Heavy Rain Review

by Ben Salter Featured

34 Comments 22 Votes 4191 Views 03/03/2010 Back to Reviews
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 them.

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 little.

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.

Gameplay

9.5
One of, if not the, best stories in a videogame. The adventure game is back!

Graphics

8.5
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.

Sound

8.5
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.

Value

8.0
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.

Overall

9.1
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.

Heavy Rain

Platform: PS3
 
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More Info on Heavy Rain

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Game Profile: Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain Australian Release: Out Now

Heavy Rain Review Comments

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Nice review ICC_06
Very good review mate, and a justified score.
Great review mate as always. Not getting this game tho. Do you really want to play it more then once I think its overrated. Would you call this a game or a movie with button presses
great review.
i was completely swallowed up by this game so i would've given it higher but you make quite fair points. I'd say for my first playthrough - i won't spoil it - the story was perfect.

to quote Bernard Black from the TV show Black books: "it'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry, it'll change your life..." (probably not a whole lot of laughing though!)

stonecold said: Great review mate as always. Not getting this game tho. Do you really want to play it more then once



It's more like..... an experience.

Well worth playing at least once, even if you only rent it for a night.

OzTeK said:


stonecold said: Great review mate as always. Not getting this game tho. Do you really want to play it more then once


It's more like..... an experience.



It's certainly seems that way, doesn't feel like a game..

Nice review and deserves the +9 score.
As much as I enjoyed Heavy Rain, I think it's flawed.

The voice acting is terrible.

And the gameplay has too steep a learning curve to justify a 9.5 (imo). I think a lot of people are going to have to take a lot of time to get used to the controls.

The camera can be pretty bad at times. It's a fixed camera and you can hardly move it around at all. This causes a few issues with the gameplay, because if you're in the area that triggers a QT event, but you're facing the other away, you can miss button calls for the event because the game thinks you're in the right position, but you're actually facing away from the action.

I expected a lot more attention to detail. The environments are TERRIBLE, and characters just walk through objects; walls, desks, doors, PEOPLE. Beyond the character design, it's a pretty horrendous presentation. Some things just look out of place. You have PS2-like objects up against PS3-like objects. LAZY DEVELOPMENT.

As for the story, I thought it was generic and incredibly predictable, particularly towards the end. And there are plot holes a-plenty But it's still exciting and intriguing, and there's plenty to love about it. Some of the greatest stories of all time (not just in games) have plot holes. It's emotional and engaging, and that's what you want.

The big positive for me is that it can really drag you in. This is a wonderful crime drama. A solid 8.5/10 for me.
Nice review, this game looks awesome.
probably the best review on this site ever, honest and accurate, gg ben
Good review
ouch Gaetano,

from your comments i feel like we played completely different games!

i never had the issue of walking thru objects or people.

I found the voice acting of the main characters to be great, it was a few of the others that were a pretty poor. Did you manage to unlock some of the "making of" videos?

i guess i try to look for the things i like rather than those i don't, unless they are staring me in the face/affecting my enjoyment of the game.

I just thought your criticism (especially of the story) to be a bit harsh, based on my experience with the game. Yours was obviously quite a different experience!
i just fail to see how it can "really drag you" in with a generic story, poor voice acting and terrible environments :S
Good review ICC
Well firstly, the environments don't really have an affect on the overall execution of the plot. The story is generic in the sense of most crime drama mysteries, but that doesn't make it uninteresting. I was still very interested to see who the killer was, and it still kept me playing.

And I definitely haven't been the only one who had these quips. They have been pretty well documented elsewhere.

But I guess some people are harsher than others. I might be bit more critical, especially of games which set out to revolutionize a particular experience. I've read some reviews that have just praised the hell out of it without highlighting any of the issues, which, in my opinion, are quite obvious. The clipping issues are there. And the main characters sound OK, nothing great. More like actors trying to put American accents on. Listen to Martin Sheen in Mass Effect 2 if you want great voice acting.

Heavy Rain is a very good experience, overall, but it's not without its issues. It's a step in the right direction for an otherwise dying genre, which is pretty much what Ben said.

But as a gamer, you shouldn't really have to highlight the negatives if the experience is great. It's great if you can. I think I've just gotten to a point where I go into a game looking to be critical from the get-go, which is pretty sad. But it's my obligation nonetheless.

And I said I'd give it an 8.5/10. That's 85%. Pretty damn good score if you ask me. If we live in a world where that is a bad score, well then we live in a sad world.
Graphic - the facial animation during the loading time is top notch, but i would rather they spend A LOT more time on the graphic in the actual game play. If i exaggerate a little bit, i can even say the all graphic looks dull. I have ultra high expectation on the graphic in this game, and it turns out it isn't even close to anything i expected.

