Heavy Rain (PS3) Review
Posted by Trace Aber on 03.05.2010
Quantic Dream's highly anticipated Heavy Rain has finally been released. Does it live up to the hype or drown in it?
Title: Heavy Rain
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Quantic Dream
Genre: Interactive Drama
Rated:M for Mature
Heavy Rain is the highly-anticipated PS3 exclusive from French developers Quantic Dream that promises to push the boundaries of gaming and provide revolutionary story-telling never seen in gaming. In some aspects, the game does accomplish all of this, though it's not exactly perfect either. What Heavy Rain does do, however, is provide one of the most gripping, exhilarating, and immersive gameplay experiences of all time.
Note: I will try to avoid spoilers as much as possible in this review, though some slight details may be revealed. You have been warned.
Heavy Rain centers around four people's search for a serial killer known as the Origami Killer who has been striking fear into the heart of some unnamed city. Not a lot is known about the killer other than what he leaves at every crime scene - an orchid and an origami figure placed in the victim's hands. The killer seems to drown all of his victims, who also all happen to be young boys. The story follows four characters in their search for the Origami Killer and to save his latest victim before it's too late - Shaun Mars.
Ethan and Shaun Mars
Ethan Mars is the central character in the game and has had quite a bit of a rough spot over the last couple of years. In the beginning his life was great - he was a successful architect, had a beautiful wife named Grace and two sons whom he loves very much. Unfortunately, things go sour quickly for Ethan as his son Jayson is killed when a car strikes both Ethan and Jayson after a particularly intense scene in the game. Fast forward two years later and Ethan is now without Grace and his other son, Shaun, has grown seemingly distant from his father. Due to head trauma caused by the accident, Ethan was in a coma for six months and since then has been having blackouts. During one of these blackouts, Shaun goes missing and it is found out that he has been taken by the Origami Killer. As the story progresses, Ethan must go through a series of trials to prove his love for his son in order to save him.
Ethan is also the master of the blank stare
Norman Jayden, who may be the most fun character to play as, is an FBI agent who has been assigned to the Origami Killer case. This causes quite a few problems with Lieutenant Blake, who has been heading the case for the last few years. The dynamic between these two provide some of the best (and funniest) moments in the game as they constantly bicker back and forth about their different methods of hunting down the killer. Though you can ultimately choose what Jayden does, the game sets up the good cop/bad cop situation excellently. You will also be doing a lot of crime scene investigating, which is way more fun than it has the right to be. Using special ARI technology, Jayden is able to scan an area of the crime scene instantly and pick out any piece of evidence that may be out there. Upon finding the evidence, you are able to record it and take some quick notes down. Once you have collected evidence, you'll begin to figure out what makes ARI so amazing. First off, you're given the choice between different environments you want to work in, such as mars or a beautiful landscape. They don't impact the game in any way, but it is fun to switch them up. Within ARI you can analyze the evidence you found, as well as perform geoanalysis on it. Jayden has some problems of his own though, which you can either facilitate or inhibit during the course of the game.
Scott Shelby, who is the most dynamic of the characters, is a private investigator hired by the families of the victims of the Origami Killer. Shelby tends to do more fighting than investigating, but you have to admire his style. Some of the best scenes in the game occur while playing as him, though I won't discuss them to avoid spoilers. Scott also has asthma problems that act up occasionally, though honestly this is nearly forgotten about halfway through the game. Scott's personality is shown to be extremely complex as the game goes on as at one point he almost seems like a man possessed with finding the killer, to a loving man in one scene, to a ruthless man in another, to simply a chubby man with asthma problems in another. Later in the game he takes on a partner despite his best wishes, though the dynamic between the two provides for one of the more interesting portions of the game.
It is entirely impossible to tell you how awesome this scene is in words.
Madison Paige is an insomniac who also happens to be a fan of full frontal nudity. Oh, and she's a photographer. Though she may look soft and sweet on the outside, she is actually a certified ass-kicker as some of the more violent fight scenes take place as her. Her involvement in the case isn't as cut and dry without any spoilers, but essentially as she gets to know Ethan more and more her involvement in the story grows as well.
