Review: Heavy Rain (PS3)

HeavyRain

Title: Heavy Rain
Release Date: February 23, 2010
Platform: PS3

*NOTE* This review is completely spoiler-free

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of Indigo Prophecy. I thought the idea behind what they were trying to do was impressive, but it was obvious that the technology just wasn’t there yet to fulfill the vision that David Cage and the rest of the team had. Because of that, I was very skeptical of Heavy Rain, as again, the goals and vision seemed quite lofty, and I was curious to see if it could actually live-up to the claims of a fully interactive way to tell a story. Mark and I both got some pretty extensive time with a preview of this game a few weeks ago, which represented probably about 15%-20% of the actual game, and after playing through it 3 times, I couldn’t wait to see what the full game had in-store for us. Not only am I not disappointed, I’m incredibly impressed.

My goal here is to be completely Spoiler-Free, but because of that, this review is going to be quite vague. Heavy Rain relies so heavily on the story elements and the characters involved, that it’s very tough to talk about any of that without spoiling something in the game. I will give you the quick game overview that even people on a “media blackout” would know.
Hit the link to see the full review!

FUGITIVE_01

The city is living in fear as the “Origami Killer” is still on the loose. The killer kidnaps children in broad daylight, leaving the corpse in an easy to find area a few days later, the only clues being that all of the victims are being drowned, and they are found with an orchid lying on their chest and an Origami figure placed in their hands. The story though, revolves around four main characters, all of whom will be affected by the actions of this serial killer.

Ethan Mars- An Architect with 2 children, a beautiful wife, and a very fancy home (Also, he has the stupidest kids EVER!)
Norman Jayden- An FBI Profiler that has some pretty cool tech to work with, but even with that, has his own demons to deal with
Scott Shelby- A Private Investigator hired by the families of the victims to find the killer
Madison Paige- A woman whose involvement in the story is a mystery (I don’t want to give anything away)

The first “chapter” of the game is actually a tutorial of sorts. You may get a bit bored with what’s going on, but it’s there for a purpose as the contextual control system is definitely something new to most gamers. Power through it and you’ll see the four unique stories begin to unfold in their own ways. The big “draw” of Heavy Rain is the fact that your choices will influence how the story progresses. Their are numerous branches that can be experienced, and some that you may not even come across in your initial play-through. This is definitely the most complex story progression system that I have ever seen, and it amazes me that so much work has been put into this game. I’ve played through a couple of scenes in up to 4 different ways, and to see how different the outcome can be is pretty outstanding. The story and corresponding gameplay are based primarily in emotions, and this is one of the only games that I have ever played which actually pulls it off (well, most of the time.) You will find yourself becoming emotionally involved with the characters and the choices that have to be made. You’ll probably not realize the subtle tools that the designers have used to trigger the response in you that’s being evoked in the game. Things such as a minor thump in the controller to match a quickening heartbeat, or making the text for your choices jump around a bit, making the choice tougher to make because it’s more difficult to read. There were a couple of instances when I simply made a certain choice because the action needed to be done (in my mind at least,) but even then I do believe that MY emotions were the cause of my actions, which in a weird way is probably still in the realm of what the designers desired. Don’t be fooled, this is an interactive movie, but you are the one that determines where the story goes and what will happen to the characters. If Uncharted 2 is a summer blockbuster, then Heavy Rain is a Film Noire murder mystery in the greatest possible sense.

LIZARD

Visuals:
Stunning in every way. The level of detail in the characters is mind blowing, and sometimes just a bit eerie. The lip-syncing is spot-on, and overall the character movement is wonderful. It still sometimes looks a bit awkward when walking, and a couple of the times the interaction between characters didn’t really look right. Also, I caught an occasional texture-load or framerate hitch, but it was extremely rare. Those moments don’t detract from the overall experience though, and honestly if that’s all that I can find wrong with the visuals, it’s a very good thing. The locations are large set pieces instead of going from Point A to Point B. Again, the level of detail from lighting and shadows, to individually numbered lockers, to just the overall intricate textures and lighting truly lifts Heavy Rain to a new plateau of graphics in a game. You’ll see dust particles floating in the bands of sunlight, and an over-saturation of bright light when moving from the dark to a light room. I just can’t explain in words how great this game looks. Even in scenes with huge crowds, gamers are used to seeing animations reused in those kinds of situations, but not in Heavy Rain. Every character is doing something unique, which becomes quite evident when you walk into a night club. It took me a few minutes to notice, but then I made sure to check every character, comparing them to each other to see if anything was being replicated. I was shocked to see that nothing was being reused. The attention to detail is truly incredible, and it’s very noticeable from the opening scene all the way to whichever of the 20 or so endings that you reach.

Then there’s the Rain, which itself is a character in the story. It reacts with objects and people exactly the way it should, and the lightning effect used is very convincing. The Rain also serves as another tool to help evoke an emotional response throughout the story. You almost feel like you’re in the room with the characters, and the effect the rain has on you can be quite similar to how it’s affecting the mood of the characters.

NATHANIEL_05

Controls:
A big question that a lot of people have had is in regard to the controls. Many have written this game off as simply being a series of quick-time events, which is quite far from the truth. First, there are button-pressing events in the game, mainly during fights or other action-oriented events. But there is so much more to Heavy Rain than the action. You’ll have many instances that are all about making choices in dialog, or even what you’re character is thinking. You’ll have tasks like playing with your kids or searching for evidence. All of this is done in a more traditional sense, but even then, has it’s own unique take on the mechanics.

