Heavy Rain is Just Barely a Video Game

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

Heavy Rain

Buying a balloon for your son is one of the things you do early on.

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.

The cast of Heavy Rain.

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

Quick decision!

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.

Rating: 4/5

Heavy Rain

19 Responses to “Heavy Rain is Just Barely a Video Game”

  1. I agree completely with you. Heavy Rain is barely what you would call a video game. Its a mix between a video game and a movie. Last week I spent 6 hours showing my friend's mom, who never has sat down for 6 hours straight watching anything especially a "Video Game," She was, to say the least, deeply moved and intrigued by the story and action. She went as far as to request I come by the following day to finish the rest of the game. I've played through Heavy Rain twice already and it gets better every-time, and with the 22 different epilogue sequences I know I will be playing this game many more times over the next several months. Probably the thing that shocked me most about this game, is I am not really a PS3 fan at all but the addition of games like Heavy Rain and Uncharted 2 make the console look more and more promising.

    -Sean Hoffman

    • That's pretty cool! I actually just recommended that my aunt and uncle pick it up, as they received a PS3 for Christmas, but nothing has really suited them yet. I can see Heavy Rain being something that play together, and I believe the easy setting should be low-key enough as far as the prompts and gestures go.

  2. In regards to your PS3 reviews, keep them coming! I enjoy reading all of your reveiws, and while I own all three systems I spend far and beyond the most time on my PS3. I stumbled across your site in a design gallery a while ago if I remember correctly and now I check back regularly. I am a web designer and a major video game lover myself which is why your site interested me in the first place.

    As far as Heavy Rain goes, I agree that it was a very engaging experience. The story kept me intrigued the entire time, however I felt cheated on the big killer reveal as the character completely changes once it is revealed who it is. This is especially apparent due to the fact that you are able to view the various characters' thoughts throughout the game including the killer's and they just didn't match up quite right.

    At any rate it's definitely not a perfect game, but a unique and engaging experience nonetheless.

    One last thing. I am about ready to jump into the land of WordPress as I would love to finally get my own portfolio and site up sometime this year. What are your recommendations for sites/books to get started with WordPress?

    Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Brock. I'm really not too concerned about comment count, but I don't want to spend time writing about things my readers aren't interested in. I should probably just pay more attention to my stats and see how the PS3 reviews really fare against the Xbox 360 ones.

      The story kept me intrigued the entire time, however I felt cheated on the big killer reveal as the character completely changes once it is revealed who it is.

      That's true. I didn't "hear the killer's thoughts" during that one scene where you play as the killer after the reveal, so I didn't notice as much. But during said scene, the killer does some things that lead me to believe that this would be the last. And I assumed that was due to Ethan's performance. Man, I'm trying hard not to spoil things here!

      What are your recommendations for sites/books to get started with WordPress?

      I really don't have any. I've been working with WordPress since '04, before version 1.0 was even released. I learned by doing, as resources were thin back then. There's plenty now, though.

  3. Thanks for this review Matt, it's just another confirmation that I need to pick up this game when I get a chance. By the way, keep the PS3 reviews going, I own all the consoles but appreciate the PS3 ones especially; yes we might not comment all that much but we're here and reading!

    • Good to know, Ben! As I mentioned in a previous comment, I should really take a look at my stats to see how the PS3 reviews are really doing. Comment count doesn't mean much, and I should know this as I rarely comment on articles I read.

  4. I have to agree! Heavy Rain took me on an emotional journey like no other. While the first couple of hours did drag on, they were key to build you into the characters. Like you said there is no right and wrong, me and a couple of friends played through completely different scenario's and at times it was hard to believe that we'd all been playing the same game.

    Unlike some I stayed away from the forums and didn't guess the identity of the Origami Killer until the the very end – one of the best OMG moments in video games I may add! I really enjoyed my time with Heavy Rain and recommend it to those willing to try something different.

    *On a side note keep the PS3 reviews coming Matt!

    • I tend to stay away from forums and previews before playing a game as well. I typically don't watch campaign trailers either. I love going into something blind, or with just a very vague understanding.

  5. I wasn't going to pick this up at all, but I think I'll snag it now, or get it on rental for sure. Reply value is probably nil I'd imagine.

    Thanks for this!

    • Replay value is huge, actually! There are over 20 different ending sequences, and a ton of variation in the story arc. It all depends on your actions, so you could easily play it through a second or third time and have a completely different experience. I was looking at a walkthrough to see what Trophies I had missed, and I saw mention of several scenes that I didn't even see in my play through.

  6. Man, I enjoyed Heavy Rain immensely. I've been contemplating going back and playing it again for quite some time now, but I'm more than certain it'll dilute the effect of my original run. I'm not sure I really want to know what decisions caused each of the events to occur has they they did for me. It's pretty much a given that a second playthrough would definitely pull back the curtain a bit, so I have a feeling that I'm never going to play this game again.

    Before I go, here's this Heavy Rain-related YouTube video that's totally going to blow your mind. Don't say I didn't warn you!

    • You raise a good point about a second play through. I'm on the fence now, but I think I would like to "experience" the game again with my wife. I know she would be into it, but not sure how well she'd do with the quick time events, given that she rarely plays PS3 games and isn't familiar with the controller, at all.

      I saw that video just after I started playing the game. I think the GiantBomb guys posted it. Awesome!

  7. I didn't even play this game, I WATCHED someone play it. And I couldn't step away! Now that I have a ps3, I intend to buy this game because even though I know the ending, I wanna get there myself. Or, to whichever one I end up at. Not to mention that as a game developer its interesting to see games like this bring new ways of handling cinematics to the table. I love story driven games, and this one was really wedll done.

    • Awesome! I'm thinking about trying to convince my wife to play/watch it with me for a second play through. I wouldn't mind watching her play, or vice versa if she's not into the quick time events. I've been thinking about it a lot since I finished the game, and really hope I can talk some of my non-gamer friends and family members into giving Heavy Rain a shot.

  8. Glad to see you review this as I've been on the fence about it. Just from the little I had heard about the unique control scheme was enough to give me doubts, but if it works for the nature of the game, great. Does it have multiple endings?

    • Yes, there are many different ending scenarios. There are even full scenes which are only present depending on the path you've taken. Lead characters can even die, but none did in my play through. They may have if I didn't replay a couple of the scenes. 😉

  9. Thanks for the review, definitely checking this out. Keep'em coming Matt, just because we don't comment every time doesn't mean they're not being read 🙂

  10. Sounds really good, Ive seen a couple of clips of the game on the internet and it looks awesome. I don't buy loads of games but I think I'll invest in this one…although what game I'm really looking forward to is Red Dead Redemption, now that's gonna change my life!

  11. Heavy Rain looks freaking amazing! I'll certainly be checking it out soon.

    I don't play PS3 very often simply because I stay on my 360 much more, but games like Heavy Rain and Uncharted2 make it worthwhile to still own a PS3 these days for me!