Review by Wiggis
Reviewed: 09/27/10 | Updated: 02/27/12
A "movie" that is better than most movies
Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain is an odd one. It does not play like any other "conventional" game. It sort of combines a psychological thriller and a choose-your-adventure book with a blu-ray disc. And though the ride may be short, it is one you may not soon forget.
Amazing. Few games (or movies, for that matter) have tales that are near this interesting to tell. Heavy Rain follows four seemingly unrelated people from different walks of life and their involvement with a serial killer dubbed "The Origami Killer". I'll be the first to admit that it starts a bit slow, but once it takes off, it soars.
It has everything a good thriller needs: deception, drama, betrayal, mind-twists, a great chase and an excellent twist. Seeing each chapter end only makes you want to see the next one that much more up to the very end.
Simply put, this game is a marvel to behold. Environments are incredibly detailed down to the individual bricks that comprise a particular building, the unique markings of a gun, etc. The game's main characters look exactly like the actors who play them (more on this later), with details down to even the twitches.
At this point, I'd like to point out there is a huge difference between playing this in high definition and standard. Playing in standard can result in some minor chugging issues and the rare lack of clarity as to which face button is the correct one to press. But running in HD not only has none of those problems, it makes Heavy Rain just shine. Having a standard television doesn't make the game unplayable, but it is a factor to be considered.
Incredible. Every song contained within is a perfect match for the mood each chapter is trying to convey. Somber songs make tragic moments more poignant and suspenseful music makes times where you need to hurry feel more panicked. Try as I might, I cannot recall even one song was either bad or out of place.
Sound effects are also perfect. Everything from gunshots to glass breaking to punches and kicks connecting to flesh all sound exactly they way they should. Again, nothing here needs to change.
Voice acting is top notch. None of the actors are from Hollywood, but they could be. Each character does a great job making the gamer a part of their world. The only bad aspect to the acting lies in the characters' accents, most of which sound like imitation Boston accents, and some of the lines that children say. It doesn't harm the overall quality of HR, but hearing how odd most people say words like "origami" or "orchid" does resonate somewhat bitterly.
Heavy Rain makes the player use the controller like few other titles do. Firstly, you walk/run with the R2 trigger and guide the movement with the left thumbstick. This may seem cumbersome, which, admittedly, it is at first, but a few chapters in this will seem right. Only when you need your on-screen avatar in the exact perfect spot does this method of movement become annoying, as stopping on a dime is harder than need be. Only occasionally, though. Otherwise, it is smooth sailing throughout.
When not directly controlling your characters, you'll participate in Quick Time Events a la Resident Evil 4 or God of War, though Heavy Rain utilizes them more so than either title. Or any other title, for that matter. HR's Quick Time Events require all 4 face buttons, all 4 shoulder buttons, the right thumbstick and the Sixaxis controls. Thankfully, they rarely ever make you need more than 3 buttons/actions at a time. Plus, the buttons you press or motions you make fit perfectly within the context of what your doing, be they steering a car, dodging a punch, struggling, etc., connecting the player that much more with the game. The only true fault here is in the Sixaxis controls, which can at times not register your motion, oftentimes during a vital moment. It's not often enough to condemn the motion controls, but be prepared for the Sixaxis to only work about 70 - 80 percent of the time.
Now, some may think that controlling a game almost exclusively in QTEs would become stale quick. Thankfully, the game developers worked hard into making this very enjoyable.
Nearly every time you need to press a button, it will hang over where the focus is strongest, such as the knob of a door, a fist closing it's distance from you, etc. These icons never hinder the player's sight from anything, rather they almost feel as though they should be there, like they're naturally of their environments. Plus, if a character is either hurt, in a hurry or in a massive state of panic, the icon will shake as nervously as the character. Combining the wide variety of QTE actions with the various dilemmas of the characters makes an immersion with the game that few titles share.
Oftentimes, Heavy Rain will force the player to make a moral choice. I don't want to reveal anything, but know it goes far beyond the "red pill vs blue pill" options featured in other games. Choices here will decide someone's fate, well-being or even where in the city you access entirely.
Needless to say, this makes the whole game impossible to see in one playthrough. Being set up like a "choose your own adventure", it allows for replayability that extends beyond the simple good ending/bad ending. Endings can change drastically, even with a proverbial "coin toss". Plus, being a short game, striving for the extra endings gives Heavy Rain that much more length. Yet, as good as these varied endings are, once the game is over, it's all over. But at the very least, Quantic Dreams was good enough to reward players with plenty of concept art and extensive behind-the-scenes footage.
One other downside that could be found against this game is that the NPCs seem oblivious to you. Again, not revealing any specific moments, but there will be times when people who should be reacting to what you're doing are just standing there stupidly. Even cops. I mean, I doubt I could walk right in front of a police officer screaming at someone without him/her redirecting their rage my way.
What this game lacks in length, it more than makes up for in value. Heavy Rain shows how video games have exceeded movies for pure entertainment. It's a truly unique title that even the most stubborn Sony haters can't help but enjoy. Play. This. Now.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Heavy Rain (US, 02/23/10)
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