Review by dante1st

Reviewed: 03/15/10

Choose Your Own Adventure

While this is not a perfect game, it does have the distinction of being one of the most unique gaming experiences I've had, and definitely has hands down the best looking characters and facial animations in a game to date.

There’s that old cliche' that's always used, "it's so real it's just like watching a movie," and that's usually not the case, not even close. Heavy Rain however, lives up to that, as this is as close to an interactive movie we've had in gaming. I guess to be completely accurate, I shouldn’t say Heavy Rain resembles a movie as if graphically it’s photo realistic and nearly indistinguishable from a movie (although what I said about facial animations still holds true). I guess it’s like a movie in terms of characters, narrative, and cinematic storytelling.

This is pretty much the video game version of the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Despite what other reviewers may say, this is definitely a game of quick-time events, where you choose what happens next either by succeeding or failing at said event, but it’s done seamlessly and intuitively so as not to seem like a gimmick. I’m not the biggest fan of this type of gameplay, but what kept me intrigued was the story, which I felt was the strongest part of the game. I’m not a movie expert, but to me personally this game’s story rivals the stories I’ve seen told in crime/mystery/drama type movies. All the characters had depth that made you care about them, and the way we go from controlling one of the four main characters to another is just like when a movie cuts from the main character to a secondary character in a different setting. I wanted to go forward to learn more, and as the game concluded, and we learned who the killer was, I was definitely surprised, but it made perfect sense. It was a motive you could believe in. Everything fit together perfectly. Unlike a movie (or a dvd with no extra bonus features), this game has the advantage of having multiple endings, and by multiple, I’m talking double digits. But for me, once I got my one set of endings, I had NO inclination to play it again to explore other gameplay possibilities or endings. This was due to two main gameplay flaws that I was not about to subject myself to sit through again:

1) The walking controls are ridiculous. There is no reason why I should have to hold down R2 to walk. As it is, if you use the left analog stick without the R2 modifier, your character basically tilts their head in that direction, allowing you to sort of move the camera that way. No, THAT should be what the modifier does; Have the analog stick move you by default, and ONLY if you choose to want to look in a direction should you have to press R2. Think about it, at any given moment, were you doing more walking or ‘head tilting’ in the game? In fact, did you ever head tilt other than those few moments where you’re prompted to by the game with that little circular motion thing telling you to search your surroundings? Maybe once or twice right? See my point?

2) Also, the walking is way too slow. It’s too drawn out. I can’t play through the whole game again with these slow motion walking characters. I realize this is probably a realistic pace to walk in, but since it’s a game, they should’ve given me the option to run (how’s that for the use of the R2 button eh?), or at least speed up the default walking speed. It feels like a chore to move from one spot to the next. Again, had they let you move with just the left analog stick, MAYBE this wouldn’t have been as big of an issue (believe it or not, holding down R2 is actually fatiguing).

3) Ok, this one isn’t so much a flaw as it is personal preference I guess. With the game’s environments looking as great as it did, it sure would’ve been nice to be able to interact with it more. At any given point, you might be in a room with some of the most detail you’ve seen in a game, but unable to do anything with it other than doing that damn head tilt or switching between the two default cameras to see what else there is to look at. Generally speaking, some of the button prompts you get when you walk up to an object to interact with it isn’t really even an interaction at all because it’s not YOU doing it. Essentially, you’re just triggering a cutscene by choosing to wash your face, or picking up that object off the ground. What I would’ve loved to been able to do is switch to a first-person view and look around and have fun. All those fun environments to check out in first-person: the night club, the party mansion, hec, inside of the apartments. My guess on why you couldn’t do this is because these are all pre-rendered scenes, and you’re not really moving a character and exploring, so much as “moving the picture to the left or right” and seeing what else is on the canvas. With it being pre-rendered, the objects you want to examine in detail simply cannot be viewed from “that angle,” because there is no instance of it from that perspective. Hmmm, but then again you have those handful of levels where it’s a third-person above the shoulder view, and it does feel like you have a free camera to work with (like the police station).... Oh well, I can’t explain it from a technical level, I guess that’s why I’m in school for game development :) All I know is that these wonderful environments they created felt all too much like a movie since all I could do was WATCH IT.

Again, that third and final complaint I wouldn’t defend too strongly, I concede that these types of gameplay mechanics could just be a function of the kind of game it is, and that me complaining about that is like complaining that a basketball game doesn’t have enough Platforming elements to it. It is what it is. Had the controls not been flawed this game would’ve gotten a 9 from me, for being unique and having a awesome story, and a perfect soundtrack. Most definitely worth a rental, or buy it if you're really really into QTE games.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Heavy Rain (US, 02/23/10)

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