REVIEWS -- Heavy Rain -- PS3
Heavy Rain shows the adventure genre a thing or two
by Robert-James Bell
Fun factor: Average
Worth to: Buy/Rent
Youíll find yourself seated in a chair in-game doing nothing but watching your character think and you wonít question the time as wasted.
Quantic Dream is a developer you want to root for. They do things differently; they take risks that others wouldnít dream of selling to their investors, but is it worth it? Heavy Rain, dubbed as interactive drama, is much Indigo Prophecy before it (Fahrenheit outside North America), less game than playable movie. It doesnít always mean youíll be riveted, unless brushing your teeth is how you rock it, but you canít argue they arenít willing to take the game industry into fairly uncharted territory.
If you want to know if you should play Heavy Rain, the simple answer is yes. Skip the rest of the review, rent or buy it, and give it a spin. Itís worth it. You owe it to yourself to see and try something ninety-eight percent of other games arenít. But Iíll be honest, I had some big issues with the game, and they all can be boiled down to writing. So feel free to skip the next few paragraphs while I vent my frustrations, or do yourself a favor and try it out yourself anyway.
For a game that touts story above all else, Heavy Rainís really isnít a very good one. I can let lack of originality slide because you can make that claim about films and games more often than not. Itís the uneven characters that gnaw away at the enjoyment. Lieutenant Blake, whom you encounter frequently, is the most over the top, clichťd and poorly written characters Iíve seen in any medium in a long time. He jumps to conclusions, willingly enacts excessively for no reason and showcases such unbelievably inept policing that he can almost single handedly ruin any scene heís in. Much of this is due to terrible dialogue scripting.
Granted, he is ďjust a side characterĒ but since heís a catalyst in major events that matter to the others you play as, this becomes a determent to the game as a whole. While there is more good than bad, thereís just too much groan-worthy dialogue holding Heavy Rain down from being great writing. And Blake isnít the only one. Many other side characters follow with unbalanced efforts; poor voice acting, and are there to enact nothing else but two dimensional plot filler.
Ignore for a moment the branching storylines and the ambitious nature of what that entails and youíre left with a subpar story thatís overwritten throughout. Characters donít talk like those that inhabit Heavy Rain. While you and I might talk to ourselves itís never more than a couple words like ďoh shit,Ē or ďstupid,Ē here characters lay out their thoughts out loud to serve as nothing more than overt clues to the gamer. In a game where drinking orange juice and taking a shower are given so much time to accent just how real this world is, this type of writing directly counteracts those strides. Furthermore, Heavy Rain gives you the ability to hear your characterís thoughts by holding a trigger and choosing a selection, rendering this type of dialogue pointless. Simply put, less is more, and David Cage would have been better served to listen to how real people talk and trust gamers to be able to piece together the rest.
No game overs, just choices
If those concerns donít bother you then the rest is gravy, with very little getting in the way of this being an excellent title. The story follows the brutal kidnapping and murders of the mysterious Origami Killer, and the lives that those crimes have come to affect, in particular Ethan Mars, a father reeling from the death of a son, who one evening wakes up from a blackout to find his youngest son is the next victim. Along with the help of Madison Paige, a journalist, he sets out to complete a series of trials the killer has left for him to prove his mettle as a father. You play as both of these characters, as well as Norman Jayden, an FBI agent on the case, and Scott Shelby, a private investigator hired by the previous victimsí families. Each playable character has personal issues that have led them to this point in life, and motives that continue to drive them forward.
Much of how Heavy Rain plays out is in the choices you make, and the action you perform that opens up to consequence and reward. Thereís no game over screen; no matter what missteps you take the story will continue on, with or without some characters. The first time through the game keeps you on edge, because you really are never sure if what youíre doing is right or wrong, and thatís a thrilling feeling rarely duplicated in games. Subsequent playthroughs have less impact, as you uncover just what events happen to matter and which ones donít so much. But thereís enough reason to go back and try something else, a different choice or action. A great decision by the programmers was to allow you to replay any chapter, continuing the save game file or not. It lets you be selective if only certain scenes interest you, which is a nice touch.
Your gateway point-and-click adventure game
At its core Heavy Rain is really just a simple game, similar to many point-and-click adventures that the PC was filled with in the nineties. Some call this game one long quicktime event, but thatís not really fair. While everything is executed by a button prompt, and all actions are timed presses, itís too fluid to be relegated in the class of games like God of War. All actions resemble lifelike movements even if theyíre controlled by the siaxis controller. Itís not all perfect, though. Player movement is laborious, and at times unresponsive when just walking around. Changes in camera angle from one room to the next can turn your player in an awkward way that reminds you that this is still very much a game.
Presentation is mostly slick throughout, with some of the best looking characters youíve ever seen. Background environments are often breathtaking and beautiful. You will run across some details that arenít nearly as fleshed out, little things that actually look bad compared to the rest of the world, but itís never enough to get in the way.
The sound can be somewhat bumpier. The score is outright superb, ranking up there with the best of the best. But the voice acting hits and misses, likely due to this being a European made game using American characters. Enough of the characters sound good, but youíll run up against voices that just donít sound right, and the fact that itís such a voice-heavy game means that will fester more than it would in another title. Truthfully, they would have been better served to utilize a different location and use all European characters instead.
Heavy Rain is not everything I wanted it to be, and most of that can be boiled down to bad writing and odd controls. But it is something people should absolutely try for themselves. The story isnít very original, even fairly predictable at times, and the dialogue can be just atrocious, but at the end of the day itís enough to get the job done because Heavy Rain encompasses more than that. Itís a potential gateway for gamers to try something different. Itís beautiful, rewarding, and youíll find yourself seated in a chair in-game doing nothing but watching your character think and you wonít question the time as wasted -- itís the little things that Heavy Rain does so well, the subtle nuances reflecting real world problems that any of us can relate to. So itís not perfect, but itís distinct. More than can be said for a lot of games.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Quantic Dream
February 18, 2010 (JP)
February 23, 2010 (US)
February 24, 2010 (EU)
Review Date: 01-03-2010
Numbers of Players: 1
Players Online: No
Some of the best looking graphics of this generation, but there are some obvious pieces youíll run across that the same care wasnít spent on.
If you get past the nature of this being interactive drama, then youíll accept this is less game than it is a playable pulp novel. But the seamless prompts keep the action tense.
Story is serviceable, but poor writing is littered from start to finish in all aspects; dialogue, narrative, too many cheats used to mislead. If this wasnít a game it would be a middle of the row film at best, and straight to DVD shelves at worst.
Score is pure greatness, right up there with the best with Bioshock and Mass Effect. But voice-acting struggles to meet the same consistency.
Story lasts about seven or eight hours. But with seven different endings available itís worth going back at least a few times to see the changes.