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Heavy Rain is a game that delivers in all the ways that it wants to and does it so very well. I have never been as attached to video game characters for so long. It feels almost odd how much I cared for each one.
But let me take it one step back before I talk about everything I love about this game. For those who don’t know what this game is about let me inform you. You play as several characters in a story who, in one way or another, have ties to the serial murderer named the Origami Killer. Each of the characters has their own reasons to go for this mad man, and how they go about finding out who the killer is depends heavily on your, the player's, actions.
This game has a lot of cut scenes where you have to press a series of buttons in order to successfully catch a running criminal, fight a thug or even shave (yes you read it right … shave). What makes this different from other games though, like God of War where you have the same idea of button presses, is that if you miss a button prompt it’s not “crap now I have to start over”. Instead, the game keeps going so whether or not that missed hit cost you, the chance to catch someone with valuable information, save someone’s life or the cost to your own life depends on how quick you are on your feet … or fingers. Also, yes, your characters can die. That means if one of the characters dies, then that’s it. The story keeps going without that particular story arc, which makes for a lot of interesting outcomes. Now a lot of these actions may feel a little mundane at first like having to use the left analog stick to put your car in park, knock on doors, or even move under an object. However, it really helps to make you feel in control and feel like you are the one making every single decision, which helped me get sucked in deeper into this world.
The story of Heavy Rain isn’t one for kids. While it starts off very happy and pretty trivial in the beginning, it gets pretty dark pretty quick, turning to a story you’re almost afraid to move forward because you know it won’t end well. If there is one thing I have to say about the game, it is the first hour or so isn’t too exciting and it feels more like a tutorial for the game. You get a feeling for the controls without any real consequences. Once it picks up though, the game gets intense and fast and never lets you go. As you get to the conclusion, your end-game will solely depend on your actions and can cause many different endings; some you may like, others you may not. There are a few holes in the story that I won’t get into, but after my time playing there were a few things that were never answered. Even with going back and playing it with a different ending. This is minor though and didn't ruin the game for me.
Probably one of the best things about this game is how much you care for each of these characters, something I haven’t felt in a video game since Metal Gear Solid 4 (but that’s cause I’m a fan boy). I personally cared for each character and wanted to see them survive to the end. I tried my hardest to make sure they did. The character’s looks added to my affection as well. Each character looks simply great and this helps add to love for each character. The fact you look at them and see how life-like they look, move and react is just amazing. I did notice a few textures that didn’t really look all to good but for the most part this game looks amazing. You can see the pain in their eyes and face, and whenever they are in pain you can almost feel it since they portray it so well with their thoughts.
The fact that a character can die at anytime probably made this one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had playing a game before. Ironically I was more scared in this game than I had in most horror games since I was afraid to move on in fear that it may lead to my characters death if I wasn’t quick enough. This game literally had me on the edge of my seat many times and each moment was intense and made my heart race. The best part of this game is just how much you feel like you are in this world and how you feel like each character.
It’s not without its flaws though and the movement controls are one of them. It doesn’t control like the average third person game. You move forward with R2 and you change direction with the left analog stick, almost like you’re playing a driving game. This isn’t a bad idea given the fact you use the right analog stick to do command prompts. But with the camera constantly changing it can cause you to move in circles and just be aggravating at points. Things like this can detract from the experience as you’re in a really tense point and your getting annoyed because the movement isn’t doing what you want it to do. Also this was made by Quantic Dream, a French development company, which isn’t a problem but the characters are supposed to be American and a few voice actors have some very obvious accents they can’t hide. Mainly the children have the heavy accents, which are just horribly obvious but it doesn’t really ruin anything. It’s more humorous to hear them try so hard to have an American accent. The rest of the voice acting, on the other hand, is really good and added to the experience. Other than these two things and the few plot holes I really don’t have any complaints about this game at all.
Heavy Rain has a top notch story that is pretty believable, other than a few things that are just a little odd, and it’s one of the best stories I have ever experienced in a video game. Whether or not this game is for you though depends on what you’re into. If you like a good story then I would recommend this game for you. There may be a few things you don’t like but you will enjoy the experience. If you’re the type of gamer that doesn’t care about story and just wants to play a fighting game or a shooter this game isn’t for you. I personally had a great time with it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a game even with a little story.
