Review by Marter
Reviewed: 03/12/10 | Updated: 03/29/10
Unique gameplay that may be invigorating to some
A term that some may use to describe Heavy Rain is "Interactive Drama". In fact, that is a term that the Developers have used, and have even included that phrase in one of the unlockable trophies included in the game. Heavy Rain really does embody this expression, as it truly does blur the line between film and game.
The sole reason that Heavy Rain does in not perfect in the graphics department is due to the linearity that it presents. The linear structure of Heavy Rain allows for an increased attention to detail, and detail is found everywhere you can go within each scene. It features a film-noir crime styled theme makes it seem gritty while giving you the impression that it does not mess around. Even though Heavy Rain does strive for realism, it does incorporate one element from the science fiction genre.
The character of Norman Jayden possesses a device called the ARI or "Added Reality Interface". This device allows him to use investigate crime scenes in a much more in-depth view. While using the ARI, you can gather clues in an instant, and see objects such as pollen traces, that would normally be unable to be viewed with a naked human eye. It is quite reminiscent of Detective Mode in Batman: Arkham Asylum, changing the color of the screen, still allowing for full character movement, and allowing for easier detection of clues. While these impressive glasses may detract from the realism that Heavy Rain strives for, they help drive the story, as without the ARI, you would have to go through the time to collect the samples and send them to a lab, forcing you to wait weeks for the samples to be analyzed. This would be quite flow breaking, and would also change the realistic element of the story.
In each scene, you control one of the four main characters in a third person perspective. When you near some object on the screen, a button, arrow or controller will pop up in a square near the object you are close to. The item in this square is clear, and will not leave you wondering what you need to do in order to engage whatever object you are near. While interacting with objects, the gameplay is done through cutscenes with quick-time events, where you will need to press whatever button appears on the screen.
Most of the environments found in Heavy Rain are nicely varied, with only a few sequences leaving you wonder if you've been there before. The pleasurable sight-seeing tour will take you from a large shopping mall to a muddy field by train tracks. As previously stated, each environment has undergone a great deal of polish, and you'll be hard pressed to find a problem in terms of the technical aspect.
Each character is really eerie in appearance, looking like they all belong in a movie. This is especially apparent when it comes to the main characters, which actually make you care about their experiences due to their lifelike appearance. You can tell their feelings at any time, as pressing a button makes different thoughts buzz around their head, and then pressing a button lets you hear their thoughts. Most of the animations are fluid as well, despite the occasional robot like animation here and there.
The gameplay of Heavy Rain is quite simplified in nature. In essence, it takes place in three different sections. The first part is where you are in full control of your character, where you are able to walk around and find out what objects there are to interact with in the world. The second branch is the actual interactions with the environment, and the third component is the cutscenes, that take place after performing certain actions.
The first portion of gameplay is more or less just walking around an area. You hold down one button to walk straight forward, and move the control stick in the direction you would like to go. This is quite different from most games, and takes quite a bit of getting used to, as they usually only require the use of either the control stick or d-pad. While in this section of the gameplay, you will want to navigate around the area in order to find objects to interact with. You can also press another button that allows you to zoom into the character's face. After doing this, different buttons will circle around their head, and pressing one of them will allow you to get inside of the character's head and find what they are thinking. If unsure of what to do in order to progress in Heavy Rain, this will usually answer your questions.
Once you find an object to interact with, a command will appear on the screen. This will either be in the form of a button, an arrow, or controller. If a button pops up, pressing it will trigger a scene in regards to whatever object you are near. Sometimes, one button is not enough, and you will need to hold a sequence of buttons in order to progress. If an arrow shows up on the screen, in order to trigger the scene, you will need to flick the right analog stick in the motion that appears. You can choose how fast to move the stick, and sometimes the scene can be influenced in regards to the speed you choose. The final possibility that can occur is a controller can be in the square. To use this as a guide, you must flick the controller in the motion that it shows using the Sixaxis motion controls of the Playstation 3. This can occasionally be frustrating, because as with all motion controls, it sometimes doesn't register even when you believe you are matching the animation exactly.
The final gameplay element is the ever controversial Quick Time Events (or QTEs for short). QTEs in short, are buttons that appear on the screen during a cutscene in quick succession, and in order to accomplish an event, you need to press the button before it disappears. Heavy Rain does them in a slightly different manner. In traditional QTEs, in order to proceed in the game, you must succeed in the QTE, or you will be forced to restart the scene over again. In Heavy Rain, you do not get do over's, nor do you automatically fail the cutscene should you miss one button. In order to fail, you must miss multiple of them, and even in failure, the game will continue. That's right; you can get through all of these events without pressing a button. The consequence to this however, is that your character will not accomplish what he or she set out to do, and you will most likely have a negative impact on the story.
Heavy Rain set out to be a heavily story based game, and in that regard it most definitely succeeds. While the story may come across as "clichéd" to some, it has enough twists and turns to keep the player guessing. The main plot element revolves around four characters all looking for someone dubbed the "Origami Killer". Each character is given a reason to be looking, and each character has a unique background that will make you feel for each character by the end.
Ethan Mars, the first character I will introduce, is searching for the Origami Killer, because his only remaining son is in danger of being the next victim. Madison Paige is not immediately involved, but soon finds herself being in the middle of the investigation. Norman Jayden is an FBI agent struggling to piece each clue together to help the locals locate the Origami Killer before another victim turns up. The final character is Scott Shelby, a private investigator that has been hired by the families of the victims of previous murders in order to find the Origami Killer. This is about all that can be said without ruining even the smallest bit of a well thought out story.
The sound in Heavy Rain is a mixed bag. At some times, the music adds to the impressive atmosphere that the game possesses, but at other times, the voice acting makes you feel embarrassed to be playing it. For starters, the music is really well done, and really helps with the overall tone of the game. The voice acting ranges from pretty good to flat out awful. Most of the lines seem to flow naturally from one another and also quite plausible given the situation. Other lines of dialogue are really unconnected, and make you feel like they took different lines, and just copied and pasted words that fit into the sentence. It is sometimes really disjointed, and makes you take a step back from the game.
The amount of time you can expect from a single playthrough is anywhere from 6-12 hours. One of the reasons for this large diversity is that there are many events that you do not need to trigger. Another reason is that if a QTE is failed, you can potentially lose a main character for the rest of the playthrough. This significantly shortens the experience, as the future scenes that would have be played with that character cannot happen once they are deceased.
Heavy Rain will last for quite a long while after completion if enjoyed by the player. There are 22 different endings that can be found, mostly depending on which decisions are made by the player throughout the playthrough. Only 5/56 trophies are able to be seen before starting it up, meaning you will be searching for the ways in order to get all of the hidden trophies. You can also go back and play through any chapter you have previously finished and complete it again. After replaying a chapter, you can choose to overwrite your save or not and just play it for fun.
Pros and Cons
+ Stunning, realistic animations and visuals
+ Impressive story driven drama
+ Taking a large risk with the gameplay
- Hiding the large majority of trophies
- Somewhat unresponsive motion based controls
Heavy Rain is an experiment. Unlike other new IPs, Heavy Rain had a successful trial, and may see similar style games spawned as a result. Heavy Rain takes a gritty, dark narrative and actually makes you feel emotionally connected to the characters. The majority of the game is played through QTEs and on screen triggers, but it does it so well, that that should not be a deterrent. The smooth animations and realistic graphics combined with an impressive musical score will seek to immerse you in the lives of four characters, and will be successful if you let it.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Heavy Rain (US, 02/23/10)
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