Review: Heavy Rain (PS4)

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Title: Heavy Rain
Format: Blu-ray Disc (EU) / PlayStation Network Download (30.96 GB)
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Quantic Dream
Original MSRP: $29.99 Stand-alone / $39.99 Bundled with BEYOND: Two Souls
ESRB Rating: M
Heavy Rain is also available on PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
I played Heavy Rain on PS3 but I didn’t get very far before I was distracted by…”OH! Firefly!” (HEY EDITOR: Only the BEST nerds will get that. Did YOU?”) (HEY REVIEWER: Shiny)

In 2010 when the game launched the controls were innovative in an effort to increase the player’s immersion.

The opening scene is a tutorial about movement and even listening to your character’s thoughts. The controls initially seem clumsy. There are two sticks which are traditional in execution of movement for almost every other game. Do not look for that here.

You will be taught a different way to use the controller. But it seems very clumsy. Like I am wandering around the bedroom instead of walking easily to the place I need to be. WHY didn’t they just simplify this ordeal and let us control the game normally?

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Since they cut out Move support and they give no option for Move-like control if the gamer owns the PS4 Camera, as I do, I have to ask, “What are you getting at?”. Innovation for its own sake is never good, particularly when it comes to something as simple as walking to a point in space. This isn’t Octodad but initially it feels like it, just a lot less amusing.

The control indicators on the screen seem touch pad-centric. But they are right thumb indicators which again feel counter-intuitive to the PS4 controls we have all been using for a couple of years now. They look like “swipes” but they are not.

… There is NO exploration of environment …
The DualShock 4 controller would seem to be a boon to the developers. The DS4 is the best of Move and the DualShock 3 for any developer who wishes to use these elements of control. Since Quantic Dream had created one of the most successful Move games with a DualShock 3 option why would you not combine the best of those two control schemes? I know not why. It is senseless. It is clumsy.

There are times when you are instructed to shake the controller up and down or side to side and I had to be SO vigorous that I heard the insides of the controller banging around. To dry-off after the shower takes such vociferous controller shaking that it’s difficult to see when the indicator is full because my eyes can’t focus, largely because the effort is so great I had to close my eyes to do it. It’s like trying to sneeze with your eyes open.

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Press L1 to explore your environment, says the tutorial. It changes the camera angle by one. One. It’s like playing a PS2 game with better graphics. There is NO exploration of environment. Let me make this clear and explain why. Looking at your character from the left and hitting a button to look at him from the right is NOT, nor will it ever be, exploring your environment.

Although there may be indicators, that doesn’t mean you can actually follow them. If the game doesn’t want you in the backyard and you open the sliding door, the indicator turns red and the door closes. The same thing happened when trying to shave before showering. Only after my shower was I permitted to follow the game’s indicator.

Camera angles may be changed by using the L1 button. Unless they can’t, which is frequently enough to be curious. This paradigm seems pervasive. The game gives you instructions and then randomly reneges. Another instance is when you’re told to frequently check what your character is thinking.

"Lens Flare"

“Lens Flare”

Controls are not all bad. I did ace the Quick Time Event (QTE) juggling section with aplomb. I’m not sure that saying a QTE is the best part of the control scheme is a good thing but it’s the best this version of the game has to offer.

CONTROL RANT
This was a Move game on PS3. Arguably this was the BEST implementation of Move. The game was quirky to control but once Move functionality was patched-in it gave more context for that quirkiness.

Move works with PS4 if one owns the camera for the PS4. The PS4 camera SOLD OUT and had to be restocked upon release. Lots of people who may not own the camera because of gameplay buy one for STREAMING purposes during drunken blizzard-casts like the one I did. People own PS4 cameras, if only to broadcast their weird lives in Playroom over Ustream!

There are likely far fewer gamers who own a Move controller but with PlayStation VR on the horizon, which will once again introduce Move to gamers, might it not have been wise to include the Move control scheme as well? I say yes. I say it’s a no-brainer.

Instead Heavy Rain for PS4 has saddled itself with direct porting of the DualShock 3 controls to a controller with far more intelligent options for control. The DualShock 4 is almost a Move controller already. What a waste.

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Characters move like robots when you’re in control of them. Head one way and stilted movement another. Oddly, as in Zelda games when Link looks in the direction of something you should pay attention to, so do these characters. BUT for an anamorphic cartoon character that works well. Here it looks like people all have cricks in their necks. Or need a priest to get the head-swiveling demon out.

You can also not engage any NPCs and they pay no heed of your robotic “Jason”ing.