Counterpoints by Christopher Park
As an example of how far video games have progressed in telling stories, Heavy Rain would be an embarrassment. It’s not a story that should be shown with confidence; it’s riddled with gaping plotholes, tons of inconsistencies and contains characters barely worth caring about. You can see Quantic Dream’s intentions and vision when embarking on this gamble of a project. They want to you to feel about games differently, where it wants you to feel more than just constant adrenaline from gunning down waves of AI. Love, empathy, pathos – they’re rarely emotions games try to convey, but it’s clear just how much of a priority it is in Heavy Rain and it’s a shame how the game fails to pull it off successfully. It’s an effort pulled off with intense earnest and ambition and by the end of it all, Heavy Rain, at the very least, earns a spot as being an important video game. You could do much worse.
Almost from the beginning, Heavy Rain completely fails at delivering much of the weighty emotion it needs to drive the game. It’s due to issues from nearly all aspects of the game, undermining what it really wants to do. Writing goes from too wordy to alarmingly childish, character models look awkward and voice acting is terribly inconsistent, with some slipping in and out of their accents. When trying to deliver the story, Heavy Rain constantly misses the mark.
The story itself relies on red herrings, a couple dashes of deus ex machinima and unintentional silliness. The idea is simple; the Origami Killer is loose and his knack for drowning children in the rain affects one of the Ethan Mars’ sons. You’ll play as Ethan, going through multiple trials set up by the killer, while three other leads also go in the search for the killer in their own methods. The game constantly jumps perspective, letting you play as the other three, occasionally offering fresh insights, but rarely does any of it amount to a yarn that’s ever engaging. The game gets more and more ludicrous as it goes on, failing to resolve lingering questions and leaving behind plot holes so carelessly that it all feels like first-draft material.
The characters do very little to support the emotional backbone the game wants to have. They’re one-note, constantly fixated on the murders and killers, rarely ever getting the opportunity to truly develop as people. They don’t really get a chance to bounce off other characters and with the hit-and-miss writing, voice acting and facial animations, Heavy Rain is a massive disappointment concerning anything that relates to a narrative.
The great irony here is that the gameplay is what carries the game. The control scheme is simple. You’ll be able to walk around environments, but it’s all the quick-time events that define the experience. Press the button the game gives you the option of pressing and watch the action unfold on the screen. It’s straightforward, but it’s the implementation of it that’s ingenious. All the prompts are very reflective of what’s actually going on the screen. When the game wants you to crawl through a barbed wire fence by pressing and holding 7 buttons on the controller, it’s going to contort your hand in awkward ways. When you’re trying to get out of a flipped car with all the prompts upside down, there’s a tangible sense of panic and confusion. In high-tension situations, potential response options become so garbled that it’s hard to tell just what each button does what, implying the panic racing through your head. And when you pull the trigger and the man you shot goes limp, it carries weight. Not just a garble of polygons and pixels, but a man you shot on gut instinct. In these few moments, Heavy Rain is a powerful experience. Not because the characters are memorable or because the story has its hooks on you, but in these moments where a simple idea generates raw, intense emotions.
It’s just, every other step, there’s a glaring inconsistency in… something. It’s always something. Visually, it works on a functional level, but stumbles in where it counts. Character models almost always have a dead eye effect to them. They always look as if they’re looking through the people they’re talking to and it’s pretty amazing how overlooked the eyes are, considering the just how emotive they should be.
Audio is all over the place. The soundtrack is overly bombastic, forcing down the emotions the developers want us to feel, instead of it working with the game. It’s distracting to the point that it can get downright comical. Voice acting usually works, but if you’re going to set the game in what is implied to be somewhere in the US, you hire voice actors who can speak it without going in and out of their native accents and child actors who don’t sound like they care. Simple, really.
By the end of it all, you’ll come to an ending that resolves everything in ways that are aren’t satisfying, even if you end up with a deliriously happy ending where everything ends swimmingly. It’s a game that should have been something more, but somewhere along the line, Heavy Rain’s importance becomes hard to overlook. Its ability to draw out genuine emotions through its simple but genius gameplay methods deserves our full attention, showing just how video games are still in its infancy. There’s ample room for video games to grow, divert into different paths and evolve in plenty of different ways. Heavy Rain represents just how unique of an experience this interactive medium can provide, even if it doesn’t do it with the most precision and expertise it deserves.
Composite Score: 7.7