Review by bond21

Reviewed: 03/09/10 | Updated: 03/19/10

Does Heavy Rain Bring Games And Movies That Much Closer Together, Or Is It A Failed Experiment?

Heavy Rain is the latest game from the French developers who brought us games like Fahrenheit (aka Indigo Prophecy in North America) in 2005 and Omikron: The Nomad Soul back in 1999. The hype generated by Heavy Rain was due to the idea that this would be the game that would at last bridge the gap between the game and movie mediums, creating an interactive game with the story of a Hollywood-esque whodunnit crime drama. The results are a mixed bag, but the overall experience of Heavy Rain is enthralling and will keep you on the edge of your seat from the start menu all the way through to the end credits.

The premise behind Heavy Rain is quite simple - present the player with a narrative with many different paths possible to get to the end, while utilising quick time events and choices to make at various points in the game to move the player through the story at a very specific pace. The quick time events are well done, utilising nearly the entire controller to perform tasks which will test your reflexes, dexterity and even precision on the PS3 controller. Whilst the quick time events are not particularly enthralling, they are competent in mimicking the movements you are performing most of the time and you do feel a sense of accomplishment after getting your character out of a particularly hairy situation. The only issue I had with the controls was sometimes the sixaxis did not respond to a certain command. The fantastic thing about Heavy Rain's quick time events is the fact that even if you do miss an input, the set piece will adapt to that, and actually implement it into the sequence. This makes for a more realistic and less frustrating experience.

The game puts you in control of 4 main characters, all at the centre of the police investigation into the killings of the "Origami Killer", a serial killer who targets a specific age group of boys and leaves his mark on his victims in the form of one orchid flower on their chest, and an origami figure in their right hand. Norman Jayden is an out of town criminal profiler for the FBI who is sent to co-operate with the local police in order to put all the pieces together and track down the Origami Killer before any more dead bodies show up. Scott Shelby is a Private Investigator who has been hired by the families victimised by the Origami Killer to get justice. Also along for the ride are Madison Paige, a magazine photojournalist and Ethan Mars who is a loving father of two and is forced to become involved in unfortunate circumstances. Each character has a motivation for bringing the killer to justice and each one of them has quite a journey ahead of them to even get a chance at that.

The drama in Heavy Rain is ever-present and done very well most of the time. There are some scenes that come off extremely forced like the game is trying too hard to be overly dark and dramatic. The characterisation of the four main characters is well done for the most part, but it seems like nearly every other character in the game is either too unimportant for an individual personality, or a stereotype, sometimes to the point of silliness. There are certain characters whose actions are so unrealistic, it does kill the immersion a bit. Heavy Rain forces suspicious characters and situations on you to throw out red herrings, and so often that it sometimes comes off like something a terrible B movie would do. It really is disappointing to see in a game where story and characterisation should be king, characters that are used as nothing but blatant plot devices in order to fool the player into suspecting someone as the killer.

Throughout the game you will encounter many situations where you will be forced to make split second decisions to determine what your character will do in key moments in the game. An important thing to note is main characters can die, which always make you feel a sense of vulnerability when in a particularly sticky situation. The game's plot will shape around these instances and will change the experience significantly from one player to the next. There are many different possible endings and some seemingly minor decision you make during the game can have an impact on what unfolds in the game's epilogue.

The visuals in Heavy Rain, especially the facial animations are detailed and sometimes even come off as almost photorealistic. Character model animations however do sometimes come off as rather stiff, which is disappointing but a minor flaw. The music score is above average, it is absolutely full of leitmotifs with each character having a theme. The music does a good job at capturing the mood of the game, but it is not as outstanding as scores such as the ones for Modern Warfare 2 and Uncharted 2. The voice acting does vary in terms of quality, with some readings coming off incredibly naturally, others sounding more like they belong in an Ace Ventura movie.

Heavy Rain is a unique gaming experience, and that experience is truly incredible. Although the quick time event driven gameplay will alienate some gamers who prefer the more traditional approach, the story is Heavy Rain's draw and it will keep you hooked until the credits roll.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Heavy Rain (AU, 02/25/10)

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