Heavy Rain Review

Feb 25, 2010 by  

Short Version: Heavy Rain is an intense title with incredible depth – especially for players who are willing to follow the experience with an open mind.

heavy rain review

Game Rant reviews Heavy Rain

It’s been almost four years since Quantic Dream revealed The Casting, an early tech demo that would serve as the foundation for Heavy Rain. Featured at E3 2006, The Casting showcased a highly detailed character model named Mary Smith that allowed for shocking emotional realism as well as fluid interaction with the physical environment.

The demo looked great and carried the viewer through a disturbing, emotional story, that wasn’t afraid to revel in tension as the character’s actions rapidly intensified.

With such a well-conceived foundation, it should be no surprise that the final product, that is to say Heavy Rain the game, is a remarkable experience from beginning to end and could possibly be one of the most thoughtful, immersive, and important titles ever created – pushing innovation and artistry in the gaming industry.

When the actual gameplay mechanics for the title were finally revealed about a year ago, many gamers dismissed Heavy Rain as nothing more than an electronic “choose your own adventure” book with beautiful next-generation graphics. Ultimately, the comparison isn’t accurate, as it attempts to simplify the title’s innovative gameplay experience into a familiar, and somewhat dated mold.

Does Heavy Rain utilize quick-time events for a number of the game’s action sequences (brawls, shootouts, and a highway chase)? Yes. Is it fair to categorize Heavy Rain as a quick-time game? Absolutely not, because in Heavy Rain, QTEs aren’t patched in as a means of testing the player’s skills or a gimmick to keep you from getting a snack during a rendered cut scene.

The QTEs are as essential to the game as the story because the story continues regardless of your success or failures – which makes the action scenes that much more tense and nerve-racking. If you fail a set of QTEs in Resident Evil 5, you are merely taken back a few minutes in gameplay. In Heavy Rain, failure could result in minute or major changes to the story as well as the death of one or more of your characters. Unlike other titles that use QTEs, there are no do overs – you are left solely responsible for the fate of each character and left to contemplate their absence when they’re gone.

This might sound overly dramatic, but that’s one of the game’s main objectives – drama.

heavy rain gun

A while back Quantic Dream’s CEO, David Cage, said of Heavy Rain:

“[It’s] about normal people who have landed in extraordinary situations. I wanted a much more personal story. The first thing that came to my mind, as a father of two little boys, was that the main theme should simply be a father’s love for his son. This is not a game about saving the princess or the world. Its [sic] purely about a father’s love.”

Due to the game’s incredible facial expression, motion-capture, and story, it’s easy to be swept into the plight of these characters. Their conversations are so authentic; interactions so fluid, that the player will either marvel at the technologic achievement or forget these characters aren’t actually real.

In addition, the four playable characters have distinct personalities as well as approaches to following the trail of the Origami Killer. Each character utilizes specific gameplay mechanics (one character might be more analytical, another more physical) offering the player a varied gameplay-experience in a title that could have been hammering the same note too often.

The story itself is dark, intense, and extremely disturbing at times – think David Fincher’s Se7en. Though, even with such a complicated premise, and structure, the plot never goes far astray. Every chapter has a purpose, and as the game presses into the final hour, the threads come together beautifully. However, make sure to temper your expectations a bit as there are a number of plot holes – especially depending on which of the twenty-two possible endings you end up viewing. It’s not that the missing plot points are left open for a sequel or anything; rather, there are just a few peculiar story elements that go unexplained.

It’s also worth noting that it takes about two hours for the main story to get going. Players will undoubtedly find themselves endeared to the characters but restless and ready to get the greater plot underway. It’s not that the first two hours are bad – because they’re not. They’re full of a lot of important gameplay-tutorial information (shaking orange juice cartons and carrying groceries) that players will be glad they mastered early on.

More than anything, these early chapters are emotionally draining, with little sense of forward momentum, and by the time the main-plot (disturbing as it is) gets going, it’s actually a bit of a relief – feeling as though you might actually get to make things better for these people.

Click to continue reading the rest of Game Rant’s Heavy Rain review…

–~~~~~~~~~~~~–

heavy rain madison

For the most part the controls are intuitive, attempting to mimic the actual motions orchestrated on screen: opening a car door requires a downward quarter-turn on the right analog stick or shaking the controller upward in order to kick open a locked door. Prompts also indicate actions that must be done carefully or aggressively: setting a fancy plate onto a table requires a slow downward press of the analog stick where repeatedly shaking the controller might be used to push away an attacker.

