The gaming-industry is enormous. The console and game sales are running in the millions these days and more and more people come into contact with videogames. “Small” developers are taking a shot by competing with unique and special concepts in the hopes of reaching a part of the masses. Quantic Dreams’ Heavy Rain may have been hyped a lot by Sony and the media, it will never manage to charm a large part of the general public.
Heavy Rain’s storyline is about a serial killer going by the codename of The Origami Killer, who kidnaps and kills kids and leaves an origami figure as mark. It’s up to you to stop him and while searching information you get help from four characters who in one way or another are involved in this game of cat and mouse. Architect Ethan Mars has personal reasons to go after the killer, while private investigator Scott Shelby and FBI Agent Norman Jayden try to solve the case. Last up there’s the goodlooking and semi-nude Madison Paige to complete the cast.
To cut to the chase: Heavy Rain isn’t a fun game. I wasn’t entertained while playing at all. Does this make it a bad game? Not at all! Heavy Rain is a very dark game that covers heavy themes like sadness and murder and next to that also contains a ton of psychological dilemmas. Some scenes can almost be called sadistic, even psychopathic and might even be featured in movies like Saw or Creep. So I literally did not have fun with Heavy Rain because the game wouldn’t let me. After a while you get so connected with your characters that you can almost feel their sorrow.
While playing you’ll encounter chapters where you don’t have to do anything for about twenty minutes. With emphasis on “have to” as during that time there’s still plenty to do which can influence the future in both a positive or negative way. There’s for instance a scene where you pick up Shaun, Ethan Mars’ kid, from school to then spend the afternoon together at home. While Shaun is watching TV you can go out to play basketball, turn on the washing machine, fix a healthy (or unhealthy) snack, take out some old architect plans, and so on.
The better you take care of Shaun, the strong the bond between the two of you, something that will play a role later in the game. If you make him dinner and make sure he makes his homework on time, then the bond between Ethan and his child will grow. Go sit in a corner and watch TV while leaving Shaun to himself and he’ll make some food for himself and forget doing his homework. The choice about how you want to portray this relationship is yours. The game remains your canvas and you’ve got the necessary paint.
In my earlier preview you could already read that the controls were quite inaccurate and awkward. Now, in the review version the controls still don’t feel 100% but the devs clearly put quite some work into them to improve things. Walking is still done with the R2 trigger while you choose direction with the right joystick. The left joystick is used to move the head which gives you the chance to find objects you would have otherwise missed.
Almost everything in Heavy Rain can be activated by means of a simple “Quick Time Event”. Think of adjusting your rearview mirror, making dinner for Shaun, washing your hands after peeing, … all controllable with the joystick by making a “realistic” move. Next to that you’ll also often make (good) use of the Sixaxis’ motion sensors. While drying Madison’s naked body you’ll have to shake the controller up and down (that’s the only way how you can dry her off) or will have to make an abrupt move if something’s stuck. (I’m getting awkward visions of this. ed.)
During the more hectic moments your reflexes are well tested. Several keys follow each other in a fast tempo depending on the difficulty and the situation you’re in. Pressing the wrong button doesn’t immediately lead to sudden death or replaying a scene, but rather to getting a couple of blows. If you miss too many buttons it’s very possible you’ll lose one of your four characters for ever and will never get to know part of the story. Due to the strong “bond” you had built with your character the loss of it will come down twice as hard.
Quantic Dream has “motion captured” almost every bone in the human body and that clearly paid off. Especially the facial expressions are of the highest levels. Emotions like amazement, fear, anger, joy are easily readable from the characters’ faces. The environment, however, didn’t get the same amount of care as the characters but are still of a high level and in a game where rain plays such a large part you won’t be surprised to see that the most beautiful scenes are filled with water!
Your first play-through of Heavy Rain will take about ten hours. Of course the idea is to replay it a couple of times to find some missing scenes or to see what would have happened if you made other choices. In total you can expect that to come down to about 25 to 30 hours of gameplay.
Don’t play Heavy Rain as an average game though, but take on your director shoes and make the game. Open up for quiet scenes, real emotions and start with as little knowledge as possible. It’s a very adult title with an exceptional script filled with question marks and plot twists which also got a great cast. If you’re only looking for action then this title is COMPLETELY NOT your thing, but if you like original games like Fahrenheit or ICO then you’ll certainly not want to miss this experience.