Monday, 15 March 2010

Heavy Rain - Review


Heavy Rain is the spiritual successor to Quantic Dream’s Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy if you’re from across the pond). I haven’t played Fahrenheit yet myself (thought I recently purchased it after having enjoyed Heavy Rain so much but haven’t got round to playing it yet) but if you have expect more of the same thing. If you haven’t Heavy Rain is an “Interactive Drama” think of it to be a bit like one of them create-your-own-adventure books you’d read as a kid, or like the extra that came with the Final Destination 3 DVD except actually worth the physical space it occupies.

The gameplay itself is fairly minimal, similar in some ways to the Dreamcast title, Shenmue. You have free sections where you walk around looking for evidence, clues or items and having conversations, and then you have the dreaded quick time events that seem to have been all the rage since Resident Evil 4 resurrected them although Heavy Rain actually does them pretty well (or at least as good as QTEs can get anyway). But playing Heavy Rain for the gameplay would be like eating Chinese food for the chopsticks, you play it for the story like you would watch a movie or read a book.

The story behind follows four separate characters all with their fates entwined by a serial killer dubbed the origami killer who kidnaps boys aged between 9 and 13 and drowns them in rain water then leaves their bodies on waste land with a orchid on their chest and a origami figure in their hand.

-Spoilers for the first hour or so of play-

The first and main character is Ethan Mars, a happily married and a successful architect, for the prologue at least. During a visit to the mall his older (and frankly stupider) child is run over a killed. The game then jumps to two years later after the accident where he is divorced, suffering from depression and black outs and is trying to reconnect with his other son, Shaun. Shaun is then kidnapped by the origami killer during one of Ethan’s blackouts, eventually leading Ethan (and the police force) to believe he is the origami killer whilst he is simultaneously trying to save his son.

The second character is an FBI agent from Washington called Norman Jayden who has been called to assist the police force with the capture of the killer. Norman comes equipped with a pair of sunglasses called ARI (Advanced Reality Interface) which help him identify and analyse evidence and aid him in capturing the killer. Unfortunately at the same time he is also suffering from drug problems which he has to fight in the process.

The third character is a Scott Shelby, a private investigator hired by the families of the victims of the origami killer and suffers from asthma (wow no-one in this game is actually well are they?).

The fourth character is Madison Paige, a photographer who is a picture of perfect health – ok that was a lie, she has chronic insomnia. Not much is known about her at first but suffice to say she ends up getting heavily involved in the case.

-End Spoilers-

One of the main aspects of Heavy Rain is that even the smallest choice can have a huge impact on the rest of the story, with multiple endings (18 epilogues with 4 for each playthrough) there’s plenty of incentive to replay. If a character dies, they die for good, what one character does can later on effect another there is no direct right and wrong choice and it just overall feels far less artificial than most other choice systems.

Another good thing about Heavy Rain is that it can appeal to a casual audience without slitting the throat of the gaming nation and drinking its still warm blood, á la the Wii. Several times while playing this I had my Mum of all people sat next to me just as absorbed into the story as I was (granted it made the sex scene a little awkward but that’s beside the point). This is a great game to play with other people just as you would a movie and makes it even more enjoyable.


As mentioned, the gameplay is minimal so there’s not much I can say here. Everything in the game is achieved by button prompts, be it in a free environment or a QTE, buttons will appear on screen and you will have to press, mash or slowly guide the stick/button to match the prompt to do whatever needs doing. Some require you to press multiple buttons at once but overall it’s really very simple.

Some of the QTEs and button prompt are genuinely challenging if played on the hardest difficulty (which I recommend if you are a regular gamer) and are akin to playing a game of twister with your fingers (one I had to resort to pressing a button with my tongue, no joke) but other than that there’s not really much to be said.


Well seen as this game sells on the promise of a good story it’s a good job it delivers. It’s incredibly compelling, deeply emotional and one of the most immersive games I’ve ever played. There’s a few discrepancies in the plot and not quite all loose ends are tied up but that just leaves it open for debate which in my opinion makes it more enjoyable. It doesn’t feel the need to hold your hand and slowly explain every single aspect in detail and leaves some of it to your imagination. That said, a couple of the “plot holes” could have done with a bit more explanation but overall it’s done pretty well and is arguably as deep as any movie or book.


Graphically this game is one of the best the PS3 has to offer. The environments are grim, dark and gloomy but that was the intention, this isn’t a happy pretty lets all ride unicorns across rainbows to the treacle fountain of ecstasy type game. They set the mood perfectly, the characters emotions are portrayed brilliantly and it’s just an overall brilliant presentation.


Without exaggerating this is probably my favourite game of all time, I come from a background of Zelda, Sonic and more recently Metroid, all are pretty renowned for their scores but none of these in my opinion set the mood quite as well as the soundtrack here. I’m sure a lot of you would like to play the Final Fantasy card here (John included) but I’ve never really played a FF game to compare but I would be pretty impressed if it surpassed this.

The voice acting is a bit hit and miss, but it’s not awful. Most of the characters are pretty believable, the odd line will sound a bit robotic but the only characters to really falter are the children and one of them does die in the first half hour so it’s forgiveable. The only other character to really suffer is Norman who can’t seem to pronounce his own name and apparently no-one in the entire cast can pronounce origami correctly. Other than that it’s passable, not the best ever but far from the worst.


I can imagine Heavy Rain being a marmite, I personally love it but if you’re the kind of gamer that can’t go long without cracking a few skulls then maybe it’s not for you. If you want a deep emotional experience then maybe it is.

+ Incredible Story
+ Brilliant Soundtrack
+ Incentive to replay
+ Good “social” game
- Voice acting can be a bit shoddy at times
- Some of the story could have done with a bit more explanation

"Agent NAHMAN Jayden, FBI" ~ Norman Jayden

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