Last Thursday, I posted Game Rant’s official review of Quantic Dream’s interactive drama Heavy Rain. By the time I finished the write-up, I’d spent close to 20 hours with the title, running through the different scenarios – not to mention doing a bit of trophy hunting (Hint: Heavy Rain is not difficult to platinum).
In the end, I felt a 5/5 was the right score. I’ll admit to giving an imperfect game a perfect score but that said, I still believe that overall Heavy Rain offers an incredibly unique and rewarding experience – even if the tank controls cause even the savviest players to bump into furniture in nearly every scene.
However, I’m not the only one of our writers that’s been sucked into David Cage’s most recent endeavor.
We asked four of our other contributors to offer up their opinion of Heavy Rain – in order to offer our readers a few more perspectives on what will undoubtedly be one of the most contentious titles of 2010.
In case you’re wondering, these impressions are spoiler-free but keep an eye out for a Heavy Rain: Spoiled discussion thread in the next few days, where our readers can share with us the results of their play-throughs, favorite gameplay scenarios, as well as offer their opinions on the overall story, plot-holes, and endings.
Jeff Shille: I have, as I write this, literally just finished Heavy Rain. I liked it more at the beginning than I did at the end. To be fair, I did not get what could be considered the “good” ending. Things went badly for me and I’ve never felt quite like this upon completing a game: I’m depressed, unfulfilled.
My efforts have been futile. I failed.
These are unusual feelings for a game to evoke, but nowhere in the gaming rule-book does it state that every game requires a fist-pumping victory. You’ll find that Heavy Rain, though definitely a game, is not so much a task to be conquered as a story to be experienced. The atmosphere created by the game is undeniably effective – I’m saturated with it.
At the same time, I don’t think I ever want to play Heavy Rain again.
David Cage and his team are absolutely to be commended for creating such a unique and, dare I say it, brave experience. There are some innovative and solid ideas on display here (for instance, I would happily play an entire game based on just the ARI investigations). The contextual controls are consistently presented in novel ways, generally work well, and add to the experience. The same can not be said of the game’s character-movement mechanic, which is never exploited enough to earn its overly complicated implementation.
Heavy Rain is not free of flaws. Without going into spoilers, the title begs the argument about whether a “serious” story must be unremittingly bleak (The most “serious” moments of my life have been joyous – my wedding, the birth of my children. I know, that’s a heavy comment to use in response to a game. It is to Heavy Rain’s credit that it elicits such a serious reaction). Mechanically, there are repeated circumstances where characters are prevented from performing the most obvious possible actions because the associated story point hasn’t been triggered yet. Not to mention, the game also froze on me.
Like it or not, this is a game that is going to stick with me for a while.
Should you play it? Yes, you should. I believe that, referentially, this is as important a game as we’ll see this year. But be warned: there may be more here than you are expecting.
Phillipe Bosher: What can I say about Heavy Rain that hasn’t been covered? First off, the graphics are amazing, the Quick Time Events are fantastically integrated into the story, and the emotion the title provokes from the player are astounding.
What more can be said?
I hate Heavy Rain. Or rather, I hated my playthrough of Heavy Rain. As a whole, the title is a fantastically well-made game. From my subjective experience however, Heavy Rain is the most upsetting, infuriating and tragic experience I’ve ever had the (mis)fortune to play through. Naturally I won’t go into details here, but as has been well-documented, Heavy Rain allows permanent main character deaths (with the story adapting to take this information into account). Having formed an emotional attachment with the characters throughout the eight hour long experience – being responsible for a couple of their deaths at the end was heart wrenching.
As odd as it may be, I believe my Heavy Rain experience was a true tragedy; akin to those written by Shakespeare and other such playwrights. It’s very rare that a videogame can be compared to classic literature, but the emotions evoked by my playthrough were the same I felt when finishing Othello; in fact, they were almost identical.
Whilst I found Heavy Rain to be a completely depressing experience, I’m not entirely sure whether I want to go through another playthrough – even if I could improve the outcome. I feel that my Heavy Rain story is complete and played to a logical conclusion as a result of my actions – mistakes and all.
