(PlayStation 3)

Heavy Rain (PlayStation 3)

Game Review

Heavy Rain Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by James Newton

Storming

Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain arrived in early 2010 in a downpour of critical acclaim, its storytelling, graphical quality and sheer audacity a breath of fresh air. Now a free patch has added support for Sony's Move controller (with a disc release landing soon) and although the game's strengths still shine through, its niggling flaws are sadly just as noticeable.

Heavy Rain is the latest in a long string of attempts at interactive movies, and shows how far the genre has come since the days when FMV sequences chained together constituted gaming's best stab at mimicking movies. The quality of the acting on display is far superior to any seen before or since; Quantic Dream excelled in creating digital actors, both through casting and in performance capture. Video diaries showing the real actors behind Ethan, Scott and the rest of the cast are eye-opening and genuinely stunning looks at the work that went into crafting the impressive and mostly believable performances. There are still some elements that prove beyond even this advanced technology – particularly fabric physics and some facial expressions – but they're minor grievances to level against one of gaming's best-ever representations of 'real' people.

Taking control of four characters involved in a series of slayings by the notorious Origami Killer, Heavy Rain plays like a cross between murder mystery and action thriller, with shady cops, brutal criminals and fights, chases and shoot-outs between you and the discovery of the killer's identity. Standard exploration segments take a familiar third-person perspective, though gamers who played the original release will be disappointed to hear the disjointed and unresponsive walking controls still remain.

Whilst the original made the best of an analogue stick to interact with the environment, this new edition uses a wide range of Move inputs to better effect; pulling doors towards you, twisting car keys and knocking on doors all play out with varying motion controlled inputs that feel responsive and mostly relevant to the action at hand. It may not be the best display of all Move's features, but on the whole it walks the fine line between subtlety and making the motions broad enough to make you feel involved; in fact, the subtler movements feel better on Move than on the DualShock 3. Whereas unfolding delicate moves before could be a tough proposition due to the smaller range of movement on an analogue stick, Move allows you to use the full control of your arm rather than just your thumb, and is more responsive as a result.

The expansion of controls from small thumb movements to larger physical motions brings the fight scenes alive, and there's plenty to relish throughout the course of the game. The game masterfully creates an atmosphere of genuine danger in its combat, even though there's no way to get 'Game Over'; if one of your four characters dies, the game continues without them, the plot altering accordingly. That said, swinging the Move around to fend off enraged criminals or domestic invader is so satisfying you'll strive to keep your characters alive for as long as possible the first time around.

After your first go-around, once the killer's identity has been revealed, the game gains an (albeit limited) extra level of depth as you watch out for telltale signs that point towards the Origami Killer, and begin to toy around with the fabric of the plot. For a game so narrow in so many ways – it's impossible to proceed until you've seen what the game needs you to – there's a sense of freedom that comes with knowing each character is disposable. "What would happen if...?" questions become impossible to resist, as you begin to play each character differently to before; more aggressive, more distant, less compliant.

If there is one complaint to be levelled at the game's replay value, it's this: the killer is always the same. Whilst a necessary function for the game's storyline to make sense, the second play-through can never provide a scene to rival the moment you realise the murderer's identity, but then few games can offer such a scene in the first place. It's also remarkably difficult to kill your characters; intentionally failing Ethan's first two tests puts him in the same place as if you'd passed, for example, although again this is necessary to keep the game a reasonable length and prevent less capable gamers from seeing as much of the game as more skilled players.

It's a shame that a game like Heavy Rain, such a pioneer in so many regards, can also stand as an example of poorly implemented motion controls. The game frequently creates disconnects between the player and the character as the motions you perform are really just substitutes for button presses, and you never have true control over characters' motions, just a string of canned animations to activate with a twist, turn or pull. The fight sequences are perfect examples: you'll sit on the edge of your seat and swing the Move around exactly how you're told, but for a game built on freedom you might find such implementation limited.

Creating a cast of four believable, humanised characters each with their own motivations would be a tough proposition for any creator, and Quantic Dream isn't wholly successful here either. Each person has an illness or physical affliction: Jayden's drug addiction; Ethan's possible schizophrenia; Madison's insomnia; Scott's asthma – yet something doesn't ring true about controlling so many intentionally broken individuals. If they were true character flaws – narcissism, selfishness and so on – they would contribute to the characters, but they feel more like convenient plot elements than personality quirks. It's understandable Quantic Dream wanted to present a range of imperfect leads, but these flaws often make them feel less human than perhaps they should.

The game's sexism is similarly disappointing: the lead women in the game fulfil the roles of mother, whore and guardian angel, some even fulfilling more than one simultaneously. Such a triptych of sexist archetypes shows how far interactive drama has yet to go to match novels and movies as modern storytelling methods.

Conclusion

Heavy Rain was bound to make a few missteps as a pioneering attempt at an interactive movie, one that matches the production values of many films whilst maintaining the level of involvement and excitement one would associate with a top-class action video game. It's innovative and brilliantly acted, and the Move controls bring a new level of engagement to the action scenes whilst registering subtler movements just as well. Like its lead characters, it's flawed and jarringly artificial at times, but you'll love it all the same.

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User Comments (19)

Slapshot

#1

Slapshot said:

One of the best 8/10 games you will ever play ;)

Great Review James as always!

