HEAVY RAIN REVIEW
Heavy Rain finally falls on to the PS3.
Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Apr 2, 2010 10:31 (Apr 2, 2010 10:31)
Written by: Alex
A rainy day:
"Heavy Rain" has some interesting aspirations in its desire to blend cinema and games.
Developed by Quantic Dream exclusively for the PS3 the game attempts to draw players in to the events that unfold by placing an emphasis on characters lives, motivations and emotions. With film noir styling and a near photo realistic graphics the game does a good job moving towards its goals.
But whether or not you believe the direction Heavy Rain tries to move gaming is the right one, it is hard to ignore the importance of the attempt.
Being essentially a movie with branching story elements it is hard to talk about specifics of the plot without ruining the experience. To give a simple overview, I took control four characters through out the story, each on the trail of the Origami serial killer. With the killer only abducting young boys and drowning them in rainwater he presents an easily demonised antagonist, explaining the high emotions of everyone involved in the case.
Though the game’s four lead characters paths’ rarely intersect the events of their stories play out consecutively. Each character’s plot does have an interplay with the others that I found at times entertaining to watch unfurl, because as the player I was often better informed than any of the characters under my control.
Of the four characters Ethan could probably be described as the lead. A down on his luck father who lost one son in a car accident and now had his remaining son abducted by the killer. This is who you start the game as, before his life falls apart with the death of his son. Taking control of him during a normal day it begins very slowly, setting a trend for the game of engaging in mundane tasks to form a connection with the character. An effective device, but one that at times can feel laborious.
Each of the other three characters I took control of were on the trail for less emotional reasons, an FBI agent, and private investigator and a reporter all have reasons to be involved beyond their jobs, but still their concern comes from a more rational place. While these character’s stories are not as fleshed out at Ethan’s their intentions and personalities are still clear thanks to the use of an internal monologue. Holding L2 and any of the face buttons allow the character thoughts were revealed to me. It sounds contrived, but it is a simple addition that gave me hints as to what I was meant to be doing, as well as fleshing out newly introduced characters.
I feel that Heavy Rain is successful in establishing a connection between the player and it characters, but this link also leads to problems. It becomes hard to role-play each character because they are fully realised that all I felt able to do was guide their reactions rather than control the actions. Imposing my own story on the character felt incongruous to the tale the game wanted to tell, and the personality of my avatar.
I have complaints about the story that are directly relevant to my enjoyment of Heavy Rain, but it is difficult to comment on without giving away to much, so I will use an example from the US drama presidential drama West Wing. If you have never seen the show, don’t worry my analogy is simple enough. In one episode a leak is made to the press about a secret military space shuttle that could rescue a struggling NASA craft. Throughout the story, during key scenes, the camera is firmly fixed on the press secretary, showing her worry about the situation – and probable guilt given she was one of the few people who knew about it. It turned out not to be her, yet the entire episode was designed to make the viewer think it was. It deliberately miss lead the audience. It didn’t unfold like the movie ‘The Sixth Sense’ which dropped hints of the real plot; instead it just lied. Heavy Rain commits a similar sin, but perhaps even more severely given that as a player with the ability to interact with the story I was being lied to directly by the director.
It would be easy to view the main mechanic of Heavy Rain as a torturous string of quick time events. Indicators as to what key press, or motion to perform, are continually flashed on screen indicating to me what I should be doing during each scene as it unfolds.
Even in scenes where I am allowed more agency as a player the extent of my powers are to robotically walk around. Thanks to an unfamiliar control scheme, more akin to driving than a usual third person game, these walking sections more often than not result in me bumping, illusion shatteringly, into walls. As I bounced my way through the world I spent my time scouring areas for important elements in the environment, indicated by icons that represent the button press or motion required to interactive with them, to move the story on.