The QTE prompts don’t simply flash in the middle of the screen either, in a fight they might appear over an enemies fist and then on an object in the environment, forcing the player to be aware of the entire area, not just fixated on the center of the screen. In some cases, the player might be restrained and have to turn a character’s head from left to right in order to see all the available options: seated in a car looking right will bring the glove box within the character’s field of vision – allowing the character new options.

That said, the control mechanics do take some getting used to – it might not always be especially intuitive whether to hold a button, press a button, or tap it repeatedly – this isn’t because the game doesn’t have different prompts for each, it’s just that, at times, in the heat of the moment it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Additionally, the Resident Evil style tank controls (holding R2) for walking aren’t as good as they could have been (though, they’re a necessary evil because of the directional QTE prompts) and will certainly cause you to bump into a few tables or get stuck on a corner once in awhile.

The difficulty setting of the game determines the maximum allotted reaction time as well as the frequency of the prompts. Most players should be able to find a play-setting that makes the game challenging but not frustrating.

For the most part, even with all of the QTE prompts, and tense, time-sensitive, action scenes, it’s relatively clear what to do – though, there are situations where a player, pressed for time or fearful of impending death, might screw up, missing a prompt or overlook a key clue, and get frustrated with the game. But these smaller failures aren’t a flaw in the game design, they’re actually the result of the carefully constructed chapter set-pieces in Heavy Rain which set the player in very real, very intense situations, without really knowing how long the player has to fully examine or think-through their actions.

heavy rain qte

The hysteria and panic set-up in each scene feels very real and forces even the most levelheaded gamer to get a bit sloppy. As a result, the player is making the fiction up as they go – because, unlike a choose your own adventure book, the looming threat of time, and subsequently a character’s life, is always present.

The musical score, something we don’t talk enough about in games, is exceptional. The four main characters each have their own theme, beautifully orchestrated at the level you’d expect from a feature film. The various action motifs set a number of different tones in the game that compliment the carefully constructed visual shots, as well as subconsciously prepare players for impending threats – ratcheting up tension in the action set-pieces.

Finally, for a game that offers such an incredibly immersive experience, the voice acting is potentially the least successful aspect of the game. That said, a number of reviews for the title have been overly critical of the game’s vocal track. Yes, there are certain characters in the game whose vocal work isn’t as good as it could be, offering up a few awkward phrasings.

However, most of the main characters, as well as supporting characters, are convincing and never impairs the mood or overall experience. Plus, wouldn’t you rather have a few odd turns of phrase than yet another main character voiced by Nolan North?

Recommendation:

Ultimately, none of Heavy Rain’s flaws detract in any significant way from the overall experience – an incredible experience. It’s a must play for gamers who enjoy video-entertainment that attempts to go beyond racking up kill streaks in online death matches. If you’re the type of gamer that skips single-player cut scenes just to get onto more gunplay, Heavy Rain is unlikely to satisfy your thirst for precision shooting. It’s a thoughtful title that blurs the lines between narrative and gaming. It’s the kind of game that you’re likely to think about days later – revisiting a particularly disturbing set piece or contemplating the meaning of the larger story.

That said, even if it’s not the type of game you normally imagine playing, do yourself a favor give the demo a shot. With an open mind, you might be surprised by how quickly you’re drawn into the world of Heavy Rain.

If you’re still on the fence, and are interested in reading more Heavy Rain impressions from our writers be sure to keep an eye out in the next couple days for a feature article with further input from several other Game Rant contributors.

The rain is here. How far will you go for love?

Heavy Rain is available now exclusively on PS3.

Our Rating:

5 out of 5

« 1 2View All»

25 Comments

Post a Comment

  1. WARNING SPOILER!!!!!

    I haven't finished the game yet but up till now Ethan Mars story seems like a mix between “Se7en” and Mark Wahlberg's brothers character in “Saw 2″… Either way i've never been so pulled into a game with such intensity as this one. Some of my family members even want me to finish the game quickly so i could start it over in spanish so they could know what's going on lol.

