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Jeremy Jastrzab
01 Mar, 2010

Heavy Rain Review

PS3 Review | To save someone you love. The choice is yours.
Once all the rage on PCs, the point-and-click adventure genre is survived by a few key names and a minor revival through digital episode distribution. However, the genre has never really had a substantial presence on consoles. Developer Quantic Dream, through a re-jig of the formula, attempted to bring the genre to consoles through their sci-fi thriller, Fahrenheit (known as Indigo Prophecy in the US). While many described it more like an interactive movie, the developers shot themselves in the foot, when the ludicrous sci-fi twist killed a fascinating premise and adventure style mechanics that worked pretty well. As such, no copycats were willing rear their heads. Undeterred, Quantic Dream are back with a much better effort in Heavy Rain.

Rather than concentrating on the positive aspects of a different form of delivery, a lot of publications seem to have pigeon-holed Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain as ‘interactive movies’. So you’ve probably read a lot of “It’s not really a game, it’s an interactive movie, but…” which probably sells both experiences short. Sure, you’ll spend a lot of time watching dialogue scenes and not a lot of time ‘playing’ in a traditional sense, but that shouldn’t be held against this unique form of delivery, which actually works quite well and does exactly what it should do. Heavy Rain shouldn’t be dismissed just because it tries something different.

While it would be unfair to say too much about the story, it has to be mentioned that (thankfully) there is no sci-fi twist this time around despite a few early events that had us worried a twist might transpire. Otherwise, the game has you playing as four different characters: architect and family man, Ethan Mars, journalist, Madison Paige, FBI agent/drug addict, Norman Jayden and Private Detective, Scott Shelby. The game starts off very idealistically: a seemingly mundane day in the life of Ethan. After helping show off this nuclear family setup, the game takes a tragic turn when one of Ethan’s sons is killed in a car accident, while Ethan ends up in an extended coma.

It all starts so idealistically, before going to heck...

It all starts so idealistically, before going to heck...
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Fast forwarding a few years, the fates of all four characters intertwine with that of the ‘Origami Killer’, a serial killer who murders 9-13 year-old boys, and later dumps their bodies with an origami figure and an orchid. The story really ought to be played through to be fully appreciated, but it’s an excellent effort and succeeds at what it sets out to do. From beginning to end, many of the themes throughout the game explore content that is only really suitable to a mature audience. Each of the characters has a heavy past and is 'damaged' in one way or another. And while not everyone will have a happy ending, you'll feel something for everyone that you encounter throughout the game. While the game isn’t ruined by the any stupid sci-fi twists, under close scrutiny, there are some plot holes that don’t really hold up. Still, it's not quite Swiss chess and it becomes apparent that some (though not all…) of them are necessary for the gameplay to hold up.

It’s very rare to find a game that is this involved with its story, which has an overall theme: How far are you prepared to go to save someone you love? Rather than playing a game and having the story progress either in the background or between cut scenes, you’re in the thick of things most of the time. Sure enough, it starts off very slowly, as you’re somewhat forced into going through some mundane activities: taking a shower, setting a table, putting your son to bed and rocking a baby. However, these are all just precursors to invite you in and getting you to ‘feel’ like you’re in the game. About a third of the way through, the game almost literally explodes as your reflexes are tested and you’ll have to make some endearing decisions. The action scenes come thick and fast, while you’ll be shocked at how long you’ll spend on the edge of your seat.

While overall, Heavy Rain is best described as an adventure game, some players may shudder at the possibility that the game is an extended quick-time event. However, Heavy Rain handles them superbly, as you never miss a second of the action by looking for button prompts. Furthermore, the vast majority of the sequences won’t punish you for missing one. The course of events will be merely altered. Admittedly, they don’t really alter as much as you’d probably expect them too, given the hype behind the game, but they will indeed make an impact. Just not always a large one.

Save him? Or leave him? The choice is yours.