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The story elements are pretty vague in the beginning. I assumed the guy worked from home so I spent all my time trying to find a desk and then that part was over and the next thing began. I hope I didn’t get him fired because his wife comes home and asks if he got any work done and he has to say that he did not. So apparently he DOES work from home but I could NOT find out how and I went everywhere in the house that I could.

The controls are so hideous, the character movements so dated, the graphics update so obvious, that the story is almost lost entirely. At least until you get to the credit sequence which looks a lot like several films from that year with 3D credits floating about the environment. It is at this moment, if you can tolerate the bad acting, unnecessarily cumbersome controls, and questionable writing for dialogue, that Heavy Rain on PS4 is almost alright.

… the ideas and mechanics they invented have outgrown them …
It’s those pesky controls which break the flow of the narrative, and thus the game, which makes all the difference. How difficult should it BE to get into a car during an emotional moment? The flow is absolutely destroyed.

It is here I would ask how this game got its reputation for being a stalwart and banner waver of storytelling in the gaming space. But then I have to cast my mind back to 2010. For its time, this game was surprising! Stuck cabinets and all! Unfortunately for Quantic Dream, the ideas and mechanics they invented have outgrown them.

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Visuals:
They’ve upgraded some of the graphics but there are still moments when out-of-focus equals pixelated. They have also attempted lens flare which fails to do anything but wash out the visuals for a moment. The first time it is encountered looks like an error.

Heavy Rain has never looked better though. It’s too bad that’s all they did.

Characters, NPC and playable alike, move around like inanimate robots. There are in-engine cutscenes with NPCs walking around and making turns at ONLY RIGHT ANGLES.

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Audio:
Although the game was roundly given the side-eye by gamers for its poor voice acting, no adjustments have been made.

Every other sound choice seems amateurish and added in as a secondary thought.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

… What a missed opportunity …
Conclusion:
Heavy Rain has not aged well. It was filled with so much innovation upon its release in 2010 that it was on the very cusp of changing games forever. Unfortunately for this re-release it was remarkably successful. All other games have moved far beyond this thanks to its inspiration.

I wonder, considering the reception of Beyond Two Souls, whether Quantic Dream has lifted their collective heads up from their own work to see how other developers have built upon their legacy.

How can David Cage and Quantic Dream have examined the functionality of the DualShock 4, even subtracting the option of gamers like me owning the camera, and only ported controls from the DualShock 3? I don’t get it at all. It is a major failing.

It’s as if they’d given-up worrying about controls for the PS4 on a game which was very largely all about control innovation. As a matter of fact, now more than ever with this nearly six-year old game, they had an opportunity to greatly expand the control repertoire! Instead they chose to deal almost exclusively with increasing the visuals from 720p to 1080p.

If you missed the PS3 generation and are thinking you’d like to play this lauded video game I can only entreat you to stay away with this little chestnut, “Sometimes nostalgia is better left in the past.” Keep moving forward.

Not all games should be revisited. It has utterly fallen apart from what its initial objectives were. A graphical upgrade falls short for making this game feel new again. What a missed opportunity!

Play Life Is Strange instead.

Score:
4.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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  • Sean McLaughlin

    Thanks for this write-up.
    I never finished the PS3 version and upon hearing the game was coming to PS4 I was immediately interested, but I wondered if the same Move control scheme would be available. This is the first place I have found a definitive answer – so thanks for helping me not waste my money.
    Absolutely ridiculous that they didn’t include Move support for PS4.

  • Alan Hackles

    …what?

    1. Ethan’s office is downstairs. It’s very easy to find, especially since it’s right next to your wife near the kitchen.

    2. When the indicator flashes red, it means you failed. You either went too fast or too slow. It says so right in the tutorial.

    3. I don’t know what you expected. It’s a graphical upgrade from the PS3, not a remake. Obviously you weren’t a fan of it on the PS3, otherwise you wouldn’t be so harsh on it now. I’m playing it again and it’s exactly how I remembered it, so I have no idea what you’re talking about. It is what it is.

    4. Life is Strange sucks.

    • Rodney Gault

      I agree Alan. It seems that the writer was so busy trying to get his half ass review posted befor anyone else, that he lost touch on reality. Its like he saw there was no move support and instead of trying the game, he went right to typing up his opinion er review. Having platnumed the game on the PS3 I figured I would revisit it on the PS4 and have found myself enjoying it just as much if no more than I did the first time around! LOL @ play Life is Strange instead. Now that game was a waste of install space…!