Heavy Rain Review
Heavy Rain is a rare gem. It doesn't really have an equivalent, the closest game I can think of is Indigo Prophecy also developed by Quantic Dream. Thankfully though Heavy Rain is a far better game and experience and will take you places you never thought video games could.
Heavy Rain is the story of 4 characters who are all involved in the hunt for the Origami Killer, a serial killer who kidnaps and drowns young boys, leaving only an origami figure on their dead bodies. The player starts the game by taking control of Ethan Mars, a father who lives a depressing life after a traumatic event that happens at the beginning of the game. Ethan's son gets kidnapped by the Origami Killer and the plot centers around Ethan's journey to get his son back. You also take control of a journalist, a private detective and an FBI profiler. Each character has his or her motivation to catch the killer and all of them are well fleshed out and interesting. The plot is also note worthy, setting a new benchmark in videogame story telling. Heavy Rain offers a dark, gritty story (think Seven), a thriller full of twists and red herrings. It'll keep you guessing until the very end and compell you to keep playing. It's an edge of your seat thrill ride.
Something else that'll keep you on your toes is the way the game works. When a character dies, he or she is gone forever and the story continues.There are no game over screens, no optiion to retry. The death can mean many things: you may not play certain levels or the Origami Killer may get away. Any choice you make in permanent and some of the choices the game throws at you are pretty extreme. You'll find yourself in some pretty messed up situations where you'll be asking yourself which choice is the least bad. And the best part is that the game doesn't give you much time to think about these decisions. Remember in Dragon Age: Origins when you were asked to choose between siding with the elves or the werewolves ? You had all the time in the world to make up your mind since the game was basically on pause. What Heavy Rain does is that if your not quick enough, the gamre makes the choice for you. This adds a much welcomed feeling of urgency to the game.
Another interesting aspect to the game is the way these choices are presented to you. Each choice gravitates around the character's head with a button prompt next to it. According to the character's state of mind (happy, scared, angry...), the choices move faster or shake. This can sometimes make reading the buttons you have to press for each choice difficult, especially circle and square, and sometimes you just end up guessing. So as you may have guessed by now, Heavy Rain is all about choice and if that doesn't sound fun to you then maybe this game isn't for you.
Now for the most debated part of Heavy Rain: the gameplay. The game is split into two distinct gameplay segments: action and investigating. The game has an equal amount of both. The action parts are probably the better of the two. They rely heavilly on quick time events. Oh no, not those again, I hear you say. Don't worry, Heavy Rain does them really well. As you'd expect, during action scenes the game gives you a button prompt that you must press in time in order to interact with your character. The game does a good job at telling you how much time you have to press this button. It does an even better job at placing these buttons on the screen. The main criticism against QTEs is that they take the player's attention away from what is happening on screen. Heavy Rain completely avoids this by putting the prompts where the action is happening. For example, during a fist fight, the buttons appear on the fists. This makes for an enjoyable and intense experience. These QTEs get increasingly complicated asking at some points to press five buttons at the same time.
Now for the investigating part of the game. What makes this part so tedious and boring are the controls. That character's head is controlled by the right thumb stick while to make the character walk around you must hold down R2. It feels like driving a tank and is the opposite of natural, it's clunky and doesn't feel right. The character has trouble navigating the environment, getting stuck on certain parts of the geometry: it's just not fun to play and the weakest part of the game. The camera doesn't do you any favors either. Now don't get me wrong, there is some great camera work in this game, giving it a very cinematic feel. But when it comes to navigating the character, the fixed camera angles can get pretty frustrating. They keep you from seeing where you're going and seeing key objects. You can switch between two camera angles but this never really helps.
What Quantic Dream were going for was a game with a cinematic feel and they nail that in the presentation. In termes of graphics, the game goes for a gritty, depressing, realistic look with dark and gritty looking environments that really set the ton to this epic. The characters are equally right at home in these locals. They look tired and depressed which in this case feels right. The motion capture used for these characters is top of the class making them seem real. Sure, there are still some cases of zombie eyes and weird mouth mouvement but all in all it's technically impressive. Something that's alot less impressive is the voice acting. The problem isn't the way the actors deliver their lines but rather their accents. This was clearly a game made in a country where the primary laguage wasn't american english because there are a slew of scottish and french accents in this game that really take away from the consistently realistic nature of the game. The fact that not a single character in the game can correctly pronounce the word origamy doesn't help. To end on the plus side, the score is really well done and is used in interesting ways.
As I said before, Heavy Rain is a rare gem. It accomplishes things that other games have yet to even do. If you're into FPSs with lots of explosions then this might not be for you. The first hour and a half feels like controlling a high tech tamogotchi. It's very slow paced and tries to set the mood. But if you've come to expect more out of your videogames then you shoud definitelly trie this out. This is the thinking man's game and what a good one it is.
One word review: Experience