Posted by drew10 on Mar 9, 2010
Review: Heavy Rain – PS3

Review: Heavy Rain – PS3

The gaming world has been crying out for something different for ages, something removed from run here, shoot this, open that and punch him, Heavy Rain provides just this.

Written and directed by David Cage CEO of Quantic Dream, the team behind the excellent PS2 title Fahrenheit. You are invited into a world of intrigue and investigation as you follow the paths of the four main protagonists in a twisted plot to uncover and apprehend the Origami Killer.

Heavy Rain is going to divide opinion more than perhaps any game has in recent times. There will be those who simply cannot stand the slow pace or the story lead plot and then there will be others who will simply love the chance to try a new type of gameplay mechanic.

Heavy Rain sets you on a mission to solve the Origami murders, a series of brutal child killings. You do this by attacking the plot from four different perspectives. The first is Ethan Mars, the father of the missing boy who has serious guilt issues after the death of his first son. Then there is Scott Shelby, a private investigator with an asthma problem. The FBI profiler Norman Jayden who is having a nervous breakdown due to over-use of his FBI gadgets and drugs and finally Madison Paige, a woman who becomes involved with Ethan the as the game unfolds, I wont say any more than that for fear of spoiling some of the plot.

The Origami Killer drowns his victims in rain water and you have to solve the mystery before the latest victim also ends up underwater. Each scene begins by telling you how much rain has fallen since the game commenced.

Whilst the controls for each character remain much the same each has different roles to play in the story and as each scene plays out the mystery begins to unravel. This clever and very book-like approach to game story telling brings with it a very intense emotional response and enables you to really connect and care about the characters.

It would be difficult to go into a great deal of depth about the characters or the plot without giving too much away so that side is best left, suffice to say that both the character development and the depth and complexity of the story are of the highest quality.

Moving on to how it plays is another matter entirely. Movement of characters is achieved by pressing the R2 button whilst moving the left stick. It feels like early Resident Evil and very much outdated. However when you begin to scratch the surface you realise that the R2 press is essential to allow other actions to also be performed from the stick. Following on-screen prompts can make your character pull items out of their pockets or interact with surroundings, therefore it makes sense that you need to press the button to move.

More intense action scenes are controlled by a brilliantly effective Quick Time Event (QTE) system. This means that you are prompted to press certain buttons or stick movements as they appear on-screen, failure to do so in the allotted amount of time will result in bad things happening. Some of these can feel a little awkward however and the need for both hands in unfamiliar positions on the pad becomes commonplace. That said, the action sequences play out fantastically and have a real cinematic effect. Miss a button and it could end up changing the outcome of the scene and perhaps the entire game.

Yes, if you mess up a scene by missing some buttons in a sequence most of the time it does not matter too much as you have plenty of chances to redeem yourself. Constant failure, however, can lead to a bad result or even the death of one of the lead characters. You have been warned!  These sequences are surprisingly heart-pounding and intense.

Heavy Rain also heaps on the moral choices with the tag-line ‘How far will you go to save someone you love?’ played out numerous times throughout the story.

According to Quantic Dream you could play through the story 42 times and never get the exact same experience and I know for a fact that my game has differed greatly from the experiences of others. This kind of adaptive story really helps in adding intensity to the gameplay as does the knowledge that the characters can die at any minute. I also know for a fact that the story in the first play-through I did has been significantly different to that of others and Heavy Rain will warrant a few plays to see where the story branches off.

Unfortunately with a story as complex and entangled as this any lay off in-game time can leave you confused as to what is going on and a ‘Last time on Heavy Rain’ recap would have been a welcome addition to proceedings. Also I stopped the game with barely 10 minutes of game time remaining. This meant that when I restarted I was not able to get into the story or feel of the game again before it ended, again a simple percentage meter to let you know that there were only two scenes left would have helped me not lose the overall feel of the game.

Graphically Heavy Rain excels in all departments with dark moody ambience and stunning character models and animations this is let down only by the clunky movement brought about by the control method. The direction is also a joy to behold with many of the camera angles really giving a movie-like feel to the whole experience, especially when the screen splits so you can see two or more angles of the same room. A special mention should also go to the rendered character faces whilst the game loads each scene, they are truly stunning.

Unfortunately some of the voice acting does not live up to the polish that the rest of the game has and at times fails to convey the required emotion in a scene. The voice acting on the Nathan character is especially wooden, although that could be because he looks a little like David Duchovny. This is a real shame and it is something that a title of this ilk really needs to look at. Higher quality voice acting would have made a massive difference in the overall cinematic feel to the game.  One of the very few areas Quantic Dream should look at improving before their next outing.

Musically though the game excels with a tense orchestral score that really adds to the anxiety and emotion felt when playing.

The overall presentation is excellent from the fantastic rain effect when the game is paused to the Origami figure that the game teaches you to make whilst it installs.

Overall Heavy Rain is an excellent game which could have been even better had a little more time and effort been made on the voice acting. That said we are still looking at a classic that, whilst not to everyone’s taste is a true masterpiece of in-game narrative.  Imagine it as a ‘choose your own adventure’ film and you come some way near to what is on offer here.

More please Quantic Dream.

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4 Responses to “Review: Heavy Rain – PS3”

  1. moonhead says:

    Whilst I agree that Heavy Rain is a very good innovative game, the controls in particular the movement are really quite terribly poor. Tank controls for movement died a death a long time ago they add nothing and detract terriby from the immersion in the game. Rotating round in circles and constantly bumping into on screen furniture or walking up a set of stairs only to end up walking back down them again whilst trying to turn round to go up the next set should really be a thing of the past. I also refuse to believe it was a neccesary gameplay mechanic as for 90% of the game the left stick is not even used, it is just poor, lazy game design. The script is not anywhere near as interesting and as well implemented as Quantic Dreams try to make you think it is and as for the twist it is totally pants. The script is also done a terrible disservice by the shoddy voice acting. Also the load screens whilst looking nice are to long by half and again detract from the immersion. In fact I would have to say that this is not as good a game as the now 7 year old Farenheit and despite the improvement in technology the only thing improved are the graphics. Sorry Drew whilst I would not have missed the experience of playing this game at all it’s not a 9 out of 10 game for me more like 8 or even 7.

  2. Hebie Hancock says:

    Drew looks a bit like tubby Norman Jayden (coincidence – I think not!)

  3. drew10 says:

    Well shame I am in charge and I loved it so up yours Moonhead! I awarded it for originality, something that is surely missing from a lot of games, yes it has it’s flaws but I personally did not find the control method too difficult. The load screens were not that long, maybe your patience is a bit shit!

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