Now that the introductions are out of the way, it's time to get down to the somewhat controversial gameplay. The biggest thing going for (according to the supporters) and against (according to the detractors) Heavy Rain is the control scheme. Instead of a traditional control layout, Quantic Dream decided to go with a button-prompt scheme that allows for much better control of the flow of the story. Depending on your action, you may only have to flick the right stick or you may have to hold down a series of buttons, or maybe mash the X button until your finger falls off. They also utilize the motion sensors in the controller and you'll be shaking or jerking the controller in the appropriate motion. Some people may be turned off by this, but honestly I think this game would fail without it. After playing a few of the game's action scenes you'll understand what I mean.
Which brings me to my next point - the action scenes. A lot of people were worried that the game would be boring but it's anything but. Don't get me wrong - this game is extremely dialogue heavy - but it's also action heavy. Some of these range from simple fight scenes to insane chase scenes to a driving scene that has to be seen to believe. There's some scenes that will make you cringe as well, and there's one scene in particular when I had to pause the game, think about what I was doing, and think about what I actually wanted to do.
As I mentioned above, the game is dialogue heavy but it's all extremely well written. It's not written in your typical video game form where it's forced and largely uninteresting. As you talk to various characters throughout the game prompts float around your head that correspond to a response/action. If the situation is particularly intense, the words will shake violently and make it hard to see which button represents your option, and sometimes you may press the wrong button because of it. I actually don't have a problem with this because it reflects people's inability to make clear decisions all of the time in dire situations. I have never been more emotionally involved and invested with a video game in my entire life. The voice acting is mixed, with some actors (Shelby) portraying their characters great while others (Lauren) could use a few more acting lessons. There are some weird accents in the game (weird in the sense they don't really match with their characters), but overall it's not offensive. The thing about the voice acting is if it were any other game, people would be claiming that this game has some of the best voice acting ever - but due to the dialogue being so vital in the game it's a bit more noticeable.
Although they try their best to distract me
The score of the game is one of the most powerful ones I've heard outside of an RPG. The music helps create the atmosphere in the game and is able to control your emotions - they have crafted something so beautiful that if they want you to feel happy - you will - but if they want you to feel sad - you will feel sad. It's hard to explain in words but the way this game is able to create the mood is incredible.
Graphically, the game looks magnificent. Most of the characters you meet look entirely too realistic and make the decision making in this game all the harder. Little details that highlight some of the character's personality also shine through if you let them sit around along enough. The environments are typically well-done, though there are some invisible walls in the outdoor areas. What I'm trying to say is I hate invisible walls. Some of the more minor items in the environment aren't as great looking, but most of the time you won't even notice it. Thankfully, they have mastered the art of rainfall so that it looks natural instead of straight lines coming from the sky.
That is not to say the game is without its flaws. The storyline, while one of the best in a video game in a LONG time, has a few holes in it that many people have been complaining about on message boards. While I think some of them are ridiculous nitpicking, some of them are fair claims. Some of these holes may be fixed in the upcoming DLC however, so I'm waiting to see how that works out. There are also a lot of audio glitches that can really take away from a particular scene. I didn't notice it too much in the beginning but towards the later half there was the occasional audio hiccup and sometimes the music would completely stop. Luckily, this doesn't ruin the game in any way, but it is a bit disappointing. My biggest complaint is the camera angles and controls - they don't work well together. While in large open areas it's not that big of a deal, in small crowded areas it can be a problem. In timed portions of the game this can be quite troublesome to the point where it may potentially change the outcome of the game. While not game-breaking, it can be extremely frustrating.
-Great soundtrack and some of the voice acting
-First game to take a major risk in a long time
-Ability to replay any scene in the game after unlocking it
-The bonuses you get for beating scenes (Concept art, making of movies)
-A few loose plot points
-Audio glitches in the later portion of the game
-Weird camera angles make for bad control in certain points
Heavy Rain is the first true next generation game I've played in years. Never before has a game captivated me as much as Heavy Rain did. With its powerful soundtrack, power dialogue and revolutionary gameplay mechanic, Heavy Rain manages to do something no other video game has done: I cared about every decision I made. This was not a gaming experience as much as it was a breath of fresh air - and the next step to revolutionizing video games if we are to keep going forward. If you consider yourself a fan of video games, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up.
All of the characters are excellently done and you feel as though you're in the world with them
Quantic Dream tried something new and it paid off - it may not please everyone but I absolutely love it.
Audio issues aside, the soundtrack and sound effects work beautifully.
Considering there are over 22 endings in all, there's plenty to do. Plus the announced DLC should extend the life even more.
As I said above, this was entirely different than any other game I've played. You have to pick this up.