Heavy Rain is the definition of a ‘mature’ game, in that it treats players like actual adults; “Screw up and you’re screwed” should’ve been the tagline. Keep an eye out for an upcoming feature on “Mature” games – as I’ll certainly be discussing Heavy Rain a bit more.
Sid Williams: Truly this “game” begs the question: Are video games art? Much like Shadow of the Colossus, Okami, Flower, and very few others, Heavy Rain, to me is video game art – to the point where it feels weird to even call it a video game. The title is more an experience, a feeling, and, depending on how you play the game or how quick you are at the fantastically implemented QTEs, a true tragedy.
Luckily for me I was quick (with well-practiced gamer hands) and my playthough, even though heart breaking and emotional, ended in a Hollywood-like happy way. All was well by the end of my game and the final act leading up to said happy ending will remain, in my mind, as one of the best videogame finale I’ve seen in a long time.
Heavy Rain is an emotional game – a mature game. Unfortunately most gamers today are anything but, so I really do wonder how well the title will do in sales. I’m sure critically it will be a contender for game of the year nod, but in today’s FPS generation of gamers the experience may simply fly a bit too high over some player’s heads.
In addition, the graphics absolutely wowed me. The character models and environments are incredibly detailed and at times bordered on photo realistic.
This brings me to what’s wrong with the game. Simply put, the walking mechanic is broken, it’s frustrating, clunky, and will ultimately take you out of the experience more than you would like. Instead of walking and talking with an NPC, you’ll be 30 feet behind because you spent 20 seconds stuck on the corner of a desk.
Which brings me to problem number two: the camera. I completely understand the choice of fixed angles, it provides for the cinematic experience that Heavy Rain employs so well – unfortunately it also turns you in circles, which is anything but cinematic.
Additionally, I almost don’t want to talk about the voice acting because it’s all been said before. However, to reiterate, when it was bad it was terrible (the kids) and when it was good it was amazing (Manfred).
Lastly, the plot holes (which, unfortunately, are blindingly obvious) will probably annoy anyone who picks up the game – and it messes up the story to some degree.
Speaking of story, however, for anyone who said the killer’s motives didn’t makes sense (we’re looking at you IGN), I’d say you’re wrong – they make complete sense!
None of the problems with the game are deal breakers, not by any means. Ultimately, you get used to the controls, you enjoy the camera angles even if they mess you up, you ignore the bad voice acting and focus on the great moments. The plot holes continue to irk me but I’ll get over it.
What I’m trying to say is, don’t miss this game, seriously. Despite its flaws it’s still one of the most engaging, emotional, and interesting games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. I recommend you play through like I did: just go with your gut the whole way, the same as the characters would have to – this way you take ownership of your game experience.
Bravo Mr. Cage and the Quantic Dream team, amazing work! Here’s to a year or so of exceptional DLC.
Rory Young: Heavy Rain is a dynamic title, combining fast-paced action sequences that kept me on the edge of my seat, plot twists and turns that are engrossing and original, and an astounding amount of background detail that makes each and every scene realistic yet not distractingly so.
I enjoyed playing Heavy Rain immensely. With that said, in hindsight, there are some glaring issues that prevent Heavy Rain from living up to all of its potential.
First and foremost are the bugs, those horrible technical issues that ruined multiple scenes for me. An emotional conversation at a police department drove me insane as police officers walked directly through my crying wife, over and over again. Then there was a bug that prevented the character from moving, despite the time sensitive nature of the scene. Put those together with some texture popping, sporadic fps loss, and your standard hard freezes and you’ve got some explaining to do. Yes, all of these issues occurred during my one play-through.
My other problems with Heavy rain focus primarily on the narrative. Some of the best twists are excessively vague, and whether that’s a result of the multiple ways each scene can play out or just poor writing doesn’t excuse it. The motives of certain characters are also intentionally left unclear. Oh he’s crazy, oh he’s a detective, oh she’s a journalist, that’s why these things are so important to them. Whether there was a lot lost in localization or a sloppy narrative is simply inherent to an interactive experience, Heavy Rain could have done better.
Don’t let my criticism stop you from experiencing Heavy Rain, though. It’s worth the time.
Heavy Rain is available now exclusively on PS3.