We all have a loved one. Maybe it’s a special boyfriend or girlfriend, an adorable child, or a caring parent. We go through each day embracing their warmth and love and smiling happily to have them in our lives. But, what if one day that all came clashing to a halt and suddenly they weren’t there anymore? What if someone had taken them away from us and even worse, now threatened to bring them harm? How far would you go to save someone you loved?
Well, therein lies the question and the premise of Heavy Rain. In a market saturated with dime a dozen sports games, First Person Shooters, and hack and slash fillers, very few games take any kind of risks anymore. The majority of developers are not willing to try anything new when it comes to their games. They know what sells and how they can milk their franchises year after year with minor updates for a big cash return. The system is redundant yet profitable. Betting high stakes on something that is ‘different’ and easily hit or miss isn’t something most share holders are willing to gamble with.
Thankfully, every so often we get a developer like Quantic Dreams that are willing to try something new. To give gamers a different approach to gaming and let us experience something fresh once in awhile. And that fresh experience is called Heavy Rain.
Heavy Rain is a spiritual successor and semi-sequel to Quantic’s earlier endeavor; Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy. And as one of the endings shows, Heavy Rain is set within the same universe and world as Indigo, thus it can be taken as a semi-sequel.
The game is not so much a game, and never bills itself as such either, as it is an interactive movie. You don’t run around aiming a gun or hacking and slashing anything. You simply watch a movie unfold and are in charge of acting out it’s scenes and making decisions about their outcomes. How the story ends or who lives and dies is entirely up to you. And for this, we have ourselves quite an interesting experience.
The story revolves around four characters. Ethan, a father who lost one of his two sons in an accident years ago; Madison, a Reporter who suffers from severe Insomnia; Scott, a Private Investigator; and Norman, an FBI Investigator. All four characters play out their own separate scenarios that occasionally intertwine, all with the intent of trying to discover the identity of the Oragami Killer who has kidnapped Ethan’s other son and plans to kill him in the next few days unless Ethan can undergo his trials and save him.
The basis for the Origami Killer and his trials is blatantly inspired by non other than Jigsaw from the Saw series. However, less emphasis is placed on pure macabre and long drawn out lessons. Instead, the killer simply tells Ethan what he needs to endure and then leaves him to decide to do it or not. While there are certainly brutal tortures Ethan must choose to brave or not, they aren’t anywhere near as flashy or elaborate as Jigsaw’s, which makes it feel more real and makes the choices hit home better for the player.
Gameplay revolves around you simply interacting with the environment by using the controller in a way that corresponds the most appropriately to the way you would interact in real life. Smacking someone over the head involves thrusting the six axis controller downward, smacking someone across the face has you thrust it to the side, raising your hands in the air has you hold down R1 and L1 respectively. Opening a door has you turn the right analog stick in the corresponding direction. And so forth. The game also supports the Move controller and wand for added immersion into the interactions and environment.
Each character has their own objectives and gameplay styles. Ethan has to undergo the torturous trials, Madison has to use her prowess to extort information out of shady men, Scott uses an old fashion method to investigation and Normal takes on a CSI kind of approach. All of which work well for each character and give them their own unique feel despite the inherent sameness that becomes the gameplay in of itself.
The story spans 51 chapters and has at least 9 different possible endings depending on your actions throughout the game. Multiple scenes can be drastically altered based on your choices, and indeed characters can live or die on them as well. If you happen to get a character killed, the game will continue on without them, however it will ultimately affect the ending you receive.
Graphically speaking, the game is amazingly beautiful. The detail in the character models and textures is outstanding as well as in the environments and set pieces themselves. Nothing feels out of place or lazy, even the various party goers at a night club are all highly detailed and fit right in with the main characters without looking like they were slapped together just to be fillers.
Even the Rain itself which is a constant throughout the game, is luscious to view. Animations are usually very well done as they’ve been motion captured, although the walking often feels stiff. Audio quality is also of the same high quality. Voice Acting however is a mixed bag. Some actors shine, others fall flat. And then some do a mix of good and bad all on the same character as well. The Music is beautifully fitting and captures every last dramatic and daring moment perfectly.
When it comes to replay value, the game has some in that there are multiple endings, and multiple variations on scenes as mentioned. So there’s definitely reason to play through the game a second time if you’re willing. The problem however is though that once you’ve seen the story through once, it’s unlikely you’ll be willing to invest the long arduous amount of time to do it over and over again to see all it has to offer simply because once the killer’s identity is revealed, the effect and drive of the story to carry you forward is lost.
And therein lies Heavy Rain’s greatest flaw. It’s a wonderful adventure and a gripping story. But, once the story is finished and the mystery is solved, you’re simply left with the reality of the game. It’s all fun and exciting to interact with when you’re pushing forward, dying to see what happens next. However, once that’s taken away, the redundancy of the interactive scenes dawns on you and it loses it’s appeal.
In most cases, I would expect a lot of players to just watch the remaining endings or scenes on YouTube as it would be far simpler and easier than having to go through the entirety of the game again multiple times just to see each one. Again, the game is a rewarding experience that’s extremely fun and worth a try for anyone. But, it’s only really fun the first time. Once it’s over, it’s over. It’s not the kind of game I see myself coming back to much as there is no real gameplay at hand to have fun with. One top of that, the thrill of the mystery is gone, therefore there’s little left to push you come back.
Regardless, the game is definitely a breathe of fresh air even if it has some raging plot holes. It’s definitely worth a try for anyone out there tired of the “same old, same old” routine. I’d recommend it to be rented rather than bought, unless it can be obtained for cheap. I don’t feel it has enough lasting replay value to warrant a full price purchase.
- Beautiful Models, Textures and Environments
- Immersive Soundtrack
- Thrilling & Exciting Story
- Redundant Gameplay
- Subpar Replay Value
- Annoying Plot Holes