Review by Archmonk Iga
Quantic Dream's ambitious PS3-exclusive follows almost exactly in the footsteps of 2005's Indigo Prophecy.
As a big fan of Indigo Prophecy, I was thrilled to finally get the chance to play through Heavy Rain. Upon completion, it is quite obvious that both of these thrilling games were made by the same mindsmystery, action, emotion, and lots and lots of crummy weather. The expectations were higher for Heavy Rain than for Indigo Prophecy, though Im not exactly sure why after witnessing the end product. Promoted as an interactive storytelling experience, its hard for me to understand what makes it so much more so than Indigo Prophecy. Both games have nearly identical ways of playing
in fact, my silly declaration of calling Indigo Prophecy of movame in my review of it could also be said for Heavy Rain. Really, the story is no better or worse in this PS3 title, nor are the characters, nor the gameplay. And while I was certainly engaged by this heart-breaking mystery for all the hours I played it, Im having trouble understanding how it is such a big leap forward from Indigo Prophecy, and thus a big leap forward for gaming in general.
The storyline in HR is its anchor, filled with twists, turns and moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I want to keep this entire section spoiler free, so if youve already played it then bear with me.
HR is very heavy on the film-noir influence, and fans of the David Lynch series Twin Peaks may see many similarities. There are four main characters in HR, but the one youll be spending the most time with is named Ethan. He has a happy, stable lifea loving wife, two adorable kids, a beautiful home. As youd expect, certain events turn all this happiness around and cause him to completely lose his mind. HR also stars a journalist, a private investigator, and an FBI agent. Each of these characters will be tested in ways that they never could have imagined, and the outcomes of these tests will be completely up to YOU, the player. And while this mystery is certainly intriguing, the fact that it is so heavy (no pun intended) and depressing may get to some gamers. Happy or comedic moments in Heavy Rain are pretty much numbered at zero, and it really could have used some.
The best thing about HR is how there is no wrong path to lead a character. Some actions will have minor consequences, others can be extremely harmful. That being said, if something happens in the storyline that you arent satisfied with, then restarting the game would take away its authenticity. Especially for your first time through, I highly recommend you let things play out as they happen. The fact that theres no way to get a game over helps relieve this stress that may weigh on your mind, and it ends up being perhaps the biggest step forward from Indigo Prophecy.
One of the best ways for us to connect with this dark story is with the characters facial animations. Although not quite on par with Uncharted, witnessing the changes in Ethans general expressions are about as human as can be. Little things like fabric, limb movements, NPC animations, and cinematic camera angles really help bring the story to life. Environments are also very well done, and the fact that it is raining so hard throughout the games entirety is worth noting.
The soundtrack in HR is completely fitting to whatever is going on onscreen. It is largely orchestrated, and helps bring the cinematic experience to life.
On the flip side is the voice-acting. Its hard for me to judge it, actually. The characters are clearly supposed to be from the New England area, but their native European accents slip out quite often. Not only does it result in some unintended chuckles, it completely detracts from the otherwise very emotional story. Honestly, the story should have taken place in London rather than in the States if Quantic Dream werent going to bother using American actors. In addition, some of the voice actors are absolutely terrible. For a game that is completely centered on its plot, so much is taken away from poor voice-acting. It should have been better.
HR starts off slowly but does a great job of helping you understand how it controls. Movement feels ancient though, and is done by holding the shoulder button down and steering with the joystick. Its a silly move on Quantic Dreams part, since there really is no obvious reason for this control choice. Opening doors, moving your arms, looking out windows even doing these menial tasks are done with odd joystick movements when button-pressing would have fitted the games tone just as well. They will become second nature once you get the hang of everything, but they are still unnecessary.
When you are pressing buttons, the gameplay improves. You will often need to press and hold down a combination of buttons or rapidly press a button to advance, and it gives the characters a much more human-like feel and adds in some room for failure. Now and then the six-axis controls will be needed too, and they are actually implemented quite well. The best part is when a character is under a lot of stress and is having trouble focusingcommand prompts will appear onscreen but will be blurry and shaky, making it hard for the player to focus as well and thus bringing you much closer to what is going on. The downside of these button prompts is that they can sometimes look too similaryou may be required to rapidly press a button but instead you think youre supposed to hold it down, for example. A little more clarification in these icons would have been great.
Thats really all there is to HRs gameplay. No leveling up, no collecting ammo, no out-of-place puzzle-solving. The game focuses on these characters as human beings and how the events in their lives affect them in big ways and small ways. And while certain controls are hard for me to like, Quantic Dream have done a good job of integrating the gameplay into the storyline.
HR is a double-edged sword in its replayability. On the one hand, the countless different branching storylines are reason enough to start from the beginning again and again (or to select a specific chapter and save yourself some time). On the other, the fact that youll be seeing many of the same events over and over, without the ability to skip cutscenes, may take away some of your incentive. But the branching storylines are indeed there and make it worth your time to see all the different things that could happen to these characters, though many will also appreciate the novelty of just one single ten-hour playthrough. HR is brilliant for that reason.
REPLAY VALUE: 7.5/10
An enticing mystery full of sadness and horror, Heavy Rain follows in Indigo Prophecys footsteps in all the best ways. At the same time, its iffy voice-acting, depressing nature, and odd control choices lessen its appeal and completely take away from the storys authenticity. But if you can look past these missteps, Heavy Rain is an experience that 99% of videogames cannot offer you.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Heavy Rain (US, 02/23/10)
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