Save him? Or leave him? The choice is yours.
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No other game makes you feel like this when it comes to making decisions. This isn’t a contemporary western RPG, where your decisions work on a pendulum scale. No, it’s very likely that you’ll make a decision and be thinking about it two or three scenes later. The themes that these decisions cover are very mature and confronting. But it’s not just the big decisions that make an impact, as you’ll be left wondering if you said the right thing, when your speech options are swirling and flashing over your character’s head. That, and while some of your latter decisions will drastically alter the course of the game, it’s the progression allowed through all your choices that makes the game special.

The variety of scenarios that you encounter is quite remarkable as well. As mentioned, they start off rather mundane, but as you play, they advance to aspects such as evidence collection and analysis and become rather exciting, shocking and endearing. Sometimes all at once. Aside from the ease of getting through them, what makes your first play through special, is that it’s your story. You really shouldn’t be perturbed when something doesn’t work out the way you wanted, you should really keep playing through regardless. The story will keep going, and even though the characters can die, in truth, they only will really die late in the game. As said from the outset, there probably isn’t as much choice in the game as was originally advertised, but through the course of the 9-12 hour experience, you’re still playing something that is essentially of your own making.

The majority of the control choices make this a game that is accessible to just about anyone. It’s the choices and themes of the game, along with the accessibility that deliver what is really, a casual experience for the mature market. It is almost a choose-your-own adventure game. Maybe it’s an area that developers ought to explore? While some may not like the lack of interactivity, there is only one aspect of the controls that ruins what is otherwise, the ideal gaming experience for a non-gamer – the movement controls. They’re unnecessarily stiff and hard to use. Sure, you can somewhat get used to it over the course of play, but in truth, it was a poor decision to retain them, as everything else in the game is so easy to do and use. So much so, that this is a major blight that smears over the shine of just about everything else. And while we didn’t come across any in our play through, there are wide reports of game-affecting glitches.

Heavy Rain. Serious business.

Heavy Rain. Serious business.
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Heavy Rain really cranks the PS3 hard. The level of detail in the characters, the natural animations, water effects (it’s raining through the entire game) and performance really immerse the player in a well crafted and purposefully dull world. The well orchestrated and deliberate camera work does wonders as well. There are a few funky VR sequences that will really get you involved, visually and through breaking up the game. However, the moments of immersion are occasionally broken by the errant technical glitch that breaks the seemingly realistic scenario. It’s always a danger with realistic looking games, as the more realistic it tries to be, the stupider it looks when something goes wrong. The use of sound in Heavy Rain is quite excellent as well. The mood never misses a beat and compliments the immersive visuals extremely well. The voice acting is actually pretty good as well, even if there aren’t any big names behind it. However, some will argue that the script slants to the generic side.

Heavy Rain is much more than simply an interactive movie. There is no other game out there that will challenge the decisions that you make through the course of play, and despite the prevalence of quick-time events, you will not miss a single beat of the action. Sure, it may not quite deliver everything it promised, but had it not been for the completely ridiculous choice of movement controls, it would have been the ideal game for a mature audience that don’t often play games. That said, gamers with an open mind in need of an endearing and unique experience, needn’t look any further than Heavy Rain.
The Score
While slightly weighed down by its ambition, Heavy Rain provides a riveting mature-themed story, and an adventure driven by the decisions you make and the actions you succeed in. And best of all, there is nothing out there quite like it.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Heavy Rain Content

Heavy Rain Chronicles DLC on indefinite hold
21 Jun, 2010 Developer urged to move it, move it.
PAL region Heavy Rain demo dated
22 Jan, 2010 Only a couple of weeks to go.
Heavy Rain DLC confirmed
19 Dec, 2009 First episode detailed.
24 Comments
4 years ago
I absolutely love this game! While the mechanics of moving your character around the gameworld is not as polished as I'd hoped, the whole thriller storyline grabbed my attention to the point that I smashed my way through the game in one weekend - which is something that a game hasn't evoked in me in ages. I truly felt as if I was immersed in the title to the point where I would continuously pour over the same evidence in the hope that I'd find something I'd missed before, as if I was truly was racing against the clock to save a loved one.

