When Heavy Rain was first introduced it was talked about as revolutionizing the way video games are structured, creating a more interactive experience rather than just an empty button masher. After playing it I can say that they achieved the majority of what they set out to do, and though I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I hope every game produced from now on follows the same structure as this, Heavy Rain definitely sets some bars high for the standards of gameplay I hope to see more frequently in the future.
Heavy Rain sets itself up as many films do today in which numerous characters all have their own goals to achieve and tasks to accomplish; with stories that weave together the deeper they go, all revolving around the ongoing case of the Origami Killer. The four main playable characters are as follows: Ethan Mars starts off as the happy family man who goes through a tragedy early in the game when one of his two sons is killed. If things could not get worse for him, his life continues this downward spiral when the Origami Killer kidnaps his remaining son. Eventually journalist Madison Paige is introduced into the game as someone willing to help Ethan along the way, and in time she becomes something more than just someone to clean Ethan’s wounds as she ventures out to investigate on her own as playable character number 2. The other two playable characters are among the law enforcement, with Scott Shelby as a PI who has been hired to investigate the murders, and Norman Jayden, an FBI agent with some awesome bits of technology (I really hope I live long enough to see something along the lines of that glasses/glove combo) to help him discover the clues he needs to help solve the case.
The story of Heavy Rain is one you would expect from a film, with both the slower and intensely heart-pounding key sequences being carried out by the player. Though the level of action varies greatly, there is hardly a moment of boredom in this surprisingly addictive game. Furthermore, the slower moments of carrying out day-to-day tasks and searching for clues allow the player to delve deeper into the story and characters they live vicariously through and act to balance out the action scenes. Not only that but the controller is handled is a really interesting way during these scenes. Though after playing through the game I still feel like the walking mechanics felt a little awkward and I often had trouble tilting my person in the right direction to interact with what I wanted them to, I really did appreciate that the game was not a simple press-x-to-interact-with-anything-and-everything type of game. Because of this, when the intense moments of quick reaction button pressing became necessary the intensity of the situation actually has a physical effect on the player. That, and I often became too overwhelmed and would jump to the main menu if I missed one button because I was too quick to fear for the worse as I tried to avoid the autosave at all costs. Stupid O, you will forever be forgotten from my mind…
The who-done-it story line of this game is actually pretty strong and I am both happy and embarrassed to admit that during my long lasting game of guessing the murderer I was still somewhat surprised by the ending. Now this may just be because I worked myself into a hole by trying to counteract the red herons by leaving the table open to anyone, and I mean anyone, but I truly believe that they were able to keep the player guessing until the end, which is often hard to accomplish these days. Unfortunately this intriguing story is still plagued with some glaring questions that are never answered (and really should be). (Now I won’t go into them here to avoid spoilers, but look down below the final grade to see what I was stumped by, and if you can, please, please try to explain them to me. After all, I could just be completely blocking out a key point that would answer everything.) But in my current state of confusion, these unanswered problems really weaken the story for me, and actually become more problematic upon all playthroughs following the first because character reactions and actions don’t make the most sense, other than just probably being placed to throw the player off.
Speaking of replayability: overall this game doesn’t exactly have the greatest replay value unless you put a large gap in between your different playthroughs. It is a great game and everything, but it would be like watching an 8-hour movie over and over again. Personally I do plan on playing it again in the future, but as of now the only real reason I have played it numerous times is in order to get more trophies. That and I can’t tell you how many times I have played the latter portions of the game now in order to see the various endings to the game.
Heavy Rain may have a few story holes to complain about, but overall it provides the experience it promised to be. The animation is amazing, from the reality of the simplest actions (like actually stepping on each step as you walk up the stairwell) to the attention to detail placed in making these characters both look like who they are modeled after and giving them a believable range of emotion. Trust me, comparing the actual person to their character while watching the unlockable bonus features is stunning, as are the concept art and locations built up in the game. But the looks aren’t everything. Though it is a slower paced game it is far from boring, and this should not keep this game from going to the top of your list of games to get. Seriously, go get it.
Final Grade: 8.5
(POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!) All right guys, here are the questions that I need help figuring out, and even if you are just guessing, I would love to hear your ideas / explanations about them: (1) Can someone explain Ethan’s blackouts to me? Why are they happening? I understand the significance of the location he always goes to, but how does his subconscious know about it? How does the origami figure end up in his hand? (2) At one point Ethan admits to having dreams about drowning kids to Madison. Why is he having them? (3) Why does everything seem to have a character with the last name Shepard these days? Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Mass Effect, this, you get the idea. And it’s even worse because more than one has the first name John. (Okay, that question doesn’t actually count; I just felt the urge to rant about it because I think we can be a little more creative during the naming process.)