Heavy rain is a story driven game, with that in mind this review does not contain spoilers, aside from character descriptions and an overview of the main plot.
Ah Heavy Rain, what a long trip its been. From seeing the audition tape, to the first look at the first real gameplay, to February 2010 where we finally got a chance to play this “interactive drama”. So, is heavy rain the start of something? Or is just a bad attempt at something new?
Heavy Rain sets out to do one thing. Prove that games developers can make an adult game with an engaging story, believable characters and a game that will make you question every choice you make. Heavy Rain does this by setting up every characters story very well and making you feel for them. The game splits the story into chapters, where you take control of one of Heavy Rains four protagonists. The first of this quartet is Ethan Mars, an architect with a wife and two sons. Along his path, he is forced to make some tough decisions when he is posed the questions “How far are you prepared to go to save someone you love”? Madison Paige is the only female character of the four, and is one of the best. She is a photojournalist living alone in the big city, who suffers from a bad case of insomnia and finds her only respite is staying in motels. The third character is Norman Jayden, an FBI profiler sent to help the police investigate the Origami Killer. He also possesses some nifty tricks that will help him along the way. The fourth and final character is Scott Shelby, a retired police officer who now works as a private investigator on behalf of the families of the Origami Killers previous victims.
The games story is focused around the Origami Killer, a child murderer who abducts children, later drowning them in rain water. He gets his name not only because he is a killer, but because his trade mark is to leave a small origami figure in the hands of his victims. The game has you take on the role of one of the four characters on their journey to track down the killer. But this is not all plain sailing as, if one of your protagonists are to die, the story will simply carry on. That’s right, no game over screens here, just a story that, regardless of player death(s), will continue to play out until its conclusion.
Heavy Rains gameplay mechanics have been widely scrutinized as constant quick time events. I am pleased to announce that is not the case. Yes the game does use quick time events, but it does use them to good effect, and they all seem to make sense in the context. The main thing the game does well is how it deals with the QTEs for each event. If it’s an intense fight scene, they come fast and on the body part or object, not only keeping you on the edge of your seat, but they will have you focusing on your opponent hands and objects they hold. If it’s a delicate scene like playing an object on a table quietly or softly, the game requires you to perform the action slower. Will you hit every button? No, some times you can be hit (depending on difficulty ) with a chain of face buttons followed by a movement of the controller. It can throw you off, much like it would if you where in a good old game of fisty cuffs.
On the other side of things, Heavy Rain features some more detective driven scenes, most of which involve Norman Jayden, the FBI agent. These scenes are much more akin to a traditional point and click adventure, which seems like a path Quantic Dream could have taken with Heavy rain. Luckily they chose to feature both of these gameplay mechanics and to great effect. Norman Jaydens missions do a good job of changing up the pace of the game, making you think a bit more, something most games these days seem to fail in doing. There was more than one occasion in Heavy Rain that I found myself trying to recall a scene to help with my investigation. That said, you wont need a pen and paper to jot down notes to play Heavy Rain, however it can help to recall certain important details at crime scenes.
By now, you will have seen pictures of Heavy Rain or watched videos of the game in motion, and it’s safe to say its looks amazing. When you look at recent games on Ps3 that have really pushed the hardware, you can recall Killzone 2 and its amazing detail lighting effects. Uncharted 2 with its wide open vistas and stunning set piece moments. But Heavy Rain does the next big thing for developers to gawp at on the Playstation. Not only does Heavy Rain have great lighting, and some outstanding visuals, it also features some of, if not the best looking character models we have ever seen. When in conversation, the characters will react to their surroundings and will show emotion when in speech. This is not the end of the amazement, after completing a scene in Heavy Rain, you will get a face shot of your next character, when you see their head moving and their eyes looking around, it’s at this point that you see just how amazing Heavy Rain truly looks.
Visuals are not the only part of what makes a game look and feel so good. Sound plays a massive part in games, and Heavy Rain is one of the best examples of how to make music work in a game. Music does a great job in setting up every scene through out the game, it will keep you in suspense by bringing the world to life around you. It’s not just music that plays a big role in the sound of the game. The game is called Heavy Rain, and rain plays a huge part in the sound. You will always be aware of the rain, its sets up the mood and plays a bigger part in the game which becomes clear once you play the game for yourself.
So, for me Heavy Rain is the best game of the year so far. Will it last to the end of the year and pick up game of the year? Well I think it’s safe to say it will earn itself a few nominations at least, and it should win a few innovation awards, even if just an innovation in good story telling in games. I, for one, hope we see more games like this, made as well if not better, and I cannot wait for David Cage to make his next game. When all is said and done, Heavy Rain is a must buy for Ps3 owners looking to break away from the normal games, and try something new.
Story 10/10 – The story and characters are well done, and some of the best we have seen in a game to date.
Gameplay 10/10 – The QTEs work well, and I see no other way of doing this style of game, without it feeling out-of-place.
Graphics 10/10 – Easily the best visuals this generation so far.
Overall 10/10 – Heavy Rain is outstanding, and proving you are willing to try something new, you wont be disappointed