Review by Bkstunt_31
David Cage NEARLY hits a grand slam... still Heavy Rain is an experience you DON'T want to miss!
Following in the footsteps of 2005's Indigo Prophecy (also known as Farenheit elsewhere), Quantic Dreams produces another "Interactive Novel": Heavy Rain. Much like in Indigo Prophecy, you'll control several characters and weave a story out of their multiple view points until they all come together. So how is Heavy Rain as a whole? Is it worth buying? Renting maybe? Well I'll run you through what you can expect from Heavy Rain and let you make up your own mind.
"How far are you prepared to go to save someone you love?"
Heavy Rain is serious when they ask the above question. The story primarily features Ethan Mars, a husband and father to two young boys, Jason and Shaun. The game starts out with Ethan waking up on a "normal" day and doing some mundane chores, giving you a chance to take a look at his life, but then later at a busy mall while Ethan is watching Jason he ends up loosing him in the crowd. After some frantic searching, you find him outside in the street, and despite a valiant effort to stop an incoming car Jason and Ethan are both hit, putting Ethan in a six month coma and killing Jason.
After recovering, Ethan suffers from blackout, he ends up with some marital woes (being estranged from his wife), and there's obvious tension between him and Shaun. There's also news about a serial killer called the Origami Killer, who kidnaps young boys. These children are then found after a few days having drowned to death, with orchids on their eyelids and an origami figure in their hands. And as fate would have it, while out at the park with Shaun one day, Ethan blacks out. When he comes to, he is unable to find Shaun anywhere, leading to a story that showcases a father's love for his son, and attempts to answer the question two paragraphs above.
But as I said earlier, Heavy Rain's story is weaved through multiple view points, and so you will also control three other characters besides Ethan. One that you will control is a FBI Profilier named Norman Jayden, who is working with the local police precinct to track down the Origami Killer (who is a serial killer, of course the FBI is involved). Another is Private Detective Scott Shelby, who was hired by the families of the victims to track down the killer. The last is investigative reporter Madison Paige. You'll control all four of these characters as the story continues.
The most innovative and unique aspect to Heavy Rain is in fact it's dynamic story telling. As you control each character, you will have to do certain things to make the story progress, which often means following the on-screen prompts and reacting quickly. However, let's just say that you make a fatal mistake, which may result in a game over in most other games. Well, not for Heavy Rain. Your mistakes are yours to live with, and the story will go on regardless. In fact, the game uses the various choices that you choose to shape its ending. Overall, I found the story to be fantastic, but yet some very obvious plot holes bothered me. Editing and various cuts to the product are to blame, but its still very obvious that while Heavy Rain is a fantastic story, it's still incomplete and overlooking some very important plot holes.
The game play itself is pretty simple, since the game is more of an "interactive drama" than a game. You will have to press on-screen prompts though, such as face buttons and directions to not only get yourself out of intense situations but also to preform everyday tasks. The controls are simple and really never go beyond hitting a button, mashing a button, alternate hitting buttons, or holding down multiple buttons. Being quick is often the key though, so get familiar with your controller! You can also view (and hear) the characters thoughts at any time, which serve as guideline on what you should do next (in case you're ever stuck).
Despite the promise of a great story, the first thing that anyone will notice in Heavy Rain is its fantastic graphics, which really showcase cutting-edge technology and will wow anyone (they are that good). Characters are superbly designed, being extensively motion captured (meaning excellent animations as well) and face-modeled after real actors and actresses. Seriously guys, these are probably the best character models you've ever seen! Backgrounds are well designed and thoughtful details are scattered about, which is a given since the story will often force you to pay attention to the little details. There really isn't much more to say about the graphics other then they are some of the absolute best the Playstation 3 has to offer. You can really tell that this game was a labor of love.
The soundtrack was composed by a full-blown orchestra, which means a lot of emotion and a lot of stringed instruments. Many tracks are soft and methodical, conveying the characters emotional situations well, as well as delivering that foreboding feeling that is necessary for such a game. Many themes are reused throughout the game, but given how good the music is and how spaced out the character chapters can be it's not too noticeable.
Voice acting was extremely well done in Heavy Rain, with the actors who supplied the character models also voicing the characters themselves. Everyone gave very good performances, which is quite the accomplishment given the amount of emotion and inward-thinking throughout the game. I particularly liked Norman Jayden, as his voice seemed the most unique to me.
While the game's full story will be laid bare to you after a single play through, the game does feature several things to make you stick around after the credits roll. For example, not only are there different difficulties but you also unlock each chapter of the game as you play through it. Meaning of course that you can go back and play through different chapters and make NEW choices, drastically altering the story (you can also choose to save events after that or not). This is mostly helpful for going after trophies and seeing a different ending. Speaking of endings, there are a LOT of them to see! Overall, I spent around 15 hours with the game in total. There's also numerous bonus extras, such as the countless "making of" scenes and other treats (which Quantic Dreams has always been good about sharing). There's also some DLC out there as well entitled "Heavy Rain Chronicles Episode One: The Taxidermist" that you can download and play, although while it says "Episode One" and has been out for quite some time now, I don't believe any new episodes are forthcoming.
Overall, Heavy Rain is a MUST play game. The choice on whether to buy it or not is much harder though. For me, it was HARD to find the game, so I ended up renting it (leading me to believe that many gamers out there are picking up this game and KEEPING it). In the end, given the games linear nature and rather short length, it seems to be made for renting. However, buying it new also sends the message that you support the developer, and I don't know about you, but I want Quantic Dreams (and David Cage) to be around for a long time! Have fun and keep playing!
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Heavy Rain (US, 02/23/10)
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