By Matt Calamia
You would be hard pressed to remember a game that garnered so much hype and interest while still holding onto its mystique. Far too often these days, everything is known about a game even before its release. An exception to this rule is Heavy Rain, which in many ways, is unlike any game we’ve ever seen—minus Indigo Prophecy, Quantic Dream’s previous title.
It is difficult to discuss the story without spoiling it all together, but the basic plot revolves around the origami killer who kidnaps little boys and eventually kills them. It’s a pretty gruesome plot, but does its job of making you want to hunt him down, and bring him to justice right from the start.
Like any good story, it uses smaller pieces to get you involved. In Heavy Rain’s case, those smaller parts are the different characters you control, each being affected by the killer in their own way. Scott Shelby is a private investigator being paid by one of the victim’s family; Norman Hayden is an FBI agent investigating the murders; Ethan Mars is a dad, but I won’t give away how and why he gets affected; and a woman who is revealed to be Madison Paige, who again, I won’t reveal why she is involved. Everything comes together very well to make a very complete and robust storytelling experience.
The crucial hinge in the gameplay is that the player has control over basically every decision made in the game. You can choose to send your kid to bed before supper, to be persistent in asking a question or to be more understanding. Do you want to save that person or let them die? It is all in the hands of the player. Every decision affects the final outcome, making every game a little different and allowing for endless play-throughs.
One thing I would like to say is, no, this is not an interactive movie like some people think it is. Sure, there are a lot of quicktime events along with cut scenes, but it is far from just being a movie. You move your character around in every scene, choosing where to go and what to do. If you want to get a drink, you can chose to. If that’s not your thing, go take a piss in the bathroom. Like I said, it is all up to you.
The graphics and voice acting can at times be both phenomenal and brutal. There are scenes when you’ll forget you’re playing a game and not watching a live action movie. It is that good looking. There are other times, however, where faces and hands will look like clay figures, and the voice acting will be so god-awful that you’ll wonder why they didn’t just use subtitles. Neither is much of a game breaker though, and is forgivable.
The one major flaw I see in the game is the walking itself. At time you feel more like a tank than a human being. The movement is never very fluid, and you’ll find yourself having to turn around constantly because you missed an object you have to interact with. Again, it can be frustrating but never to the point where it is unplayable. In a way, you just get used to it, accept it and move on.
In the end, Heavy Rain delivers on all levels. It is a great addition to the growing list of PlayStation 3 exclusives. If you’re a PS3 owner, this is a must-have in your collection. If you go into the game with an open mind, you’ll have one of the best experiences you’ll ever have with a video game. If you go in thinking it is nothing more than a really long cut-scene, then you may disappoint yourself, and prevent yourself from having a great 10-hour roller coaster ride of an experience.