As a fan of the old school PC point-and-click adventures it's great to see that fantastic storytelling and emotional investment in a game's characters still has a place in modern gaming.

Now I'm off to unlock my third ending...icon_biggrin.gif
4 years ago
makes me want to buy a ps3, damn you heavy rain!
4 years ago
I just can't see myself playing this game. This overwhelming air of pretentiousness that it exudes is enough to sway me away from it.
4 years ago
It's not pretentious, it's justified, there really is nothing else like it on the market. It's great when a truly unique and engaging game like this comes along, it paints a bright picture for the future of video games. icon_smile.gif Try the demo, you might just like it.
4 years ago
Discussing pretentiousness is in fact pretentious. icon_razz.gif
To tell you the truth David Cage may come off as pretentious but the game itself doesn't.
I really enjoyed Heavy Rain, even though my attitude was changed because the game may or may not have been spoiled.
4 years ago
The way this game works is really fantastic. At the start the actions seems stupid and mundane but it is really just so you get used to the controls. After a couple of intro you get some fast paced scenes and everything just keeps going up and up.

I have my own suspicions who the killer is but I will go into the Heavy Rain thread and post it there in spoilers.
4 years ago
I will buy it, but only when I have a clear couple of days to play it, as I know it will be extremely immersive and it's not something you can play just an hour at a time over a month or two.
4 years ago
Moving you character around can be a little frustrating at times like in Fahrenheit. Only major fault I can think off.
4 years ago
admeister wrote
It's not pretentious, it's justified, there really is nothing else like it on the market. It's great when a truly unique and engaging game like this comes along, it paints a bright picture for the future of video games. icon_smile.gif Try the demo, you might just like it.
Its David Cage. The guy is a huge wanker who bignotes himself and his game every chance he gets.
4 years ago
Dammit. Alright, you've got me. I'll buy it.

One day I'll even get a PS3 to play it on. (Nope, not joking.)
4 years ago
JackSlack wrote
Dammit. Alright, you've got me. I'll buy it.

One day I'll even get a PS3 to play it on. (Nope, not joking.)
Im sure thats what a lot of phat ps3 owners are saying at the moment!
4 years ago
This is one of the best games I've played in a long time. It really does make you feel for the characters. The last third of the game is amazing. The are just so many things that can change by a couple of button misses. (Everyone who plays games at all should be playing this on hard!)

Working on my third ending as well... (Trying to fail as much as I can)
4 years ago
Finished it on hard. Great game, loved it and played it solid for three nights. Event he girlfriend loved watching it.

Which brings me to a point which I think is really really valid. THE CONTROLS.

My girlfriend was acheing to play this. Though, the controls COMPLETELY turned her off. As a casual gamer she really really struggled with the R2 to walk, left stick to aim.

Seems they missed the mark with what otherwise would have been a great experience for a casual gamer.

For me though, the controls even though annoying, were OK. Just let us point the left stick to move the character?

Maybe ARC will fix this?
4 years ago
ManeKast wrote
Finished it on hard. Great game, loved it and played it solid for three nights. Event he girlfriend loved watching it.

Which brings me to a point which I think is really really valid. THE CONTROLS.

My girlfriend was acheing to play this. Though, the controls COMPLETELY turned her off. As a casual gamer she really really struggled with the R2 to walk, left stick to aim.

Seems they missed the mark with what otherwise would have been a great experience for a casual gamer.

For me though, the controls even though annoying, were OK. Just let us point the left stick to move the character?

Maybe ARC will fix this?
Actually I disagree, I think the movement controls are very suited this particular game. Traditional controls means the character is constantly running into walls at full speed and it breaks immersion somewhat. It's still not perfect, but your character here actually moves like a real person than a video game character.

It's a bit more cumbersome and slower to move, but that's not really a problem for this type of game. Plus the improvement in realism is worth it imo.
4 years ago
http://www.destructoid.com/why-heavy-rain-proves-ebert-right-165034.phtml this sums up my problems with the game EXCEPT that I would like to have the choice questions polled in the cinema - repeat viewings of a movie would result different outcomes making it "fresh" BUT to ensure character and narrative consistancy requires care and skill.

