Heavy Rain ReviewPatrick Honeyman
Heavy Rain. A type of weather that we as Brits are pretty used to anytime of the year, living where we are in the world. It also happens to be the title of Quantic Dreams newest game for the PS3 and takes the bold step of further bridging the gap between games and film. Does their latest offering achieve such lofty ideals or does it end up wallowing among the has-beens of the attempts of former titles aiming for the same goal? Read on to find out.
Up until the games release Heavy Rain has been touted as a strongly story-driven game where you play as 4 different individuals wrapped up in the investigation of the Origami Killer; an individual who has the tendency to drown his victims (all young boys aged 10), place orchids on their chest and origami figures near their dead bodies. It certainly sounds the stuff of film noir and Quantic Dream are certainly going for this mood in the game with almost constantly grey skies and (as expected) lots of Heavy Rain.
The opening to the game introduces you to one of the four individuals who you get to play through the game, architect Ethan Mars as he wakes up and gets prepared for his sons birthday. It is here that the game takes you through the basic controls and from the off you will see that this game aims to control like no other. Although reminiscent of quick-time events from other games, Heavy Rain aims to integrate you into the world the game presents to you as much as possible by commanding the actions the players do, from putting on clothes to laying the table, playing with Ethans sons to smooching up with the missus. It all serves to make you feel that you are the individual in the game, rather than just controlling them on a PS3 controller. The same can be said for the other three characters (journalist Madison Page, CIA agent Norman Jayden and Private Eye Scott Shelby) as you guide them through the various encounters they will go through as you play the game. Quantic Dream have done a really nice job of balancing the time between the characters here so as you are just about wondering when youll get back to the situation one of the other characters is in you pick up from where they left off last time.
Players can also hold the L2 button to either see what the character is thinking at any time or choose from the options available to pose questions at certain key points in the game. Although initially superficial it does serve a useful purpose such as in the interrogation scenes with Jayden and his rough around the edges partner or hinting at where Scott Shelby should be checking next. Its a nice and subtle way to ease the player along without having an obvious white arrow pop up on the screen and indicating THIS WAY to the player.
As expected, playing through the game allows you to familiarise yourself with the four main characters, their involvement in the main story, their motivations and what they are trying to achieve as you play through the different chapters. Although it has been reported that the story will continue on even if some of the key characters die you will no doubt be intrigued by their tales and eager to learn what makes them tick, hence aiming to keep them within the overall driving theme (at least the first time through). It is also interesting to note that characters choices in the game will affect the outcome of certain events and adds replay as you go back and pick a different option to last time in the same scene to see if it does play out any differently.
As far as graphics and sound are concerned in Heavy Rain players will be hard driven to find better among todays games. Characters and environments look really solid, highly detailed and most of all convincingly expressive. Seeing Ethan interact with his sons conveys the right emotions as does many other scenes through out the game and the music and sound effects hit all the right points for punctuating the games many captivating sections with a sweeping score and everything sounding as it should. Its the sort of attention to detail that makes you want to play Heavy Rain in a low-light or dark room just to enhance the experience.
As good as the game may be, as ever there are some downsides to it. Although the pace of the game is entirely intentional of Quantic Dream the game could still come across as too pedestrian for some. That there are no run buttons the player can use when playing Heavy Rain adds to the feeling that the player either needs to appreciate at the pace it is presented to them or not get involved at all. Fans of more fast-paced titles therefore may not have the patient to allow the games tale to unfold. Another issue is that once players have played through the game once, will they actually go back and play the game through again? Although you may want to see certain scenes go down another path, with the pace of the game players may want to leave Heavy Rain to the side for a few days before diving into its world once again and seeing how they go through the games story a second or third time. Finally, people who have purchased copies of the game have reported glitches they have encountered in the game where they would find that whilst playing the game would freeze or even worse, not allow you to load your previous save game to continue playing the game (a problem I myself encountered on a few occasions). At this moment in time I really can not comment on whether Quantic Dream/SONY intend to release a patch to rectify these issues but when you get such an involving game with a game-breaking glitch such as this that does not allow you to continue playing the game you have paid for, I can only think that this a major oversight and literally prevents my future ability to enjoy the game. Hopefully in the near future the game will successfully be patched and all will be forgotten though.
Heavy Rain is a game that tries something bold and mostly succeeds in achieving it, all be it at the pace the games creators want you to experience it at. As far as games bridging the gap between this medium and that of film, Id say Heavy Rain brings us one step closer to realizing that whilst still remaining an exciting, involving and quite original gaming experience. Just make sure you dont get a glitch copy!
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.