An “interactive drama” is what the developer calls it, and rightly so. Heavy Rain drops you in the shoes of several loosely connected characters. All of which lead ordinary lives, but are shoved into extraordinary situations which lead to some of the most emotionally driven and flat-out heart-breaking moments I’ve witnessed in a “video game”.
Takes a Bit to Get Going
The first couple of hours setup the main characters and the story, and you might think you’re playing the wrong game for a while there. All sorts of mundane tasks are performed while you are introduced to the unique control scheme. But once things start happening, big reveals keep coming frequently enough to make Heavy Rain one hard game to put down.
The story unfolds through the eyes of four main characters, who you assume the role of. They’re all encompassed by the murders of the Origami Killer, and while their paths cross periodically, for the most part they’re off doing their own thing.
Fixed Cameras, Quick Time Events, and Gestures
It plays like no other game, in that the controls are almost entirely gesture and quick time event based. While this might seem like a draw-back, it serves this game well. Button prompts would be a little too easy, and would likely get boring pretty quick, given the sheer volume. Performing a half circle downward motion with the right thumbstick in order to make your on-screen character drop an item on a table connects you to that character more than a simple button press would. And during intense action scenes, these gestures and prompts really shine. Never have I felt so engaged in a lengthy quick time event. I was little on the edge of my seat for the majority of the game.
Forget Everything You Know About Video Games
There are no do-overs in Heavy Rain. If you miss some prompts during a quick time event, things keep moving forward, but the result will be different than if you were to hit them all. But at no point does the game stop and ask if you would like to reload your previous checkpoint. This takes a bit of getting used to, as I found my first reaction was to stop and reload so I could get it right. But there really isn’t a right and wrong here. There are simply different paths that can be taken. And many different paths, at that.
Beautiful, in a Serial Killer Kind of Way
I absolutely love the atmosphere Heavy Rain portrays. From the dark and dreary urban setting, to the moody score which sets the tone perfectly. And while I’m usually one to point out a great soundtrack, Heavy Rain’s score goes above and beyond to engage the player and really makes the scenes.
Not Without Some Bumps in the Road
While I thoroughly enjoyed the story and this unique gaming experience, there are some areas which were a little rough around the edges. During the quick time events, some gestures which rely on the motion capabilities of the PS3 controller failed to register for me on more than one occasion. The characters models, specifically faces are incredibly detailed. But some interactions between characters and objects, or other characters looked a little clunky or awkward. Specifically, some of the more intimate scenes.
Speaking of which, there are some pretty strong adult themes present that I wasn’t expecting. I know it carries an M rating, but this game is definitely not suitable for the youngsters. On the other hand, it’s rare to see nudity in games done tastefully and without feeling unnecessary.
The Bottom Line
In short, Heavy Rain is a completely unique gaming experience with a strong story that had me fully engaged. It’s more of an eight-to-ten hour interactive movie than a game, but it’s a very welcome change. Since the story can take so many different paths, it’s worth playing through at least a couple of times to see how things can play out differently.