Genre: Adventure Developer: Quantic Dream Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 25th Feb 2010 Platforms:PS3
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The Good bits
The Bad stuff
Numerous gameplay flaws
Heavy Rain is drastically different to probably any other game you've played before. Even David Cage's previous game - the eventually ludicrous Fahrenheit - doesn't truly compare to what Heavy Rain attempts to deliver. The danger of creating something so alien to what we're used to with video games is that there is every chance that some people won't like what you're doing - even if others might. I fall into the group that thinks Heavy Rain should have stayed a concept - and if you read on, you'll soon know why.
The first 30 minutes or so of Heavy Rain involves coaxing the main character into the shower, into some clothes and into losing your son. Showering is simple - walk (more later) to the bathroom and near the shower and floating in the air will be the move needed to instigate the shower. Flick the right thumbstick in the direction indicated and you can watch a cut-scene of Ethan (your current vessel) showering. Once he's done with his four second shower, you dry him off with the SixAxis controls - waggle your controller up and
down to dry his hair, left and right for his body. Now you walk him back into the bedroom to put some clothes on. Heavy Rain uses the R2 button to propel players forward, so you'll take more time getting back to the bedroom than you did actually showering.
Basically you're looking at perspective sensitive control - you hold the left thumb stick in the direction you'd like to go based on where the camera is currently looking and then press R2. If the camera changes perspectives he'll turn to walk in the direction you're holding which is contextually appropriate according to the camera. Basically - if the camera changes to the opposite side of what it was previously, he'll turn about face and walk back the way he was going. It's close to the single most annoying aspect of video games, and Heavy Rain revolves around it.
Part of me wants to forgive Heavy Rain for this - it is possible to send your character in a direction and then simply let go of the left thumbstick while holding R2 - (s)he'll continue to wander that way. The game trains you to hold onto the left thumbstick however, as this is how you'll investigate areas for more context sensitive right thumbstick flicks. You wind up permanently manipulating your character to walk into walls so you won't miss any action triggers - looking at a music box or a clock or some other typically irrelevant thing lest you miss something relevant.
The control scheme isn't helped thanks to vague implementation. A lot of the time you'll have a number of actions available to you, none of them described. What am I grabbing from this cabinet? A bottle of flick right thumbstick up? Perhaps a couple 'flick right thumbstick rights' will cure what ails me. Until you actually commit to each action you can't really be sure what your character is doing.
Finally you've dressed Ethan and made it downstairs using the automotive-esque controls to deal with Ethan's ***** wife. Setting the table (once you find the plates) and carrying the groceries (if you're quick enough to combine the numerous buttons) won't stop Ethan's wife from inevitably leaving him when you throw his body in front of a car to (not) save Jason - one of Ethan's idiot sons.
Why the hate for the supporting cast? A combination of poor voice acting and awkward scripting makes anyone who isn't a lead character in Heavy Rain either dull or annoying. Even Norman Jayden - the FBI agent you eventually control - destroys the illusion with curious accenting. Ethan's sons and his wife are lifeless doll characters - except when your wife is annoyed at you for placing plates roughly, when suddenly she becomes a gorgon (figuratively speaking).
The poor voice acting and scripting turn the emotional scene of Ethan's son playing in traffic while you try (and fail) to stop him from dying into just another cut-scene in a game full of them. Worse, the game is supposed to be something of an interactive movie - sort of a choose your own adventure film. Ethan's son, however, dies when he walks away from his father in a crowded mall (down some escalators, out a mall and across the road). Ethan attempts to catch up with him (slowly, because running is illegal or something), calling out "Jason" in one of three variations each step of the way. As the player you can see Jason in the crowd at the mall because he has a red balloon - but if you catch him, he disappears and is shown further away like some sort of white dragon.
Instead of allowing you to catch Jason and working things out from there, the game cheats and stops you from saving him at all. It feels like a cheat as well - if Heavy Rain is supposed to be a game where your choices matter, you'd imagine that your actions would as well. The game cheats in other ways as well - though not in ways I can reveal without spoiling the story.
The death of Ethan's son turns out to be the catalyst for Ethan and his wife to split up, though from their earlier relationship interactions it seemed like she just needed the excuse. As Ethan you spend the next part of the game tending to your remaining son, Shaun. You get him pizza, decide if he can watch TV or must do his homework and fetch his teddy bear for him. The game is attempting to create a connection between you and Ethan's son - it's important when he gets kidnapped by the game's antagonist, the Origami (pronounced to rhyme with either army or hammy at different times during the game) Killer.
Unfortunately the exploratory nature of the game means you'll probably draw this 15 minute scene out to 25 minutes or more as you walk into the walls around the house, trying to find things to interact with. Drink some juice, look at a clock, open a medicine cabinet and get cold and flu tablets - all of these things are there for you to experience. In a movie this scene would be done in five to 10 minutes, and the connection would be established. It seems Quantic Dream decided that for players to establish a connection with Ethan and his son, sequences needed to be extended - the exact opposite is true.
