You're So Vain...
Heavy Rain, like all video games really, is about illusion. You are led to believe your choices matter, and fret about each choice, knowing well that you have to choose fast before the game makes a decision for you, but the illusion breaks apart somewhat at the end.
In the first third of the game, as you get to know the main 4 characters and the plot threads start, this game is a 5 star game for me, taking the interactive story genre to new heights. Mundane scenes, where you do very little interacting and mostly press buttons and watch certain actions play out, and high octane QTE events mishmash well and you never really know what is coming next. The game is positively exciting, reminding me of the movie Seven - this is a dark noir thriller.
In the second third, the story kicks into gear. High octane QTE events start coming one after the other with little to no downtime, which can be somewhat exhausting. However, this fits well with the story, as one character in particular goes through some really bad situations and you really start thinking about his choices and what you would do, which keeps you invested in the story and gets quite emotional. Still very much like Seven.
But then comes the last third, as things get even crazier. Which builds up to the big reveal, which sadly is confusing and the game's attempt at answering the questions it opens does little to actually answer them. Conjecture can somewhat alleviate this, but just two or three more flashbacks could have solved this much better. Not at all like Seven...
However, I found the idea of replaying to see if it makes more sense knowing what I know appealing, and while I'll probably wait some time to do so, I do fear it might not make any more sense even the second time through.
The game (probably 3 and 3/4s stars really from me) is simply uneven in all categories - graphics range from really strong to average, the QTEs sometimes don't register correctly (no matter how much sixaxis shaking is done), some general game jankyness (moving the player especially, especially when it comes to moving through scene transitions and the associated camera view changes) and finally the story has some major gaping holes. It's as if the game was never fully finished and patched up for release quickly. One of the main characters partners up with a character whose character model is rather weak (especially the facial animations), yet a store clerk who appears in one short scene looks amazingly realistic.
The game is uneven, but is still quite an experience. Best played in long sessions in my opinion, it takes a giant step in the interactive story genre. Being an adventure game fan, this falls right in my corner, but some more polish with the engine and story resolution could have made this a 5 star game.