So i was a little late getting round to playing Heavy Rain, coincidentally its just as Quantic Dream's latest game Beyond is being released. so ive read all the hype, the hyperbole, and the great reviews. HR is a very entertaining game, and it definitely sucks you into its story....its definitely a "weekender" a game you can absorb yourself in and finish in the space of one weekend. so judging it by its individual elements:
Graphics: Undoubtedly the game's strongest feature, beautifully detailed textures, facial animation that is cutting edge, and a dark, rainy, dirty, gloomy atmosphere is present in every screen. Its a joy to watch the story unfold. Even two years after its release now, the graphics are just flat out gorgeous. sure some of the facial animation isn't perfectly natural....this is still a work in progress. but other than maybe Mass Effect, i have yet to see such beautifully detailed human animation in a game.
Music: gorgeous orchestral soundtrack really complements the gloomy visuals and enhances the atmosphere. not much more to say.....the combination of animation and music really sucks you into the game.
Story/Plot: okey doke.....now this is strange saying this, because honestly the story did suck me in and i really wanted to see how the story unfolded, but honestly, the story sucks! its very unoriginal, being a mish mash of various serial killer/police procedurals we've all seen before many times. many cliched elements are used, with nothing too original....i personally love serial killer flicks, so that's why i played it through to the end. but analytically, its an uninspired plot. and the major failing of the plot, are the MASSIVE plot holes and plot threads left dangling. Honestly, the major elements of the plot that are introduced and by the end of the game, still not resolved and/or left completely unexplained, are too numerous to mention. it indicates David Cage (the writer/director) may have been too focused on flashy visuals over creating a solid coherent story. This in my opinion, was a huge drawback to the game, and definitely with a great airtight plot would have raised the score to at least an 8 or 9. oh, and special mention must be made for ARI. in game that really takes great pains to ground itself in reality, since when do FBI agents run around solving crimes using some advanced VR glasses and glove crime solving kit??? bizarre.
Gameplay: oh lord the controls are horrible. i haven't been this frustrated by controls since the first resident evil game. now RE was released back in what....1995? and to see they have implemented the same clunky slow, frustrating controls to a big budget title released in 2011 is unforgivable. essentially it is a 'point and click' adventure style of control.....your character walks around and finds clues, or triggers interaction with other characters. but its not an inspired or free flowing control system at all....having to do a small action on the controller gives the illusion you are affecting the characters every move, but you only have limited actual control over the plot. and by including perfunctory actions, like the ability to wash your face in the bathroom, or stand out on the balcony and watch nothing in particular just seems pointless. Its definitely an innovative approach to gameplay and control, yet Quantic dont quite pull it off, and its ends up being the most frustrating part of the game. Particularly, the action scenes or realtime scenes, which usually end up with you fighting a suspect, with each button press being an attacking or parrying move.....your concentrating so hard on seeing the little flashing circle/square/triangle button that you dont actually watch any of the action play out. if you let yourself watch the scene play out as a viewer, you wont be ready to hit the button, its a really frustrating element of the gameplay.
So in summary, Heavy Rain is without a doubt an innovative game, many called it revolutionary at the time, but that is really false. revolutionary would indicate its a newer, better style of gameplay, and that is not the case. clunky, old school controls really frustrate,and the 'match the onscreen button prompt' style of gameplay is novel at first but quickly grows tired. The multitude of plot holes and unresolved character threads really frustrated me and made the writing seem sloppy and amateurish. Despite these major flaws, Heavy Rain is a game you should definitely play through at least once, if only to experience the wonderful gloomy atmosphere.