Heavy Rain is a involved game with many plot twists and quicktime like action sequences...can you keep up?
It is a video game that presents you with four main characters...Ethan Mars, a depressed father, Madison Paige, an insomniac journalist, Scott Shelby, a private investigator, and Norman Jayden, an FBI Profiler. The game revolves around the stories of these four characters, and it is very intriguing as to how they are connected, as their stories are all intertwined around one event and objective, locating a child abducted by a notorious serial killer, known only as the Origami Killer. It is easy to tell that Quantic Dream's main focus in creating Heavy Rain was on cinematic storytelling, as the game play and everything else give the story the ability to move forward. The story is deep and very enthralling, as you are constantly wondering who is the Origami Killer, what are his or her motives, and why is he or she doing this?
However, I noticed that the story goes even deeper than that. Heavy Rain is not a crime thriller, it is a story of how far each of these four characters that you control are willing to go to save a child. It is a very impressive work of storytelling, as each of these characters become people that you know and care about before your very eyes at times. Sometimes, you may feel sympathetic for them, or maybe grow fearful for their lives at some points in the game. It really is impressive how Quantic Dream managed to remove the gap between real people and computer generated people, through beautiful voice acting and glorious visuals, as well as a story that defines the meaning of the word: empathetic.
I actually found myself near tears for some of these very well designed characters, and I don't cry. The story is something that needs special recognition, as two different people may receive two different endings, depending upon how they play through Heavy Rain. If you don't go here, you might miss something important, if you don't do this, it may cost you your life....It really is deep, and makes you think about what you must do in order to reach the ending that you want to reach. That to me is what makes Heavy Rain's story intriguing, it isn't a normal narrative, it is a story that you weave through your actions and decisions, and the consequences of these decisions may be severe, and you can live with those decisions if you want, or start over from an earlier scene if the results of your actions are not to your liking. I've played the game four times (going for anothe threer rounds very soon), and each time, I've gotten a different ending, that to me is great. The story is phenomenal, and anyone who feels like a beautiful story, get this game....
However, story alone may not cater to everyone who plays this game, as there seem to be a few cuts and unmentioned bits from the plot, that make the story somewhat confusing. It's like something happens earlier in the story, but doesn't really make sense later on in the story, and it sometimes comes together in a sloppy manner, some events are never explained in the conclusion, and some of the questions you have at the start of the game, may be left unanswered, which is kind of disappointing. The story itself does take a little while to eventually get to the action scenes, as some gamers may enjoy them more. One must complete two or three scenes in order to get to the actual fighting, and the story really doesn't pick up until about 10 scenes into the game. Also, some characters cannot die in some action scenes, and this seems like it is something that takes away from the experience you get from playing the game, as one may feel that they can just sit back and watch the action sequence, rather than play it for themselves, it removes the stress of losing a fight, which is what gives the story it's luster, although this is something that doesn't happen a whole lot, the risk of it happening is still there.
In Heavy Rain, gameplay is something very interesting and complicated to talk about, as the gameplay is what drives the story forward, but it is so unique in how it is used, so I'll explain my views very closely and back them up with facts as best I can.
Heavy Rain can be described as one big quick time event, without the "quick time" in some parts. I'll start by explaining action scenes first. Heavy Rain has very deep action scenes, in which players must always be on their toes and ready to go, this is what makes it so appealing, you really don't know what to expect on your first playthrough of the game. The action sequences are quick time events, but not like ones from Shenmue II, another game noted with using many quick time events. These quick time events never intrude on the action you are involved in, by pausing your game for you to input the commands into your controller, instead, they work seamlessly into the action, and make you feel like the moves you make are real and are really dangerous to your success. In action, you only have a certain amount of time to attack your enemy, and if you miss, you get hurt, or some cases, killed until you are dead. The gameplay is very nice, and the action still manages to draw you in with simple button presses and rotations of the right or left stick on the PS3 controller. The action gameplay is great, although the button presses are sometimes not noticed by the game, and it does say that you didn't hit the button when you did, and then you get hurt. The action doesn't stop until you pause the game, turn it off, or until you win or lose the fight. Each fight has meaning, unlike a few action games out there, and the sequences make you realize what you are fighting for and the the importance of what you are fighting for.
