Heavy Rain, a mix between a video game and cinematic drama, arrived in my hands just last week. I started up the game shortly after and was stunned as I embarked on a journey of excellence in story-telling and edge-of-your-seat drama.
Starting up the game, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve heard a lot of craze going about the PS2’s Quantic-developed Indigo Prophecy but I honestly hadn’t ever played it myself. I began Heavy Rain blind, knowing only what I’ve seen in screenshots and video released by Sony. Minding spoilers, I didn’t watch much video, either.
Heavy Rain is a game of choice – it asks you what you want to do in a situation instead of forcing decisions upon you. While the game opens up slow, it helps build up the relationship you’ll soon find with the characters. Ten minutes into the game and I already felt like me and Ethan (one of the game’s four playable characters) were pals.
The interactive drama brings players onto the scene of a murder mystery; a homicidal maniac known as the Origami Killer has been on the loose for years and has just recently taken another victim. Origami doesn’t do adult killings, no. Instead, the Origami Killer kidnaps those from nine to thirteen years old. Three to four days after each kidnapping, the victims end up found dead in some wasteland. Sick mind this guy has, doesn’t he? Want to go ahead and guess what’s going to motivate players to find out who the killer is? His latest victim is the son of Ethan Mars.
Players take on the role of one of four characters. Throughout the game, players will switch roles between each character a number of different times. Each decision that the player makes with one character may affect their relationship or good standing with another. The decision aspect of the game is easily Heavy Rain‘s biggest playing factor and playing the game more than once will show you how different things are the second time around. That’s just the way things go when there’s eight different endings to witness.
Let’s talk gameplay. Heavy Rain isn’t a shooter, it’s not a survival horror title and it’s most definitely not an adventure game. Though there are many different environments players are positioned, Heavy Rain is an interactive drama. That means the game’s template is already planned out but it’s up to you to fill it in.
Players use the right stick, face and shoulder buttons to interact with the game – and there’s a bit of motion control with the SIXAXIS in there as well. There’s a lot of fast interaction involved in the game and you’ll probably find yourself saying that it’s harder than you thought it’d be. Most of the fast interaction scenes are usually fighting scenes, like the one seen in the demo. If you miss any button during a fighting scene like that, your character may get hit during that one punch, kick or whatever is happening. You could walk out of the room with a bloody nose or a scar on your face by simply missing one button. Some of the scenes where players need to hold in buttons can be pretty tricky, as well.
To move around, players must hold in R2 and they’ll immediately begin walking; the left stick lets you choose the direction you walk in. It’s a bit clunky at first, but you get used to it after a while. You may become a bit frustrated over how slow the characters walk at times, though — especially when it comes to going up or down stairs.
Sometimes players will see button or stick controls shaking on screen, telling us that the character is in a panicky state and its hard for them to think straight. During a few of those, as a common reaction, I would immediately hit the first thing I saw out of my own fear that I would do something that would jeopardize the character. It adds that sense of realism to the game as if you were to make a decision right then and there; you wouldn’t be able to stop and think in some of those quick-reacting situations.
The whole game isn’t just button interaction, though. There’s a lot of thinking involved to fully experience Heavy Rain as it should be. Norman Jayden, the FBI character, uses these special glasses called ARI in order to analyze crime scenes and gather evidence. After finding the evidence, it’s up to players to piece them together. If they piece it wrong, they may just get the wrong guy. There are scenes dedicated solely to ARI, where you look through evidence, review what you’ve found, change the holographic environment (that one’s my favorite – Mars), and try to decide where to go next. You’ll really feel like an agent, that’s for sure.
What really gets me going is that Heavy Rain triggers a rare emotional awareness locked deep inside your heart. After just the first scene of the game I found myself nearly in tears. More scenes followed. Whether I was overjoyed with happiness or wondering afterward how that character felt, I don’t think any game has been able to tap into emotion as much as Heavy Rain is able to. I had a sudden urge to go discuss what just happened in the game with other people, but realized that nobody I knew had the game yet. So what did I do? I called my girlfriend and told her every little detail. She was as pulled in as I was listening.
I’d love to go on talking about the story and some of the truly amazing things that happen in the game, but I don’t want to spoil it for any potential buyer. You need to witness Quantic Dream’s amazing method of story-telling on your own to see just what Heavy Rain has to offer.
Heavy Rain is a must buy for any PlayStation 3 owner. Offering eight different endings, player’s choice of words, and a thrilling story that will have you on the edge of your seat, you’ll want to play it over and over again. Of course, there’s rewards for doing so such as trophies, unlockables and videos like the famous 2006 “Casting” video – but the real reward is experiencing the tale that Quantic Dream has to tell. You shape the futures of these four characters and it’s up to you to decide what happens. Heavy Rain is one of a kind and truly the player’s game.
Heavy Rain was reviewed on a PlayStation 3. The game was completed once on the highest button difficulty and is currently being played through again. Heavy Rain launches for PlayStation 3 in North America on March 23, 2010 for an MSRP of $59.99.