Review by ogmaster
Action! Chase scenes! And... diaper changing? Wait, what?
In the last console generation, there was a game that revitalized a genre that had seemingly died out at the turn of the millennium: Indigo Prophecy. The game took the adventure genre that was overdone during the FMV craze of the 90s, and revamped how an adventure game should play. Unfortunately, the game was not played by many people, - with good reason considering it's lacking storyline - but the seeds for greatness were there. The developer of Indigo Prophecy, Quantic Dream, has returned to take another shot at revolutionizing the adventure genre with their latest game, Heavy Rain.
Heavy Rain is a story focusing on Ethan Mars, a seemingly ordinary man. Ethan has found himself entangled in a plot originated by a murderer called the Origami Killer. What unravels is a narrative resembling a classic film noir thriller with plenty of twists to keep your controller glued to your hands.
Being an adventure game, Heavy Rain uses the modern Quick Time Events (QTE) rather than the antiquated point-and-click control scheme. There will be on-screen indicators throughout the game requiring you to either press a button, push the right analog stick in a certain direction or in a specific motion, or move the controller in a certain direction making use of the PS3 controller's motion control. In some cases, these QTEs are done in an incredible, pulse pounding, action sequence that leaves you breathing heavily as the adrenaline rushes through your body. Then we have the sequences were you do QTE for the most asinine, inane tasks that make you wonder what the hell you're really playing. Aside from the QTE, there's not much else to control. Walking is the only action that you do without any sort of on-screen signal. To provide clues on what to do next, you can also listen to the thoughts of the character you're controlling and a little insight on what's going on at that time.
For me, this is crux of my criticism of the game. Simply put, there are too many segments where you do incredibly tedious tasks. From putting on lipstick, brushing teeth, or changing a baby, the amount of tasks you do is mind-numbing at points in the game. Now I'd like to say that by trimming down these insipid moments in the game would make for a better game, but honestly, the way the game is designed may not allow for that. On one hand, these tasks are uninspiring, yet on the other hand, I have to wonder on whether doing pointless activities is a better alternative that doing none at all.
What Quantic Dream did do very well was make the game flow seamlessly. Heavy Rain is not like Dragon's Lair where one incorrect button press means game over. Instead, when you fail at doing a QTE correctly, the game continues and changes up accordingly. Do enough QTEs correctly and you catch a crook, or fail too many times and he gets away. In either case, the game carries on changing various nuances of the story resulting in multiple endings. Quantic Dream has stated that there are more than 20 endings to unlock with the deviations revolving around specific moments in the game.
My first playthrough clocked in at around 11 hours. Taking into account the multiple endings and trophies, it's safe to say that you will get your money's worth this game if you're sucked into the story. DLC episodes will also be released in the next coming weeks to provide even more hours of gaming. If you hate the story, then you'll probably avoid playing the game again since the storyline is the backbone of the game rather than the unmemorable gameplay.
To say the character models in Heavy Rain are stunning is an understatement. You can see the focus of the developers on trying to get every little detail in both the facial expressions and the face itself. As you play, it'll astound you how great each character looks, but it will simply blow you away when you look at the bonus footage of the actors auditioning. However, the graphics are not perfect. There are some noticeable graphical glitches that appear here and there. Plus, some other effects from clothes not draping naturally or objects not being held genuinely which are fairly obvious and slightly distracting. Music plays a huge part in creating the mood in Heavy Rain. In fact, I would venture to say that the music made a more dramatic effect than the facial expressions of the characters. Countless times a seemingly ordinary scene becomes more emotional when the music kicks in. When you're playing, that music comes in just right and then the tension of the scene hits you right in the face.
Voice acting has its moments were you're painfully reminded on how bad voice acting can be. Don't get me wrong, a majority of the dialog is filled with such great emotion that it's on the level of any live action award winning moment, but many times the voices will sound stilted and it will be easily apparent that they're simply reading from the script, reminding you that the acting is not perfect.
For those that have read this far and sneaked a peak at the score may wonder, why the 8.0? Fact is, like I mentioned earlier, there are too many tedious segments during the game. When you realize that you're gingerly moving your right analog stick to put on lipstick or rocking a baby, your reaction will probably be the same as me when I said What the hell am I doing in this 'game'? I know some will insist that these moments submerge you into the mood of the game, but I found it more counter-productive as I was reminded that someone actually thought that I should be spending time tying another guy's tie in a game.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Heavy Rain (US, 02/23/10)
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