  2. Mark Wahlberg's older brother is Donny Wahlberg from New Kids on the Block.

    lol….just felt like throwing that in there.

  3. 5 out of 5!!!! Nice
    Im suprised there isnt a celebration post on this site!!! i mean come on Gamerant!!! I'ts your first 5/5!!!

    Im gonna rent this one. Although i know its awesome, i dont see myself playing it more than once. I feel the same way about Alan Wake.

  4. This is one of the games that makes me wish I had a PS3. Looks like a ton of fun and it sounds like such a great new direction in gaming evolution.

    • You could try Indigo Prophecy : Fahrenheit by the same developer!
      Cheers!

  5. I have yet to finish the game (and with the hockey game tonight I doubt I will today) however I have to agree fully that this is an experience that everyone with any intelligence should play though. It's an extremely important game and hopefully one that everyone will realize is as much a must play as Mass Effect 2.

    That said there are some problems that I have to admit are a bit annoying. The walking mechanic is broken, simple as that, you get used to it but even when you are you still end up running into tables and spinning in circles more often then you would like. It really takes you out of the story sometimes when you should be walking and talking with an NPC but instead your character is facing a wall or is 30 feet behind because you were stuck behind a desk for 20 seconds.

    The only other complaint I have is the voice acting. When it's good it's fantastic and so very captivating, but when it's bad, it's absolutely abysmal. The kids in particular were just annoyingly terrible. However, there was one scene with an old man in a clock shop; that old man was soooo damn good in my opinion.

    Other then those the game is amazing, and it is pretty easy to overlook those things. Especially when you're treated to sometimes almost photo realistic graphics and a great story with well developed characters.

    Is it 5 out of 5 when ME2 was 41/2 out of 5, I would say no. To me it's a solid 4. But, recommend it to EVERYONE! Except the kids screaming about “fags” and “noobs” on xbox live, they just wont get it.

  6. Game was very engrossing, I could barely talk myself into sleeping at one point. I still had a number of glaring, immersion breaking bugs that really ruined a couple of scenes. Also, some of the chapters seemed like they were covering previously established ground, just for the sake of catching a character up in the narrative. Not to mention some of the odd plot mistakes… characters knowing characters they shouldn't, that sort of thing.

  7. Having lost about four hours of my life to this game, I must warn those of you that make purchases based on the opinion of “reviewers.” Heavy Rain is truly nothing more than Indigo Prophecy 2, and completely undeserving of praise. Within those four hours I've had so much control over the mundane and useless without being able to change the storyline in the slightest. Great, so I can flip off light switches to my heart's content but cannot reread a plot device in a letter? I can't even choose not to take a shower because the character thinks he should?
    I've been completely unable to actually change anything storyline related, to the point of where it really makes no difference if I win or lose in a fight or fight at all. Also, there has been three, yes 3! game stopping bugs within those four hours, two of which left me without any way to progress the story and one that completely locked up my PS3, forcing me to reset.
    Be aware that this game is a linear adventure with wooden characters, hollywood cliche in bountiful supply, poor animation, and glitches galore. Hardly worth $20, and more of a rental game… look for Heavy Rain in discount bins everywhere soon.

  8. As I mentioned in my “review” – the first few hours of the game are slow moving but are designed to foster a relationship between you and the characters. Heavy Rain is a title you have to invest in – you have to be willing to experience something different.

    The scene where you mention flipping light switches was full of mundane decisions for a reason and a perfect example of how you're actions do, in fact, matter – not every event has to have long term, mind-blowing, ramifications.

    That said, in the beginning, the four main characters aren't “allowed” to die but as the story progresses they most certainly are – and doing so does dramatically affect available options as well as outcomes.

    Heavy Rain isn't for everyone but, at the very least, it's trying to do something new – attempting to elicit complicated emotions out of players.

    At least we can agree on one point, anyone who is interested in the title should do themselves a favor and (at least) rent Heavy Rain. Though, I'm still more than happy with supporting this great game with a full retail purchase.

  9. I was hoping to like this game, and it seems as though you really should be. I love the slow build suspense, which focuses on character development and atmosphere, and I love a good story. In fact, the plot will be forgiven small holes and other errors along the way as long as I enjoy the experience. Also, PS3's comments and I have a good history together.

Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.


If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it.