Does anyone think the "plot holes" are casued by content being removed for the inevitable DLC? I'm for micro-expansions of a title, but (like assasians creed) pre-planned missing content is a rip............
4 years ago
emech wrote
http://www.destructoid.com/why-heavy-rain-proves-ebert-right-165034.phtml this sums up my problems with the game EXCEPT that I would like to have the choice questions polled in the cinema - repeat viewings of a movie would result different outcomes making it "fresh" BUT to ensure character and narrative consistancy requires care and skill.

Does anyone think the "plot holes" are casued by content being removed for the inevitable DLC? I'm for micro-expansions of a title, but (like assasians creed) pre-planned missing content is a rip............
Great article! I agree with it as it applies to all games with emphasis on choices. The more choice you give to a character the less real they seem to me. That's why I can't get into nearly all Bioware games that actually tauts its endless dialogue trees. Most players enjoy it though so I can't really complain about Bioware giving people what they want.

As for Heavy Rain, I've played it through what is probably my one and only time (hopefully achieving the best ending possible). Not that interested in seeing the outcomes of different choices. The story is fairly satisfying but not too great. Easily the best looking game ever made though.
4 years ago
Nowhere near the best looking game ever made... half the textures are low res, the expressions on the character faces are terrible and likewise for most of their basic animations.

But it's a MUCH better game than I thought it would be from hating the demo.
4 years ago
emech wrote
http://www.destructoid.com/why-heavy-rain-proves-ebert-right-165034.phtml this sums up my problems with the game EXCEPT that I would like to have the choice questions polled in the cinema - repeat viewings of a movie would result different outcomes making it "fresh" BUT to ensure character and narrative consistency requires care and skill.
That is a fantastic critique. And y'know what? It's pretty much a condemnation of David Cage's entire approach to gaming -- it's a demolition of Farenheit, too.

I keep saying it: Heavy Rain's style of gaming is a dead end. There's no gains to be had in going down the road.
4 years ago
If you say so, but I thought that BEFORE playing it and turned out loving it. I want more.

So wait... I guess that means there is gains. Profits. From all the people who liked Heavy Rain. Which is a lot of people.
4 years ago
I'm going to play it, don't get me wrong. But my point is that David Cage has clearly stated that he wants to make games as art. Good for him! There's a reason that even though I don't own a PS3 and hated Farenheit, I was in Gametraders asking to buy a copy. (They were sold out, which gladdened me.)

But this is a serious issue with his style of game design. Cage is clearly influenced by film, and his ideal of a game would be like film, using filmic devices and conventions, only with choices for the player to make along the way. And this critique delivers a genuine body blow to that theory: It's arguing that in fact, a film that has choice in it is lesser than a film without it.

That's a hard thing for Cage to get up from under. I'd love to hear/read a response from him.
4 years ago
Game crashed on me and corrupted my save right before the end. Enough said.
4 years ago
benspyda wrote
Game crashed on me and corrupted my save right before the end. Enough said.
Not really. Were you enjoying up to that point?
4 years ago
Phreakuency wrote
Nowhere near the best looking game ever made... half the textures are low res, the expressions on the character faces are terrible and likewise for most of their basic animations.

But it's a MUCH better game than I thought it would be from hating the demo.
I'd say that's a bit nit-picky. Facial expression are not perfect, but I don't think any game is. Some of the close-ups don't look so good. But in every single scene where the camera is behind the character and you're moving about, the overall scenery including weather, lighting are 100% gorgeous. And there are quite a lot of scenes in total.

With the exception of Uncharted 2 which I haven't played, I don't know of any other game that looks this good.
3 years ago
Just brought it i hope it as a good game icon_razz.gif
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  25/02/2010 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $109.95 AU
Publisher:
  Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre:
  Adventure
Year Made:
  2008
Players:
  1

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