Heavy Rain has finally arrived and after many months of discussions over visuals, a controversial control scheme and Quantic Dreams’ ability to deliver solid titles, we finally got to see what all the buzz was about.
By now most of you know that Heavy Rain is not your traditional videogame. Some have had trouble calling it a videogame at all while others believe that it’s the next step in interactive story telling.
We put on our raincoats, opened our umbrellas and ventured forth into the storm to bring you the full review, after the jump.[Please note: As Heavy Rain is entirely story driven, we have ensured that the review remains 100% spoiler free]
The Story Of The Origami Killer
Heavy Rain draws you into the world of 4 different characters brought together by a twisted and dangerous serial killer known only as the “Origami Killer”.
Each have their own reasons for being involved in the mysterious case as you live their lives over the span of a few days. Each character is a unique, deep and fleshed out individual that you will come to care for and to make matters even more interesting… they can die.
Each of the four characters leave their lives in your hands
Quantic Dreams set out to create a story of mystery, tension and intrigue, and that’s exactly what they have done. This is not your traditional videogame, and that’s putting it lightly. The videogame is driven completely by the plot, with every other element serving only to further its progression.
While the story still works towards a definite goal, your actions will create your own path through the game and allow you to experience a different story than the next player. Replaying scenes when you are done and making different choices rewards those who go through the effort of discovering what might have happened had things been handled differently.
The story takes a couple of hours to actually get going, but it serves it’s purpose and allows the game to build up the necessary tension required to completely immerse you in the plot. Once the real story begins, prepare to be glued to your seat for a good deal of time.
Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes
With the exception of walking around and the thought/conversation options, characters are almost completely controlled by making gestures using the controllers various buttons or utilising the sixaxis motion functionality. Scenes that require anything more than a basic command will have you participating in quick time events (QTE) that will require you to string together many different gestures, or hold down certain buttons to achieve the movement or task at hand.
A penny for your thoughts?
Much of the tension is also relayed to the player by having the characters thoughts (which circle around them and are linked to different buttons) jitter and move at different speeds, which while sometimes frustrating, is an almost perfect translation of what it feels like to gather your thoughts during a stressful situation.
To put it simply, Heavy Rain has been designed so that the player will interact with every element and scene in the game based on the spirit of the moment, utilising the control scheme to make you feel like you are a part of it. Does it actually work? Yes it does, and well.
Everything from slight gentle movement as you quietly open a door, to violent swings of your remote as you fend off an attacker will work to immerse you into the scene, allowing you to experience the pace of the scene at hand and help you to understand what the character is going through. There are a few hiccups with the walking mechanic as well a few frustrating QTE moments here and there, but not in a game-breaking capacity by any means.
Some scenes will have you investigating crimes scenes with some very neat tech
Through The Looking Glass
One of the most important features in Heavy Rain, and equally one of the most impressive is that of the overall visual presentation.
Heavy Rain is not only a pretty looking game (a look at the screenshots make this obvious), but it is an incredible cinematic experience overall. The directing is some of the best that I have ever seen, and that includes actual Hollywood films. Add to that some inspired art direction and conceptual work; and you have a visual tour de force.
Heavy Rain’s directing is on par with some of Hollywood’s finest
All of the characters have been modeled on, voiced and motion captured by real actors bringing an even more authentic feel to the plate. Some great camera effects, incredibly high-res textures and heavy polygon counts really bring the characters to life and are only let down by the occasional odd animation or scene. This game needed to feel as realistic as possible, and while not perfect just yet, is pretty close.
For a game like Heavy Rain, music and sound is incredibly important. The orchestral score will rush into your ears and add even more to the experience as you sympathise with characters or need to feel the tension of a stressful sequence. Voice acting feels natural and real and can also be attributed to the real life actors brought in for the game.
In many ways, Heavy Rain cannot be classified as a videogame. At the same time it is definitely not just some film. It’s a new form of interactive storytelling, that allows you to immerse yourself in a story like never before. If anything, it could almost be classified as an evolution of what point-and-click adventure games used to be (as well as old FMV CD-Rom titles such as Phantasmagoria and Ripper).
Videogame, or movie? How about neither?
Heavy Rain is an intriguing, mature, tension-driven story, crafted in a way that allows you to alter it’s path and decide its outcome. There are some rather large plot holes and a decent amount of issues that prevent it from being truly great, but it does many things very right and succeeds at creating what could possibly be an entire new form of entertainment for the modern world to experience.
Heavy Rain may not be for everyone, but it is highly recommended for true videogame enthusiasts interested in a new and interesting way to experience their favorite hobby. Ironically, casual gamers may find it to be a fairly non-complex way of enjoying a new form of interactive entertainment.[Side note: If you are a developer creating games based on TV series, please, by all means, shamelessly rip this game off in every way. Thanks.]