Now, as for any "quick time" events outside the action. There are button cues in the scenes of the game, which allow you to do the most mundane tasks, such as drink a carton of orange juice, or shift a car into gear. These sequences are just there to move the story forward, and they work just as well as in the action sequences, although you don't really have a set amount of time to complete these tasks. Although, these sequences may appear pointless at first, they actually manage to draw you closer to the characters, and they make you think that they are just like you in some strange way, the scenes appear as if they try to pull you deeper into the stories of these characters and let you relate to them.
Now, the controller layout for this game, seems like it is made more for a racing game rather than a cinematic thriller game like this, as you move your character with the R2 button, and steer their heads with the left stick. You can read your characters thoughts for each and every event in the game by pulling L2, and this can lead to many interesting scenes and actually helps for you to experiment with how the story plays out in each scene. The layout seems confusing at first, but really it is an easy system once you get the hang of it, and it is meant to, once again draw you closer to the character, as it attempts to make you move as a human being really does move, by moving your head to the left and right, and steering without using a camera that doesn't exist in the right sick like most third person games do. Instead, it focuses more on the idea of "peripheral" vision, and it really works well with the game.
The one thing to note with Heavy Rain, is that it can be very easy at times. It seems like it is too easy at points. The buttons and stick motions used in the action scenes are somewhat easy to remember, so you can find yourself easily winning fights that are meant to be challenging. This is not that huge of an issue though, as it is very hard to actually remember every single action that needs to be performed, as there are so many, you might forget which button to press. However, this issue can be solved by changing the difficulty from time to time, as the buttons used in action change from the easy level to the hard difficulty level, That's why I gave it a just right.
Graphics, Animation, and Sound 9.9/10:
Heavy Rain, as I have stated earlier, is a cinematic experience, that attempts to draw you closer to each character and the situations that they find themselves in, so it is only imperative that each of the characters that you play as look like real people. That is what Quantic Dream set out to do, they wanted their characters to look like people, rather than characters and they definitely did a great job at doing so. Each character looks real, and at some points, it is almost like they actually are real. Each situation that they find themselves in, is made real by the characters, however, so of the items in the environment seem to be weakly designed, as in they don't look real. For example, a bag of potato chips doesn't really look like it's plastic like it should in a game that tries to draw you in as much as this. This is definitely not something to base your decision off of when choosing to buy this game or not, but it is something that can be improved hopefully, in Quantic Dream's future games.
Animation wise, the game is pretty good, but some animations seem like they are not very realistic, walking can sometimes be a bit robotic and clunky at times, and feels annoying for about the first two minutes in which you play the game, but trust me, it's not a huge issue.
For sound, the game sounds decent. Sound effects in Heavy Rain were kind of where I lost some immersion into this game's world. The guns used in the game, sound kind of fake and lousy, and some other effects are not really that good, but really, this isn't a big deal, as guns are not really used a whole lot in the game. However, the game does have a wonderful musical score, that seems to move fluidly with the stories and scenes. Each piece of music fits whenever it is used, and not to mention, it really is beautiful, emotional music that depicts the game's mood very well.
Also, the game does have many very talented voice actors, which only adds to the immersion you get through gameplay and the story. The actors are very impressive, and they depict their characters very well, almost as if you are watching a movie, but it is in a video game instead. It really is a great experience both visually and audibly.
The Verdict of Heavy Rain...
Worth buying....Heck yeah!
Worth playing...Heck yeah!
Replayability: I'm still playing, but I can sort of see it getting old after a while.
Final Score: 9.9 out of 10
Final Estimated Score: 10 out of 10
So there you have it, Heavy Rain is a game that sets the bar for many other games, in terms of storytelling, gameplay, and graphics. It really is a beautiful cinematic experience, an epic action experience, and a game that you shouldn't pass up for your usual run-of-the-mill FPS. Try this game!
For a special in depth look into the this game that you can't get from this review, please keep an eye on my blog. I'll be explaining more about what makes Heavy Rain so great in further detail. Just click on my user name, and it'll take you right there.
Thanks for reading.