Story - one world, superb.

Voice acting - guys, did you run out of the budget after creating that fascinating "face" animation? again, that face thing, great, but really not necessary....

fair enough! i'm not saying 8.5/10 was a bad score (personally i'd rate it higher ) but just some of the comments seemed a little harsh and contradictory given the game really drew you in. i believed some of the environments really added to the atmospheres...

i know it's hard being a critic - i had the same problem with movies for about 3 years after a few years of media/film study back in high school.

On the voices, maybe i have just watched a lot of foreign cinema or something, but i thought a lot of the lead roles were brilliantly done. Maybe because it doesn't feel so "American", for some that makes it seem a bit B-grade?

that's the difference of opinion eh!

I hope that people give this game a good go, because i had a great experience playing it, and i'm sure i speak for a lot of people in saying that it is one of the definitive games of this generation thus far. Certainly for PS3.
A bit off topic, and I'm not trying to be picky, but I think the red background behind the overall score gives it a negative overtone or something... Like, for a good score I'd expect to see green, for a bad score red, if you get what I mean.

mattc said: A bit off topic, and I'm not trying to be picky, but I think the red background behind the overall score gives it a negative overtone or something... Like, for a good score I'd expect to see green, for a bad score red, if you get what I mean.




Don't be so conditioned

mattc said: A bit off topic, and I'm not trying to be picky, but I think the red background behind the overall score gives it a negative overtone or something... Like, for a good score I'd expect to see green, for a bad score red, if you get what I mean.



We tried. It looked worse than Cameron Ling's self portrait.

livemaI said:
Don't be so conditioned



My mind will tell me what it wants to tell me

ICC_06 said:
We tried. It looked worse than Cameron Ling's self portrait.



Who's Cameron Ling lol? Then what about something neutral like blue?
although he gave a harsh opinion, gaetano is pretty much spot on.
imo it shoud be at least 9.0
WHEN THEY SAID THIS GAME WAS MAINLY SOMTHIN FOR ADULTS.I THOUGHT IT WAS GON BE LIKE WATCHIN THEM BORIN SVU SHOWS.BUT THIS GAMES FULL OF ACTION N EVRITHIN.GAMEPLAY AND GRAPHICS SICK.AND NOT TO MENTION THE SEX SCENE U GET TO CONTROL..HAHAH FUNNY SHI*..MOST DEF WORTH PLAYIN
Sound deserves 10/10 imo but I respect urs
Great review. I've seen quite a lot of this game around and heard very good things about it. It will be my next game purchase I think. Also, I love story, and lots of it. So I think this'll be right up my alley.

=D
soooooo slow! ..just a movie with buttons ..i can see how it appeals to others but none to me what so ever.

mattc said: A bit off topic, and I'm not trying to be picky, but I think the red background behind the overall score gives it a negative overtone or something... Like, for a good score I'd expect to see green, for a bad score red, if you get what I mean.



I agree. Maybe colour code the overall score differently to represent the games level if quality. Bright green = high score, fades to a dark green then a dark red for a low score.

Anyways, after playing this game, I agree with the review. I absolutely love the game! I'd give it a 9.5. <3

=D
For the overall score...Light-green or blue would be good?
imo my favourite exclusive on ps3 tying with uncharted 2, infamous and killzone 2 coming in 2nd and 3rd respectivly.
althought the textures were great in some parts and very dull in others, the face that there are over 30,000 unique animations brings the games score up for me.
10/10 game, nothing else like it.

lol @ the 8.5 for graphics; really?, this is easily one of the best this generation in terms of visual fidelity, no idea where the 8.5 is from.

Replay Value is a 10 aswell, seems like you finished it once then had enough, I played through 3 times already easy, game is that good.
nice review

HelghanX said: 10/10 game, nothing else like it.
lol @ the 8.5 for graphics; really?, this is easily one of the best this generation in terms of visual fidelity, no idea where the 8.5 is from.
Replay Value is a 10 aswell, seems like you finished it once then had enough, I played through 3 times already easy, game is that good.

i would say the graphics got an 8.5 because it was very inconsistent, the loading screens were superb as were the cutscenes, and occasionally the ingame graphics were wonderful but then out of the blue, muddy textures would appear and degrade the visual effects
Great review
I really should buy this game... One more to add to the list.

stonecold said: Great review mate as always. Not getting this game tho. Do you really want to play it more then once


You don't have to replay it from start to finish in order to see all endings, just replay certain chapters. Of course certain conditions have to be met in order to see radically different endings, but for the most part there's not too much replaying.

Despite the games flaws I still enjoyed it. It was a great game, and an interesting experience. Although I have to admit I found the end of the mall level amusing, and actually laughed.

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