The very nature of video games creates immediate connections - especially between the player and the player character. No establishing plot is inserted for Norman Jayden, Scott Shelby or
Madison Paige, and they're simply not needed. Norman Jayden has a pretty heavy drug addiction - to a drug which doesn't exist and is never fully explained - and yet I still cared enough about him as the player character to try to stop him from getting killed. This isn't to say character development is a bad thing - it's simply misused in Heavy Rain, and the game suffers as a result.
Eventually Ethan puts Shaun to bed before heading there himself - beginning the next chapter. The impact is lost - after spending so long as Ethan (an extended period of time if you're an explorer) you're relieved to be someone else, not emotionally connected to what Ethan feels. The line between interactivity and progression is heavily skewed here, resulting in an altogether slow start to the game.
The original reviewer must have been playing a different game
I just bought this yesterday and 12hrs later completed it, though there is replayability with doing alternate choices to unlock other trophies
Nevertheless i thoroughly enjoyed the playing experience for the most part. only big downside was trying to react to the control advisors when they are either hidden behind something or are shaking naturally which makes it hard to see if you were meant to be actually tapping quick or holding the button
I found myself feeling an empathy towards ethan and Shaun., it was pretty obvious whether Ethan was guilty or not, but the ending was somewhat of a suprise, and for the most part the whole story was something i could see in a Psychological thriller at the box office.
It had aspects of SAW, 24, Pulp Fiction
The acting wasn't awfull as previously stated and considering it was a game and not an actual movie they depth they went to was extensive.
Plenty of action moments, and some action fight scenes that were terrible with the controls but looked good nonetheless. One bad thing on those, it seemed in some cases it didn't matter if you failed to press a button or not the end result was just one extra move added.
Being that I work in the games industry, I can honestly say that I had never even heard of Heavy Rain until October last year. What I saw at the game demonstration I got to see live was simply amazing, and when I heard that this was being done by the same guys as Fahrenheit, I thought that this was going to be an awesome cinematic experience. I was not let down.
Now, let me make this perfectly clear. Heavy Rain is the type of game that will only appeal to a particular group of gamers. It's very much like the Role Playing or 'Final Fantasy' genre, where you will either love or hate this particular style of game. Heavy Rain and Fahrenheit really do have their own genre, which I like to call "Interactive Narrative", where it's not so much about you winning or losing the game per say, but more about one simple thing: choice.
This isn't the first time 'choice' has been put into a game. Many RPG's claim to have choice, but it's more about if you want to be good or evil. Heavy Rain's choices really revolve around you, as a person, and as a human being. Many times that I was given choices to different scenario's, I often questioned myself. Did I really want to do this... It was very much a tale of morality.
Let me give you a quick rundown on the story of the game, as I really couldn't find too much else online about it. The game's central theme revolves around an individual called the Origami Killer, who has killed boys by drowning them in rainwater, dumping the bodies, and leaving a piece of Origami with them as his calling card. You get to play 4 main characters in the story, A father who has just had his son kidnapped, a woman who stumbles across him and tries to help him, a private eye who has been hired by the families of the victims to track the killer down, and an FBI agent who is also trying to hunt them down. Their storylines really do intertwine very well with each other, and the FBI agent in particular is very exciting to play.
Without giving much of the story away, when you play as Ethan, the father, you discover that the Origami Killer gives you 5 pieces of Origami, inside of each is a clue that you have to go to, and complete a test set out by the killer. If you complete these tests, you will get a piece of the puzzle to the final location of your son, who will drown if you don't get to him in time. Each test really almost has a 'Saw' like quality to it, and the theme of the game really drives home with each test: "How far are you willing to go to save someone you love?".
The controls of the game are all done by quick time events. They are very well done, and use the SixAxis controller very well. The best bit about this is that you don't have to be an awesome hardcore gamer to enjoy the Heavy Rain experience. This is a great starting platform for people who are looking to get into gaming, or guys if you want to get your partner playing your PS3, this is a great start.
To quickly sum up, as it is hard to write a review without getting excited and telling you major plot points, if you are looking for an action game, this isn't the game for you. If you are a fan of games like Bioshock, or System Shock, where the game plays you rather then you play the game, you will love Heavy Rain. It's the biggest emotional ride any game will take you on, and is well worth playing.
I must preface all of this by saying that I have sat through Avatar - twice - and I still think its a great movie. I'm prepared to ignore that godawful story just to see those cutting edge visuals. I guess I find it easy to overlook bad things when I find other good things that I really like.
I could probably add to both of those lists, but I would be here all day. In the end, I felt like all the different parts of the game came together to make something really rare and special. However, like the aforementioned James Cameron epic, I'm sure its possible that someone else could see the exact same thing and declare it a complete POS. It's a matter of taste I guess. I still have a friend who won't look me in the eye since I took him to see Avatar.
This was not a book, it was not a movie, the experience felt like something entirely different - if I was a complete wanker I would call it Interactive Drama.