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Heavy Rain PS3 Review - -

Gameplay 10
Graphics 10
Sound 9.5
Value 9.9
Distributor: Sony
Review Date:
February 2009
James Wright


Heavy Rain

Developer Quantic Dreams have truly blurred the boundaries between video games and movies in their latest title, Heavy Rain, a psychological crime thriller for the PS3. At times, Heavy Rain plays like a normal adventure game, however certain segments change your role from gamer to director as your actions dictate the consequences for the four playable characters that you control. However like a movie, you are then thrown back as an observer but best of all, because the characters are so realistic, you become emotionally attached to them. Even though gameplay is a strong part of Heavy Rain, it’s the story that is the success story which combines crime, drama, action and romance together that is at times, quite a mind F#@K.

At times, the game parallels the Uncharted series with the emotions you feel for the characters, however as that game was heavily steeped in a genre of Indiana Jones action, Heavy Rain is much more realistic and even contains a touch of everyday monotony to fuel the realism. These everyday tasks such as brushing your teeth or even drying your hair for a naked man may seen like extremes. But then you do get to make a woman in her underwear dance and even feed a baby.  However to make such an ambitious game like Heavy Rain work, the story and characters must be as realistic as possible to the player and amazingly enough, Quantic Dreams have succeeded, especially in terms of portraying a rollercoaster ride of emotions of this memorable gaming experience.

So what's it all about? Heavy Rain is the story of protagonist Ethan Mars, a broken man who has been dealt the worst cards of life. We learn that two years ago, an accident caused the death of his son which left Ethan in a coma. Although Ethan survived, he carries the heavy burden of his son's death and suffers from strange blackouts since the accident. Unable to ignite the spark of life, he becomes distant from his wife and his son Shaun. Of course fate has not finished with Mars and the unthinkable happens again, with Shaun being abducted by a vicious serial killer called the Origami Killer. It is then up to the gamer to put this broken man together again as you start a journey of redemption but thankfully Ethan Mars is not alone.

Joining Mars, we have another three playable characters to compliment the story of Mars. Firstly, we have private investigator Scott Shelby who meticulously searches for lost clues regarding the Origami Killer. Norman Jayden, a FBI agent who the police are hoping will assist them in cracking the case and finally, Madison Page, a mysterious and sexy insomniac reporter who is somehow involved in this drama thriller. Like a movie, the story swaps back and forth between the characters, creating with the player as you experience their own personal journeys. This is where the gamer to director aspect comes into play because of the illusion of control that is given to you over their lives. Best of all, as the gameplay offers a variety of different choices and endings, it allows for some interesting replay value as well.

For me, the game is quite reminiscent of those older PC games such as Max Payne that turned games into an interactive move experience. This ideology excels in Heavy Rain, especially with the amazing next-generation console graphics. This is also the first thing you notice about the game, the realistic and detailed graphics. All the characters are animated extremely well but the emphasis is on the facial detail which almost captures true human emotion on these virtual characters. Add in environments that are well designed with some great attention to detail and Heavy Rain is a gaming environment that you just want to get lost in. It should be noted that the game is definitely made for adults from the nudity and adult content to the storyline.

The clincher for me is the professional voice acting and wonderful score that pushes the boundaries of the title, making it a holistic gaming experience. It should also be noted that like the title of the game, water plays an integral part to the story and these special effects are very impressive. However, as with all games, there are a few issue with the graphics, obstacle detection and depending on how quickly you change your movement, characters sometime appear a little “gamish” in appearance. Although this is only a minor grudge and it can be forgiven and if this is the future of graphics, I for one cannot wait to see what happens in five years time.

Expect the unexpected! Unlike a first person shooter when you're generally always on guard, Heavy Rain pulls a different tactic by mixing up the gameplay with everyday tasks, action and those sometimes annoying quick time events. These events generally involve pushing a certain button on the controller at the right time which is more akin to those boss fights in Darksiders or Bayonetta but in this game, it's more realistic because you cannot exactly predict how the scene will unfold. It’s also great to see these events displayed where the action is happening that makes the scenes more fluidic. Of course, if you fail to pull off one of these manoeuvres, sometimes you need to reap the consequences which can get a little frustrating but on the bright side, it may lead to another path for your character or characters. Another fun part of the quick time events is that sometimes the game does give you time to think and you automatically push a button. This kind of mirrors those unexpected decisions we make in life and works quite well in the game.

In terms of controls, they have been well mapped on the PS3 DualShock controller and everything feels quite natural as you play, whether it's the analog stick to control direction, the player rushing to push a particular button during the timed action events and the like, most gamers will easily be able to play the game from the get go. The third person view works well with the environments and the developers have even used the motion sensor capabilities of the controller. This allows you to think on another level such as flicking the controller to perform something physical like breaking down a door.

Another interesting aspect of Heavy Rain are the thoughts of your characters that allows you to get a sneak peak into what is going on inside their virtual heads, especially as each person has their own motivations, vices and the like which makes the gameplay so ingeniously immersive. Like all good movies, Heavy Rain features fights, intense action scenes and some fun car scenes, however by making this more of a drama than a fully fledged action film, players will be involved in the doldrums of every tasks which funnily enough makes things more realistic and allows for better story telling. The puzzles in the game are relatively easy to solve and offer a break from exploring or interacting with characters. With that said, sometimes the memory type puzzles are a little tricky, especially if you have not been paying attention.

Final thoughts? Quantic Dreams have managed to throw a curve ball into gaming, especially in this congested world of first and third person shooters. Heavy Rain is like a movie that gives almost total control to the player as you manage the outcomes and directions of all involved. Although some people may be put off my the mundane activities of Heavy Rain, it attempts something different and that whole pulp fiction feel to it only enhances the story and gameplay even more. What it comes down to is the amalgamation of video games and movies has come even closer and if you're looking for a surreal gaming experience, than I strongly suggest you investigate Heavy Rain. Highly Recommended and different really sums this game up!


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