Here’s the deal, unless you are one of the few who played Quantic Dream’s last-gen entry Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit in Europe), then Heavy Rain is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Heavy Rain is a bold undertaking; setting out to tell a story capable of rivaling Hollywood blockbusters, while at the same time providing engaging gameplay and portraying all of this with top of the line graphics. Oh, and to top it all off, the story changes in accordance with your actions and decisions. So rather than having to simply write one gripping story, the guys at Quantic Dream had to provide multiple paths for the story and still maintain its high standard of quality. The result? A dark and gripping tale full of mystery, gratuitous violence, nudity, and drug abuse that will keep you on the edge of your seat straight through any one of the 22 possible endings.
So what makes Heavy Rain really work? Plain and simple, the story. The events all take place in present day Philadelphia, though don’t expect to recognize the city other than by name. Heavy Rain is dark and dreary in both plot and locale, so you’ll find yourself experiencing old junkyards and run-down neighborhoods rather than walking by landmarks such as City Hall. You will experience it through four main playable characters: Ethan Mars, Madison Paige, Norman Jayden (FBI profiling agent), and Scott Shelby (Private Eye). The game shifts from character to character to progress the story by showing each character’s involvement in particular aspects of the plot. In one way or another and for various reasons, all four characters are simultaneously trying to solve the case of the famed Origami Killer. The aptly named killer has the curious modus operandi of drowning his victims, all children, then leaving their bodies in public places with an orchid on their chest and an origami figure in their hand. Each character experiences unique aspects of the mystery, so if you lose one you may miss out on valuable clues and information to help solve the case.
Where many games fail is where Heavy Rain truly shines. The game does an incredible job of creating realistic and relateable characters, to the extent that you really do care what happens to them. From their appearances, to the overall superb (with a few hiccups) voice acting, to their mannerisms, the characters are all painstakingly real. The interest generated in them is crucial as it really makes the in-game decisions difficult because they genuinely feel like they matter. You must quickly weigh the benefits of each option before making your choice. Speaking of choices, the game is built around them. Your choices will greatly affect the story you experience. There may be a few instances in the story where you feel Quantic Dream left out some information, or could have further developed something. I’ll admit that on my first play-through I occasionally felt this way. However, upon completing the game again I realized this is not the case. Your decisions dictate what you see, so if you miss something I can guarantee the fault rests solely on your shoulders. You may hear this and be skeptical, asking “how much can really change based on my actions?” The answer in all honesty, varies. In some instances, much to the chagrin of the games critics, the difference between two choices simply takes you to the same place the other decision would. This should not frustrate you as some choices reference aspects of the story that will not affect anything further than the current scene, therefore why should a different choice affect anything on a larger scale? Your actions can be as small as hearing an additional piece of information, or they could be as loaded as the difference between life or death. Without any spoilers I will say this, don’t think that just because someone is an important character they are granted immortality.
Because of this, Heavy Rain is really one of the few games that everyone who plays it should revisit for at LEAST one additional playthrough. Once you’ve experienced it the first time, I really doubt you’ll even need my advice to do so. While playing it the first time you will immediately regret some decisions and constantly wonder “what if…” This will happen, I would even venture to say it is inevitable. If you really get angry about a decision or the “what if…” is driving you mad then Quantic Dream gives you the option to restart from any checkpoint you’ve previously reached to explore other options or simply replay one you truly enjoyed. However, I will strongly advise you NOT to do this. To truly enjoy the game go in without expectations and simply get lost in it. Don’t look at the trophies, and don’t try for the trophies. I’ll say this, they are well thought out and you’ll appreciate when you get them, but do yourself a favor and don’t ruin the game at the expense of trophy hunting. Also do not worry about other decisions you could have made, as there is plenty of time to replay the game. Heavy Rain is unique because no matter what you do or how many buttons you miss you cannot, under any circumstances, lose the game. You must simply adapt and live with the consequences of what happened. This is another reason Heavy Rain deserves praise, you may get an ending that brings a smile to your face or a tear to your eye. I literally finished the game and smiled. I can’t think of any other instance in gaming that has given me an outward emotion like that.
Second only to the story is the graphics. While the scenery is not as awe inspiring as games with picturesque settings such as Uncharted, the graphics portray the serious and gritty world of Heavy Rain. The people are all incredibly realistic, from their appearances to the ways they move and interact with the environment. The achievement of Heavy Rain’s graphics is not so much measured in the environments themselves, but more in the way that the people and environments interact. It just seems real. For example there is one scene in a club that is simply amazing. There are over a hundred people dancing, drinking, talking, and moving around in ways that are more accurate than any game I’ve seen to date. There are strobe lights, drunks stumbling, and the more risqué of the dancers dancing true to form. It is scenes like these that give Heavy Rain it’s realism and help keep you so engaged in the story.
The controls, like every other aspect of the game, are incredibly well thought out. The choices are handled by up to four various options revolving around the controlled character for a limited period of time. You simply select whichever option you desire and go from there. With each selection, you may be rewarded with new ones, or have them stripped away due to your choice’s repercussions. When your character is involved in any sort of activity then a series of buttons and combinations will appear on the screen. There are three varying, and sometimes intertwining, options presented here: you must either press the button, press and hold it, or repeatedly tap it. A fourth reaction is to move the controller itself in the presented direction. All of this of course has a time limit to add a level of difficulty. To accommodate those less familiar with the controller there are three options included which simply allow for varying levels of time in which to perform the actions. While this may sound dull, it is very well incorporated into the motions the character is performing which make the action sequences surprisingly rewarding.
Despite all of this, there are a few slight drawbacks. If you are playing on a small or low definition television you may have difficulty distinguishing between the “O” and “square” buttons when revolving around a character positioned farther away from the screen. Also in a very limited number of occasions the character will be in the way of an action button which prevents you from seeing it. In most cases this can be avoided by simply hitting “L1” which changes the camera angle. The main drawback (or strength) of the game is that it is in no way, shape, or form fit for young children. It is an adult story, containing adult themes, much more so than games simply containing violence. Heavy Rain is not for the faint of heart.
The game is fresh, new, and exciting. It’s story, which contains more twists than a Twizzler and more surprises than Wikileaks’ homepage, is worthy of film treatment and will undoubtedly keep you guessing until the very end. Simply put Heavy Rain is a masterpiece of gaming and a welcome change of pace from games that are quickly becoming all too routine. Quantic Dream took a risk and created a game that truly delivers not just the first time you experience it, but countless others afterwards. The recent patch for Move support enables the player yet another level of immersion into the dark world of Heavy Rain.
There is an everlasting debate among gamers about review scores. While inevitably some of this is due to differing tastes, most of it revolves around the distinction between how good does a game have to be for a particular score. Obviously the most heavily scrutinized of these instances is the perfect 10/10. It is literally impossible to create a perfect game, and developers themselves will attest to this. Yet, many games still receive this “ultimate score.” So what does a 10/10 really mean? To me it means getting lost in a game. It means having a completely new experience that catches you entirely off-guard. It means the game will make your jaw drop in awe at what the developers were able to accomplish, and where every minute improvement you could possibly think of has already been implemented into the game. It means when you look at a stack of games and glaze over all of the generic blasé titles that run together, this one always catches your eye. To me, this describes Heavy Rain.
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