Heavy Rain is one of the more ambitious titles to come out in a long time and it delivers on its promises.
GAMEPLAY (8.5) - Right at the start it becomes apparent that Heavy Rain does not use traditional means of player control. Walking is done a bit clumsily by holding R2, which sets the character in motion, and the right stick - which steers him or her in a direction. During exploration the player will be prompted with flicks of the stick or Sixaxis to pick up objects, close drawers, etc. Button prompts arrive in different combinations, orders, hold times, Sixaxis tilt, and even movement speed. While there are a few seemingly pointless actions generally everything that's allowed to be done has some intended purpose. These prompts also factor into the dialogue system. Everything from the character's inner thoughts to what the player chooses to say will circle and whiz around the character's head, with the latter staying there until the window expires. The choices may start buzzing or getting fuzzy given how intense a particular situation is, which might ultimately lead to feelings of desperation as the character is fighting for his life.
More often than not these interactions lead towards tense moments of conflict - and it's these sections that most closely resemble a traditional "quick time event." A button will appear on screen, such as next to a flying fist that needs to be dodged or a car steering wheel that needs to be jerked, and the appropriate reaction will need to be completed in a short amount of time. QTE's were a bit hit-or-miss in Quantic's last effort, Indigo Prophesy, but they feel more smooth this time around. It's still going to be intentionally uncomfortable in some more intense situations, but it fits in at that moment. Moral choice is a popular feature in games right now, but the lines have never been more blurry than they are in Heavy Rain. The player is constantly dealing with intense circumstances, being forced to act on what seems to be right or necessary, or quickly acting out of desperation. Does he sit back and watch a store get robbed, or step up and hope to defuse the situation? Does he aid a man he hates when he's clearly going to die, or walk away? What is the player willing to sacrifice? Heavy Rain has many different endings, and the variables for the ultimate endgame can be factored in very early on. In one way or another, the player is going to have to answer for what he's done. Rarely has a game given such a great amount of consequence to the actions of its characters.
GRAPHICS (9.5) - This is a game about the presentation, so it's not surprising that the game looks phenomenal. From the realistic settings (including stunning interiors and exteriors) to the realistic character models to the way everybody expresses themselves, the game is almost perfect in its graphics. The environments are a constant reminder of the misery that's buried deep in the characters, plot, and setting. Even in all of its moodiness, the first time one sees the thick dust hanging in the air of an abandoned, dilapidated apartment building, he knows this one's something special. Unfortunately, because this game relies so heavily on the presentation, there is that extra bit of scrutiny on imperfections. While some characters look great there are others that just don't look right. Thankfully the four main characters all look amazing; I wish the same could be said for the supporting cast. Still, none of these issues break the illusion. The game still manages to work, even when occasionally it's a little rough around the edges.
AUDIO (9.0) - Oddly, Quantic Dream relied almost entirely on European actors doing American accents, which could have derailed the entire game had the voicework been poor. The result is that occasionally an unintended accent slips through here or there, though the player will probably get used to it before long and accept it as that particular character's speech quirkiness. Despite a cast of unknowns, the acting here is generally top notch, with the major players all delivering expert performances. In particular, Ethan and Scott are worth noting for their natural qualities. The music set the perfect mood for every scene. This was impressive by the fact that I believe there were only five or six tracks. While I would have liked to have heard more variety what I did hear was excellent.
VALUE (9.0) - As was mentioned in the introduction, every playthrough can be completely different. Talk with someone else that played the game and it can be amazing to find out how much differently their game ended up being. The fact that the story adapts to the player and that the outcome could be such a deviation from other players, is the perfect formula for replayability. The first time I finished the game I hated the ending. Not only was it incredibly sad but it felt a bit too short. Sure enough, because of different decisions and actions made in a second playthrough the game not only had a much more satisfactory ending but was also considerably longer because of additional chapters in the story that opened up.
SUMMARY - Heavy Rain has to be considered somewhat of a revolution for gaming, and it certainly tells one of the best stories I've experienced. While some of the controls are a little wacky and there are a few small issues with the presentation, ultimately this game successfully achieved what it intended to do. The player will become immersed in the story and care about the characters, perhaps more so than in any other game. One simply has to go into this game being ready to expand their horizons from their previous expectations of what they feel they need to experience in a videogame in order to truly enjoy it. Players who can only think in terms of shooting and explosions probably won't like it but for gamers looking for something new, this is the game for them and they won't be disappointed.