James

#2

James said:

My heart went with a 9 but my head went with an 8. It is massively original, very well plotted in places and really exciting but it has more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. It's a high 8, though.

JamieOStaff

#3

JamieO said:

It sounds as though interactive cinematic-style gaming has come a long way since Don Bluth's Dragon's Lair, back in 1983. The issue of its stereotypical female characters is not exactly progressive for video games as a medium, though.

It is also good to hear that through Move, this version's controls are more diverse and successfully expand upon the game's movements.

Cheers James, when I have the spare pennies to buy Heavy Rain, I'll go into it knowing that PS Move works, but not to expect too much more than a gesture based replacement to the button presses. It is obviously a great game.

Knux

#4

Knux said:

One of the freaking best PS3 games I ever played, great review though.

mjc0961

#5

mjc0961 said:

"intentionally failing Ethan's first two tests puts him in the same place as if you'd passed, for example"
Well, not entirely. Towards the end of the game, if Ethan is still alive, you might find yourself having to make a choice you otherwise wouldn't have needed to if you had passed.

Also you forgot to tell us the most important thing: Is it still X to Jason, or did they change it? :p

SwerdMurd

#6

SwerdMurd said:

i'd have to disagree....there may have been some somewhat wonky plot elements and resolutions to said elements, but i wouldn't call those the same thing as plotholes....and I loved Madison!

I'd have said 9 simply cause none of the shortcomings bothered me much...I played it to completion in two days and I watched teh game played start to finish about a month later, also over the span of two days. Both experiences were immensely enjoyable.

Great review though man.

James

#7

James said:

@mjc0961 You're right, but considering failing the Butterfly means subjecting him to high voltages three times and then falling outside in the rain, you'd think the consequences might be a little more severe :P

@Swerd_Murd It is a great game and I wouldn't (and didn't ;)) say it has plotholes, but it certainly has wonky elements, as you say. I too had a lot of fun throughout most of it, but its flaws are big enough to hold up to the light and say "look, it's not perfect by any means, but it's still damn good."

lostie815

#8

lostie815 said:

Besides the walking that i still find a little annoying i think the move controls added an all new easier and intuitive way of playing Heavy Rain. I'm loving playing it

EdEN

#9

EdEN said:

Tried the demo and liked it but the game was released when I didn't have the time or money for it. Might give it a try at the end of the year with the Move patch.

3-Above

#10

3-Above said:

Just played the Move demo. It really does add a new level of involvment to the gameplay. Takes getting used to but so did the original control scheme. Pretty awesome.

WaynesWorld1984

#11

WaynesWorld1984 said:

love this first time round and now played the new move demo i'm looking forward to playing it all over again ;-)

James

#12

James said:

Looks like the demo has done all right for itself, even though it's the kind of game that really shouldn't work in demo form!

sonic_brawler95

#13

sonic_brawler95 said:

This is one of the PS3's most amazing exclusives. It feels like your in a movie where if your not careful, the end may be devastating. Or you can make it have a happy ending. Your choice! :D

Great review, James! :P

KAPADO

#14

KAPADO said:

i was very close to disagree with your praising of the acting, but you are spot on the acting is great its the writing and fake accents that sometimes keep this Gem from outshining the sun itself. I beat it once and now with the move,time has come fof a second playthrought and although its easier than with a dualshock3 controller, playing with a move is more immersive and gun. I truly Envy those who will play Heavy Rain for ghe first time with a Move controller . 10/10

Stuffgamer1

#16

Stuffgamer1 said:

@James: What, a few more injuries to have Madison patch up isn't a severe enough consequence for you?;)

Honestly, though, I was surprised to learn that failing that one (without taking the door) didn't kill you, too. I'd made it through fine but had friends playing the game who didn't, and I didn't initially understand why they still got Ethan all the way to the end.:P

Anyway, I do agree that the game's not perfect, but I do think it gets more criticism than it deserves from a large chunk of the "gamer" population. You have to be able to appreciate what this unique title is going for, which this review suggests you did much more than many, James.:)

This is actually the first time I've heard this game accused of sexism, though...that kinda threw me for a loop. Madison seems pretty darned self-reliant to me...the fact that she's also nice and caring is a character trait, not something to find fault with. Besides which, certain gameplay choices can reveal a REASON for her actions with Ethan...;)

James

#17

James said:

@Stuff I understand what you mean, but how many of her scenes rely on her sexuality for the player to progress? I know what you mean about the gameplay choices - I went that way with her, so to speak! - but on the whole I think she, and the rest of the female cast, are too often forced to use their bodies rather than their brains to proceed.

Stuffgamer1

#18

Stuffgamer1 said:

Then you have to draw the question of why is it like that, which is arguably nigh impossible to answer without developer input. Did they deliberately write the story so as to put the females in such situations, or was it simply part of the natural evolution of the title? That's not to say there's not SOME amount of gratuity (just go shower during the first Madison scene for example), but I'm just not convinced that the entire thing was made to intentionally make women look like weak sexual objects. If anything, it's just a result of the culture in which the game was made, and condemning the people within that culture for that would be pointless.

castlehominid99

#19

castlehominid99 said:

I'm playing it write now and let me say this game is just spectacular. Apart from the norman clue finding with the glasses this game is just awesome. Today I just couldn't put the game down and played it for hours straight. There are also multiple play throughs to be had so this game is really worth your money if you don't have it go pick it up!

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