The action events do rely on button presses and Right Stick movements, but they’re completely contextual. Unlike other games like Heavenly Sword, if you miss an action, you’re not done. The scene continues, but it always seemed to make things just a bit tougher, so the timer on a action will run faster or additional actions will be added, that sort of thing. So, if you’re in a fight and you miss a button press, the fight is now in your opponent’s court. You have to fight harder to make your comeback, essentially as in a real fight. Again, I don’t want to go any farther, because if I do, I’ll be giving some elements away, and the “finding out” is half the fun. I will say this though, I absolutely HATED the events the way they were implemented in Heavenly Sword. Saying that, I had NO problem with the controls in Heavy Rain, except for one thing that doesn’t happen very often. When you’re just walking around, the controls are a bit non-standard. You point to where you want to go using the left stick, but you walk forward with R2. Every now and then, the controlled character really wouldn’t go where I was trying to get him or her to go. Again, it was rare but it did happen.

The other mechanic that is unique is the use of multiple buttons for certain events. So, for an example, climbing up an embankment. You would start with your right hand, in this case R1. Then, while holding R1, you would bring-up your left hand, in this case L1. David Cage has said that in situations that are difficult, they are conveying the difficulty by making the player almost contort their hands in extreme situations, and it makes sense when you are presented with it.

SHRINK

Audio:
Let’s just tackle the most worried-about portion of the audio right off the bat, the voice acting. As many have been talking about, the voice for Ethan Mars seems to be pretty annoying, especially if you’ve watched the video of the gameplay in the mall. Trust me when I say, that’s the worst that Ethan gets. I still consider him kind-of a whiny bitch, but the quality of his lines and delivery definitely gets better after that scene. The other one that will jump out at you is FBI Profiler Norman Jayden. Obviously the character is supposed to be from New England, but the actor that plays him forces the accent a bit much. Luckily, it doesn’t happen often, and he really handles intense scenes quite well. Other than that, there’s a bit-part of a motel clerk that is obviously supposed to be “creepy,” but just comes-off as comical. Again, he had very few lines, and actually the laugh was welcome in that situation.

Other than that, the voice acting is superb. There are so many voiced parts in the game, and none of them ever pulled me out of the story. Emotions are conveyed amazingly well, and the variety of the characters truly stood-out to me. Conversations seemed very natural, with inflections between characters done very well. It literally is like you’re watching a movie at some points, even though you’re interacting with what’s going on. On top of all that, the soundtrack enhances the emotions nicely and helps even more to pull the player into the experience.

SHARK_02

Fini:
So, let’s cover a couple of other items. First, bonus features on the disc include a bunch of concept art, and also a Behind the Scenes feature broken into chapters. All are unlocked in-game, and especially the Behind the Scenes stuff is pretty cool to watch. They cover actor auditions, and how they not only captured the actor’s motions, but also their facial expressions while they read all of their lines. Also, it took me about 9 hours to reach the ending that I saw. You will not see everything in the game on a single play-through, as there are branches that veer-away from the storyline that you may be sticking to.

So, that’s a LOT of review for not knowing what I’d say. After reading this a few times, I am confident that I haven’t spoiled anything. I am truly astonished that I enjoyed this game as much as I did, as honestly, my expectations were low. We’ve all heard the proclamations about the truly immersive interactive story, but Heavy Rain is really the first one to actually deliver. This is as well written and executed as any well received Hollywood action/thriller, and it is completely engrossing once you get past the tutorial level (even that part of the game is there for more of a reason than just to get the player used to the controls.) I truly love this game, and honestly I can’t find anything that would detract from the experience. From top-to-bottom Heavy Rain delivers an amazing experience that definitely sets the bar for interactive storytelling.

Score:
9.0

Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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  • how many trophies did you unlock your first play though? and how easy or hard does it look like getting a platinum on this one gonna be? Just curious cause i know they've been quite on them because they didnt want to spoil anything (not asking you to tell us what they are just curious on difficulty level and how many). Great review Glenn, keep up the great work.

  • Amazing review Torgo! Very descriptive without containing spoilers! Just the way I like em! This is already a day-1 buy for me, and has been for a long time, but the reviews just keep reassuring me of the game's awesomeness! 😀

    -Plankfan

  • Nice review!
    I can't wait now! Is the special edition being released in America?
    I really can't wait!!!
    I wanna play the demo again!

  • donthizz

    i was going to buy this game anyways, i hope others will give this game a try, i got a feeling this game might not sell well..

  • madeup6

    Holy crap these pictures have a lot of detail in them. Great review. You cleared some stuff up for me. The controls seem a little strange but that's ok.

  • Anonymous

    That’s a lot of words for a talker! Nice write-up, Torgo 🙂

  • Vedderist

    Looks awesome. I'll give it a crack

  • Toschi2222

    TORGO HYPE!!!… no just kidding, really looking forward to this. Did it feel anything like those old Lucas Arts adventures or some kind of evolution from it? Are there some puzzles of some kind at least and was every objective perfectly clear? Nevertheless nice review.

  • UncleRemus

    I am know so exited about this game that I will start my pee-pee dance now!

  • good review , can't wait to play it

  • Vedderist

    Just played the demo and I'm very impressed.

  • congratulations, the PS Blog linked this review on their site

  • madeup6

    Really? Now that's cool.

  • madeup6

    Really? Now that's cool.

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