How far are you willing to go to save someone you love?
When I saw the trailer for Heavy Rain
, and its subsequent standing
ovation, at E3 last year two things came to mind. The first was respect for
developer Quantic Dream. Without knowing anything about the game Heavy Rain
looked different. It wasn’t another generic FPS or action game that would ship
millions of units without trying. When I found out it was a dramatic thriller,
best described as an adventure game, I was excited by the prospect of a genre that
has become somewhat scarce in recent times. The second thought, reaffirmed by the
fact it’s an adventure game, was that it won’t sell anywhere near as well as it
should. I hope I’m wrong, and opening sales have been stronger than I expected, but
if we want to see more games pushing the conventional boundaries, we need to buy
I have a phobia of games that start off slow. I keep trying to get into the
original Mass Effect, but each time the first, slow, few hours bore me too
much (on a side note I’ve finally gotten into it this week). Unfortunately for me
Heavy Rain is another game that takes a while to get off the mark. If
you’re anything like me I implore you to push on, and promise you won’t regret it.
If I wasn’t reviewing the game there was a chance I’d never have gotten past the 2
hour mark, and that my friends would have been tragic (that said the game itself is only about 8-9 hours).
Now that we’ve got the cold hard facts out of the way, let’s get down to
business. Heavy Rain focuses on four diverse protagonists. Ethan Mars, an
architect and loving father, is at the centre of the prologue when one of his two
sons dies in a car crash, leaving him in a coma. Jump forward 2 years and Ethan is
still struggling to come to terms with the situation, as is his other son Shaun. The
tragic story of losing your child combined with the responsibilities of being a
father does tend to drag on a bit, but that’s when it begins to get interesting.
Things go from bad to worse for Ethan as Shaun is kidnapped by the Origami Killer, a
serial murderer who has a nasty habit of taking children and, well, killing them.
The remaining three protagonists, journalist Madison Paige, drug addicted FBI
Agent Norman Jayden and Private Detective Scott Shelby, have their stories
intertwined with Ethan’s as they attempt to stop the Origami Killer. This is just
the tip of the iceberg in terms of story. If you’ve been following the development
of Heavy Rain you’ll know many publications consider it closer to a film
than a game. Personally, I think that is a relatively bad and unappealing
description. It’s an adventure game, with an extremely strong narrative. Putting
aside the fact that I don’t want to spoil anything, writing about the game’s story
in 20,000 words wouldn’t do it any justice, let alone in 200. It’s a rollercoaster
ride, full of ups and downs, and something that has to be experienced for yourself.
Rather than force-feed you two minutes of cut-scene at strategic moments,
Heavy Rain’s story is on going throughout the entire adventure. You might
cringe when I tell you it’s essentially one big quick time event; you’ll constantly
be required to press a button as it appears on screen during key moments. Once again
this sounds terrible when committed to paper, but it actually works quite well. The
controls for Heavy Rain are unusual to say the least. You can interact with
almost everything using the facebuttons, Six-Axis or analogue sticks, as the command
appears on the screen. The obvious comparison is a good ol’ fashion point and click
adventure. Essentially everything the PS3 controller has to offer replaces the
mouse’s curser to point and click on the environment. R2 allows you to move forward,
while the left analogue stick allows you to change direction. It takes a lot of
getting used to; the learning curve is much greater than any other game you’ve
played of late, just because it’s so different to almost everything else.
During the more relaxed moments Heavy Rain plays out like a traditional
point and click adventure. In the more action packed scenes, such as driving and
fighting, however, it follows the more recent quick time event conventions. Button
commands flash across the screen and you have a limited amount of time to make sure
they happen or everything will go horribly wrong. Unlike most games that use this
technique as nothing more than a desperate connection between gameplay and story,
it’s vital to the outcome of Heavy Rain. You won’t see a game over screen
if you miss a command, instead it’ll change what happens next. You might end up
somewhere completely different had you complied with the quick time event’s demands.
It sounds quite harsh, but it’s all part of Heavy Rain’s charm. It’s
unpredictable, you don’t know what’ll happen next, and that’s why you’ll love it.
The control scheme is different, it’s confusing, but it allows a greater emphasis
to be placed on the story. The way the four protagonists’ narratives come together
is the best I’ve seen in a videogame. These are more than your run of the mill
characters. They are 4 people, with diverse and interesting backgrounds. You want to
know about their past, you care about what’s happening to them and most importantly
you’re on the edge of your seat waiting to find out where they’ll end up next.
The only problems I had with the controls, apart from the learning curve, is that
it just never feels completely fluent. R2 and the left analogue stick don’t work as
well as one may have hoped to control movement. You’re not exactly required to move
around at great speeds or anything, but even after 8 hours of game time it still
felt chunky. Occasionally it’s also hard to see what command you’re meant to be
using, especially when using the analogue stick, which needs to be pushed a specific
direction. In the grand scheme of things these are fairly minor issues, and it
certainly works a lot better than it would have with a traditional control setup.
The character models look fantastic. The facial details and expressions are
breathtaking, and are vital to maintaining the high level of drama. Unfortunately
some of the environment aren’t quite at the same level. Normally something like
Heavy Rain would score exceptionally well in the graphics department, but
we feel it needed to be at the upmost standard of excellence in presentation. When a
game focuses on its story as much as its gameplay, the visuals need to be
impeccable. I’m not saying they’re bad, quite from it in fact; they just needed to
be even better to complete the experience. The same can be said for the sound. In a
game like Heavy Rain it has to be at the highest level. The voice acting is
fantastic for the main characters. The supporting cast, however, let the team down a
The Final Verdict
Heavy Rain is a dramatic thriller (point and click) adventure game. If
you’re looking for something different, something story driven, and something
that’ll have you on the edge of your seat in suspense its hard to look past it. In
saying that, it’s not for everyone. If you’ve skipped the body of this review, for
instance, and gone straight to the final verdict it’s not the game for you.
Heavy Rain is all about its story. It’s very rewarding, but it requires
patience. If you’re up for the challenge, I highly recommend Heavy Rain; a
great PS3 exclusive.
One of, if not the, best stories in a videogame. The adventure game is back!
Great character models, but let down by some low res backgrounds. A game like this needed to be perfect in the presentation department to really excel.
The protaganist voice acting is fantastic, but once again is let down by the support. The soundtrack is great for the atmposhere, but doesn't play a leading role.
Heavy Rain only takes 8-9 hours to complete, but you couldn't really ask for more from a game like this. There are multiple endings, depending on your actions, if you really want to play through it again.
A score between 9.0 and 9.4 means that game offers a very good gaming experience. There may be some minor issues with gameplay and value.