Review: Heavy Rain

Review: Heavy Rain

Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain is an emotional, story-driven romp filled with action, dynamic characters and an engaging narrative. But does it truly stack up as a fun game, or is it just a narrative experience?

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head (Plink, Plonk)

Heavy Rain is quite unlike any other game that came before it, made up of various narrative events tied together with Quick Time Events such as opening fridges, switching on TV’s, sword fighting and even crawling through deadly electric cables. Heavy Rain may therefore not be for those who prefer a more action-oriented experience, instead, this is a game for those who love a dynamic narrative that forces the player to make an emotional bond with the characters involved through the extremely effective story events. There are however, ample action events, but the heavy focus on QTE’s may be a put off for some people – however, to those, I can assure you that Heavy Rain’s QTE events are so well implemented they will draw you into the action more than any QTE ever has before. There’s nothing quite like dodging a crazed madman weilding a knife with a series of hectic QTE events, particularly when you’re using the Playstation Move controller, which improves immersion tenfold.

Immersion is a term that gets thrown around quite a bit lately related to games, and in many cases, it isn’t used appropriately. A game needs a great storyline and a believable world to truly immerse the player, and Heavy Rain is one of those rare games that truly possesses that. The story itself is full of so many twists and exciting set-pieces that it never bores, the characters are varied and extremely dynamic, with their stories all intertwining at regular points throughout the tale, and your decisions at certain points within the actual game will have a dramatic impact upon the ending of the game. In short, all of this comes together to create an experience that will truly sucker you in, making you wait on tenterhooks for the next exciting twist in the storyline to come your way.

However, despite all this immesion, many may become infuriated with the lack of a traditional gameplay structure. There’s no run-and-gun gameplay to be found here, nor is there any traditional style of gaming you may have experienced elsewhere. Heavy Rain instead stands alone in its own genre – this is an interactive drama, not just a game.  The concern comes whether this experience may be for everyone – there’s thousands of gamers out there who don’t care the least for story and just enjoy killing things, so to those, Heavy Rain may not be the ideal game. However, to those people I would say reconsider your stance on gaming, expand your horizons and you will find an extremely in-depth game right here that I can almost guarantee will keep you enthralled well and truly from the slower-paced beginning all the way through to the exciting climax where you find out what your decisions have done, and how they’ve ultimately affected the world of Heavy Rain.

A Really Rainy Plot

The story itself is told from several different perspectives, each of which is tied to the other in some way. The main character, essentially, is Ethan Mars, a troubled young farther who’s son was killed by a car about a year before the events of Heavy Rain. As Heavy Rain begins, Ethan then finds himself tied up in a plot with a mysterious serial murderer known as the Origami Killer. I won’t go into the details of why Ethan is troubled by this guy for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say Ethan is in real trouble, and will have to experience a journey that will truly take him to his breaking point (and possibly beyond it).

Other characters include Madison, a nosy journalist type (those people, honestly, who’d be one *looks at self* oh yeah!), Norman, a mysterious FBI agent with some extremely funky gadgets, and Scott Shelby, a private detective who is investigating the Origami killings on behalf of the families of the victims. Each of these characters is voiced brilliantly, although the part where Ethan constantly shouts ‘JASONNN!’ over and over again is quite laughably funny. Seriously, watch out for it, you’ll love it.

Graphically, Heavy Rain, despite being a deliberately dark and grungy game, looks absolutely fantastic. Character models, environments and everything else included within the overall package shine with a level of extreme polish that is truly a delight to behold. There’s a whole array of diverse and interesting environments to explore, and each and every one of these is rendered to perfection, often bustling with life and interactive elements that you can utilize, some of which are important, some of which are not.  For example, you can often do such things as going to the lavatory, just because you can never go to the lavatory in gaming. Thankfully this is not seen due to some clever camera trickery, but you can still hear distinct tinkle noises. It’s these little things in Heavy Rain that again help the immersion, you truly feel like you can interact with quite a bit of environment (although shaking your orange juice and then drinking it could be considered excessive by many).

Heavy Rain since its release has also enjoyed an expansion where one can use the Playstation Move controller if you so desire. While many aren’t yet sold on the benefits of Sony’s big wand thing with a giant glowing ball on the end, I have to say when combined with Heavy Rain the motion controls really gel extremely well with the quicktime experience.  You’ll be flailing your Move controller around like a madman, and generally in fight scenes this helps to create a fast-paced and exciting environment where you’re literally on the edge of your seat, you beady little eyes darting to and fro as you wait for the next command prompt to flash up. As I’ve said previously however, this may not be for everyone, and combining QTE’s with motion control may be the greatest fear in the entire world for some of you.

You can also, however, use a bog standard controller should you desire to do so. However I find that, generally, the experience benefits more from Move. You at least feel as if you’re doing something more exciting and the immersion improves dramtically; in comparison a controller driven experience just isn’t the same, and you’ll find that it just isn’t anywhere near as pant-wettingly exciting as the  Move experience. If there’s a game that justifies actually owning the Move device, Heavy Rain is the best example so far and actually uses the technology to incredible effect.

The Verdict

A stellar gaming experience, Heavy Rain however isn’t for everyone. Many may find the experience a moving, emotional journey, while others will hate the style of gameplay before they get into the true meat of the experience where the action and the tension ramps up into absolute fever-pitch.  However, I have no reservations in recommending you play this game at some point in your vast gaming career – you owe it to yourself to at least try the experience, and if ou do and enjoy it, you’ll find yourself experience one of the most memorable, moving narratives in gaming history.

Heavy Rain is heavy in more ways than one, I can tell you (as in its emotionally heavy).

Score: 9.4/10

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