera angle (L1), but like the button presses, it doesn't solve the problem. It would have been nice if Quantic could have smoothed this out a little more before launch.
The second issue in Heavy Rain is its slow built in the fetal stages of the game. This isn't done to bore the player, it is actually an important tool put in place to familiarize the player with the control scheme and subject matter, but it doesn’t motive the less patient of the bunch into a game that eventually becomes highly intense. I can see some gamers not giving the game a chance because of the first few levels. So, trust me on this one, Heavy Rain picks up, just soak it in and go with it. Even so, Quantic could have made the beginning a little more action oriented.
Lastly, Heavy Rain also has some plot issues that come up in the later stages of the game. Characters might interact a little different then you would expect and sometimes things can happen in the game that you didn’t play through. This is very minor, and given the depth of the choices and the nuance of human behaviour Heavy Rain captures, I am surprised there are not more issues. None of these "issues" ruin the momentum of Heavy Rains' plot, and really they are just minor annoyances that can be overlooked. When it is all said and done, Heavy Rain is solid gaming experience that performs pretty darn smooth, and will likely stay in your mind long after the credits role.
Graphically, Heavy Rain looks great for the most part. Quantic captured an exceptional level of detail in the environments with some solid animation work. In some areas Heavy Rain it really outperforms our expectations, but it doesn't always hold up the same grade of quality in certain areas. It's not a big deal, but it is noticeable. This also rings true with the audio, at times Heavy Rain can truly stand out and other times it seems a little unbalanced. When it works-- it works, and Heavy Rain stands out from a crowd with stunning results. Heavy Rain isn't going to dethrone 'Uncharted 2', but its not getting kicked out of bed either. Without rambling too much about the production values, Heavy Rain also supports DTS, which is awesome. If you have not played a game in DTS, it is amazing, and it helps Heavy Rain be that much better, trust me, Heavy Rain has some of the best sounding raindrops you will ever hear.
Heavy Rain is an experience like no other, and one that will be different for everyone who lets themselves fall into its spellbinding narrative. Quantic Dream has done an amazing job engrossing the player into a deeply felt story that has all the care and production of a feature film. The character development, innovative use of quick-timed events, and level of detail are on level all its own. Heavy Rain stands as one of the most influential games of this generation. Unbelievably, I can see other developers pulling apart Heavy Rain and recycling some its ideas in their own projects.
Even as drop-dead amazing as Heavy Rain is, it is not going to be a game for everyone. The plot moves along slow in the beginning, the controls can be glitchy, and the QTE based gameplay is not going to appeal to everyone’s style. Plus, the added stipulation that once the story is done, it is never as sweet as the first time around rings true. This makes Heavy Rain a selective purchase that should only be done by the gamer with an open-mind, and a love for storytelling. Pure action gamers will likely judge Heavy Rain to be little too hands-off, and other gamers might be put off by the "interactive" control scheme entirely. Not to mention, the storyline is dark and dreary.
Unfortunately, this leads me to the decision that renting is probably the way to go for most gamers who are still unsure after this review. Heavy Rain can be completed in one or two sittings, and unless you really loved the experience, you won’t be back for more. For me, I loved the game, and I am glad it is in my collection. I have already played through the game twice, and I am looking forward to my third round. Ironically, Heavy Rain is the rainy night type of game, one to pull out when you are in the mood... and even though it is not a game you would play everyday, it is one you will likely revisit from time-to-time. No matter what you get out of Heavy Rain, one thing is for sure, Heavy Rain is one of those one-in-a-million releases that should not be missed.
Gameplay:9.0, Graphics:9.0, Sound:9.0, Innovation:10, Mojo:10 Final:9.4 / 10