Game: Heavy Rain
Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation 3 only
A long time ago a hobby called “videogames” was created, characters such as Sonic and Mario were born and indeed they dominated the aforementioned hobby for quite some time. These “videogames” were fun, designed by teams of people full of creativity, yet for the longest time, gaming (we’ll shorten it) is still considered by many (perhaps ill-informed) people to be something childish, aimed at children, foolish, stupid and a waste of time.
Many games have taken a stab at “adult” games, failing miserably by including copious amount of teenage angst, breasts or over the top blood, sometimes all three! Where they fail, Heavy Rain succeeds, where they fall short, Heavy Rain is the triumphant gold medallist. In gaming, something forgotten by the time the million dollar visuals are done is the narrative. But to create a game that fundamentally touches you, the story and the way the story is told has to be important. Heavy Rain is a story…an experience, with a game wrapped around it. Read on for the full review.
Given the nature of this title, spoilers will NOT be included in this review.
STORY: You play as four different characters, all with their own reasons to track down the orgami killer, a person that kidnaps children and drowns them. You start the story as a simple family man, but nothing will prepare you for what you are to go through. As the tagline asks you, “How far would you go to save someone you love?”.
To reveal any more of the story would ruin the experience. Despite prior knowledge of the conceit of the game (including the first major “shock” moment) this reviewer found himself actually dropping the controller to the floor, mouth agape at numerous times. Whether it’s the personality it conveys through the role playing aspects, or the simple mundane chores you act out, the game is what you want it to be.
Heavy Rain’s creator David Cage has told a story here that will shock you, it will make you cringe, make you cry, if you let it. Emotionally this game will tear you to pieces, you will feel the pain of the games main protagonist, you will feel sympathy for the characters, you will feel angry, you will want to hurt people, but you can decide to take the high ground and walk away. The game will make you feel uncomfortable and to a certain section of the audience, if you have experienced certain things in life, it will make you feel empty, hopeless and cold.
That sounds negative, but remember we are talking about a “videogame” here, that stupid little hobby aimed at kids (remember?), and not many of those make you feel so many conflicting emotions, not many of those leave you thinking about the game for days and weeks after finishing them.
GRAPHICS: As you’d expect for a title of it’s kind, Heavy Rain is exceptionally good looking. The loading screens have close ups of the playable characters faces and they are bordering on photo-realistic, every angle obsessively detailed from the slightest shaving cut to the crows feet around the eyes.
When you consider some of the tasks you are performing, the in-game graphics are absolutely crucial and they, like the rest of the game, are absolutely gorgeous.
SOUND: People who purchased the limited edition of the game will be treated to a download via the PSN of the soundtrack. These people are lucky individuals as the soundtrack is luscious, sweeping and moving. A title like Heavy Rain proves why a game is only ever the sum of its parts, take the music away from certain scenes and you lose the inherent drive that it creates. No expense was spared on the soundtrack as is displayed by one of the game unlockables which showcases a short film on the musical creation.
The voice acting on the whole is of an extremely high calibre and only stumbles when the obviously European voice actors are trying to do American accents.
GAMEPLAY: The game utilises all of the controls on the pad, but in unique ways. Much of the game you will require you to hold the R2 shoulder button to “move forwards” whilst using the left stick to “look around” at objects. Interacting with people and objects requires you to follow button presses that are prompted on screen. It all sounds a bit like a long quick-time-event doesn’t it? I won’t argue that point, but what I would tell you is that when the games asks you to slam the controller in a downward motion, you’ll feel like you are doing what the action manifests itself as on screen.
Whilst I personally had no issues with it whatsoever even on the hardest difficulty, the control scheme could be considered as “awkward”. I can certainly see why some people might have problems, it all depends on the gamer and how familiar they are with the PS3 controller.
If you feel stuck the game has a “thoughts” mechanic, whereby you can get your current protagonists ideas and thoughts on the situation at hand. These sometimes feel a little awkward and break the reality a tiny bit, but they are never absolutely necessary to use anyway.
LONGEVITY: The game has a trophy for “See all the endings” which is odd given the creator of the game went on public record stating (paraphrasing here) “I want people to only play this game once”. That however is a minor fault in an otherwise spectacular experience. There are quite a few endings to discover, with scenes playing out in very different ways.
A good deal of the game has you making decisions which shape the games outcome, especially the latter sections. You can replay any chapter at will if you just want to see what happened if you made the alternative decisions.
VERDICT: So let us bring together the sum of all this games parts, all these emotional experiences with stunning visuals and a beautiful soundtrack and what we are left with is a very serious early contender for game of the year.
So here we stand, on the precipice of a new age of gaming, where story is as important as how the game looks or sounds. Will it outsell Modern Warfare or any of the other blockbusters out there? No, of course it won’t. Should it? Well, it should be argued that it’s a vitally important step forward in the industry. We’ve come a long way from Sonic and Mario, I can’t wait to see what comes next.