Heavy Rain is one of those games that will have you itching to play through a second time. And then of course a third and fourth time shortly after you finish that. The reason for this is the “choose-your-own adventure” style of play that results in you questioning all of your decisions by the game’s end. Sure, the ending may have turned out well, but could it maybe have turned out a little better? It’s this resulting feeling that provides Heavy Rain with its parallels to real life. While many will call Heavy Rain nothing more than a modern day Dragon’s Lair, the amount of choices that will present themselves to the player seems to go beyond that of an interactive movie.
One thing to note about this title is the dark emotional roller coaster that takes place. This game isn’t all rainbows and kittens. You start off with Ethan Mars living what many would consider a great little life in a nice little house with the wifey and kids. Actually everything starts off so nice that you know the stuff is about to hit the fan for Ethan. Inevitably it all goes downhill for our boy and he’s left in a dismal excuse for an apartment, without his wife and blaming himself for the death of one of his children. If that was the worst of it, Mr. Mars might have a shot at turning things around, but things continue to get worse for my man Ethan. You can, however through the right choices, turn things around for him.
The game’s story is actually quite complex. The impressive story revolves around four different people whose lives intersect in various ways. Of course it’s up to you and your decisions as to whether or not everyone’s sagas actually cross paths. The ultimate goal is to ensure the Origami killer is stopped. While trying to accomplish tasks as Mars in order to save his son, Scott Shelby is simultaneously gathering information and clues while interviewing witnesses to stop the killer. Even more you have FBI profiler Norman Jayden in on local investigations. Last, but certainly not least if you base it on youtube video clips, we have Madison Paige who is always in filthy motels due to insomnia caused by nightmares. Each of these characters come across as detailed and very human with positives and negatives that provide something for players to relate to. Adding to the humanity of each character is the fact that they can die if you choose the wrong path.
The game’s controls can be a little tricky beyond the simple moving. Object interaction can be a bit frustrating at times. The difficulty of trying to solve puzzles or just doing something as simple as making breakfast will vary depending on your familiarity with the PS3 pad. Sure, most people have the layout down pat since nothing has really changed since 1995. But occasionally you’ll get frustrated trying to fly your thumbs all over the face of your dual shock to match the sequences. Typically it just results in reattempting something. Since the game is more about decisions than reflexes, don’t worry about your button speed too much. Just be prepared to repeat some steps.
Every now and then, however, you will have to make split-second decisions that instantly affect the story and your character’s life. These “twitch” decisions are few and far between, but will instantly result in emotions like relief or regret if you made the right choice in time. Quantic Dream did a great job of limiting the use of these moments, but when they’re in place, they do a great job of immersing the player further into the world of Heavy Rain.
One of the few negatives is the voice acting, which comes off a bit stiff. I’d have to compare it to the actual acting in ABC’s Flash Forward series, if anyone watched that. Everything is synced nicely; it’s just a case of below-average acting, especially on the part of children. Maybe in the inevitable sequel, Sony and Quantic Dream will get the actor’s dialog to match the quality of story and technology used.
In addition to the C-quality actors used in the game, there are a few bugs here and there. In our time reviewing the title, the game froze up on us in four different instances. It froze once on a 160gb PS3 (fat) and three times on our slim. Obviously this can ruin the experience and pull you out of the game rather quickly. There were some visual issues scattered about as well. In more than a few instances textures would not load, resulting in bland unmapped vehicles or walls. It was a little frustrating, but not as much as the freezing when you’re really getting into the story.
Overall, Quantic Dream did a wonderful job of delivering a modern-day film noir feeling. And the word “film” really applies here as this game is pretty much a choose-your-own-adventure movie with your actions dictating the direction the story goes. While I have to admit I’m very impressed with Heavy Rain, I can’t help but feel like when I look back at this game in one or two years, I’ll wonder what I was thinking. It’s fun to choose your own path. And I’m certain PS3 owners will play through more than once or twice. But there are a lot of movies I’d watch more than once if I could change things throughout the flick. Some gamers will find fault with the science and others will find the technical glitches annoying. But one thing is certain; we love pretty graphics on our Playstations. Dating back to the full-motion CGI and pre-rendered backgrounds on the original PSX to Heavy Rain today – if it’s pretty, we can be forgiving for the lack of actual gameplay. Heavy Rain is an epic today, but will likely fade from memory soon with the exception of using it to show 360 fanboys the graphical power of the PS3.