Review – Heavy Rain
Interactive Drama, apparently
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Heavy Rain is a spiritual sequel to David Cage’s previous game Fahrenheit. That original game was fun, but eventually went downhill during the final act of the story where they tried to cram too much in and ultimately it made little to no sense. Which was a shame since it was a highly plot-driven game, veering awfuly close to an ‘interactive film’ territory.
The story for this game follows four people who are all linked by their search to find out who the identity of the mysterious Origami Killer. Someone who kidnaps children and then drowns them in rain water, leaving a small origami animal and a white orchid on their bodies. The gameplay is seen through the eyes of four different people whose plots intertwine along the way.
Ethan Mars is the main protagonist of this game. After his eldest son dies in a car accident which puts him into a coma, he spirals into depression. When his other son is kidnapped by the killer, he is sent on a series of missions very reminiscent of the Saw series of films. Norman Jayden is the FBI investigator sent try an capture the Origami Killer. He is an officer who is struggling with his addiction to the fictional (but awesome sounding – Ed) drug Triptocaine.
Scott Shelby is an ex-cop who is also now a Private Investigator, searching for clues about the killer apparently being paid by parents of the killer’s victims. The final playable character is Madison Paige a photographer who gets involved with Ethan when they meet at the same motel they are staying at.
With the stage set for the players, you take control of them individually, where your actions steer the direction in which the story goes. The game isn’t very free flowing and it does have a tendency to rail road you along to where you need to be for the next set piece to come up. Though if a character dies within the game then they will not show up again. So it is in your best interests to get all of your characters to the end of the game, especially if you want to see the good ending.
When you are playing as Jayden you find clues to the identity of the killer using a pair of augmented reality glasses. You tap R1 and your view turns blue showing up clues in either green or orange. These glasses are hooked up to a network so you find out what they are immediately helping you find anything or anywhere of importance.
Heavy Rain shares a lot in common with Fahrenheit, since the majority of the action sequences are driven by various QTEs. Instead of the ‘Simon Says’ style dual sticks approach they are all done with the buttons or the right analogue stick. The way these are displayed makes it much easier to follow what’s going on in the game, though sometimes they can be slightly confusing as to what action needs to be taken. Especially at times when you need to repeatedly tap the same button.
These sections also make use of the Sixaxis motion controls, these work with varying degrees of competency. Single motions like sharply pulling the controller down, up, left, or right seems to work fine. Yet when you have to shake the controller it sometimes glitches out even though you are doing the correct actions.
As well as the QTE events, there are times where all you are doing is walking around and doing certain actions to progress the game. It can be a little difficult to figure out what it is you are doing during these moments since a prompt will come up to do something and you find its nothing more than leaning against a wall or sitting in a chair when what you are trying to do is open drawer or pick up an object for example.
Also the walking mechanic is rather awkward, you choose where you want to go with the left stick and hold down R2 to walk. This means its easier to stop dead then turn your head to choose the direction you want to go in. Rather than being to be move in a natural way, though the game does have a sort of aid to this. Say you are walking down a flight of stairs and there is a bend to go onto the second flight, then the character’s head will turn and you can just hold down R2 making them walk automatically.
I really liked Fahrenheit. Sure, the story went a bit tits up towards the end but the first scene is one of my favourites in video game history. So with the promise of improving on everything that was wrong with it, does Heavy Rain deliver a stronger experience?
Well, not really. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed Heavy Rain. They’ve fixed the way the QTEs are displayed on screen so you can actually watch what is going on now rather than just focusing on what you have to press andâ€¦well that’s it really.
The graphics have obviously been taken up a notch but things like facial expressions can still look a bit off and some of the animations as you walk around can be stiff and awkward. The controls for walking take a lot of getting used to and sometimes during the QTEs it can be hard to tell whether you’re supposed to continuously tap a button or hold it down when you’re under pressure (though it’s very rarely fatal).
The story doesn’t totally descend into madness this time around though and despite some rather large plot holes and a weak twist I enjoyed the ride. It’s a tough one to judge as there isn’t a lot of gameplay here. You walk to something, move the analogue stick and something will happen, then you might talk to someone or have a chase/fight scene. All of this is done by just pressing whatever button is indicated on screen.
If you come into Heavy Rain expecting it to test your skills as a gamer you’ll be disappointed, but if you want something a little different then you might just enjoy yourself.
Secondary Score: 7/10
As you can imagine a game like this has a lot of voice actors and whilst the main 4 characters are very competently voiced the same can not be said for some of the supporting cast. For a game set in New York hearing strange accents from some who seemingly isn’t a native English speaker seems to draw you out of the story on times. This leads to slight mispronunciations of words and suspect acting.
Graphically the game looks very good, with many of the character models being highly detailed. Though it can some minor slow down at time as well as some strange model clipping. Because of this at one point during the game I was being attacked by the invisible man with a floating gun on the screen being my only clue as to what was going on.
This game isn’t particularly long maybe 8-12 hours in total, but the fact there are many different endings for what actions you take during the game mean it is definitely worth going through the game for more than one play through. The story is also very compelling, meaning I spent long chunks of doing nothing but play the game. The twist at the end of the game as to the identity of the killer came as a shock. Though it is not necessarily the most logical conclusion, it still made more sense as an overall story compared to Fahrenheit, dispatching with the supernatural elements of that game is an improvement.
If you are looking for a game with a strong story with an interesting plot full of twists and then is for you. It is not a mindless game, you really need to think about your actions. Though the implementation of the game mechanic isn’t always that great it is still very interesting.