NOTE: This review is SPOILER FREE so don’t worry about it affecting your experience with Heavy Rain.
Heavy Rain is the spiritual successor to Fahrenheit, a fantastic PS2 title that unfortunately collapsed in on itself during it’s final third.
It seems it’s creator David Cage has learnt from that experience and has used the lessons to help form the experience that is Heavy Rain.
And I say experience because Heavy Rain is unlike anything I’ve played before.
Telling the story of the Origami Killer, who kidnaps young boys and drowns them in rain water, Heavy Rain sees you controlling four main characters and through their actions – whether everyday stuff like carrying in the shopping or a frantic fight for their life – you get a real feel for the characters.
Another reason you feel an attachment to them is the well documented continuous story element – whereby if one of the characters die the story continues, just without you getting further evidence/clues that the character would’ve uncovered.
You can’t actually ‘lose’ in Heavy Rain. Most games are like mathematics exams – you have to work out how to get from A to B. There are several ‘right’ answers but a lot more ‘wrong’ answers. If you get the question wrong you start from stratch and try to work it through.
In Heavy Rain the story continues from A to B regardless but your input shapes the way the action unfolds. Presumably the killer is the same each time (I’ve only had one playthrough so far) but the eventual outcome will vary depending on how your story was formed. Worst case scenario if you kill off all the main characters you will end up with a shorter story and, possibly, no resolution.
Knowing during every moment that a slip up may result in the character’s death as opposed to just having to retry the section really ramps up the pressure. Imagine Kratos from God Of War dying permanently if you messed up a QTE or died during gameplay Obviously it’s a different type of game so you can’t compare them directly but it means you care a lot more about making sure no-one gets bumped off.
You interact with your surroundings using the right stick to open doors, sit down, choose what to look at etc. Moving is old skool – R2 is forward whichever direction you’re facing with the left stick changng direction. Pressing L2 brings up a selection of the characters thoughts which can be triggered by the face buttons.
During some cutscenes you’ll be required to take part in QTE events – pressing, holding or tapping various buttons and using the right stick. But Heavy Rain isn’t just a bunch of QTE’s, you will have the freedom to investigate environments and only once did the game (via the character thinking to himself) prompt me to go back and do something before I could leave the scene.
Graphically this game is up there with the best of them and because the camera angles are dictated by the game you’re guaranteed the game will look amazing all the time.
It’s not flawless – I had a few glitches whereby an unrelated character stumbled into view as a cut scene started (presumably as it’s all running on the same engine in real time) and the main character walked right through them.
Friends that have played the game are saying things like ‘this is amazing’ or ‘I’m astounded’ which is pretty high praise from regular gamers. After finishing Heavy Rain I could not stop talking about it with everyone I met – which is quite an achievement without discussing the story
And I am extremely wary of ruining any part of this experience for anyone that reads this, which is why I haven’t mentioned anything specific storywise.
Heavy Rain is a game that deserves to be played by the masses – I suspect, sadly, that it won’t be but if Sony marketed this right (I’d release a full trailer as you would for a film personally) it could break through.
Some people will hate this game and think it’s boring but for me it’s great to play through a strong story and the mundane moments help build the characters.
It says a lot that as soon as I finished this game I wanted to play through it again straight away. I want to give the characters a slightly different personality, experiment to see what happens and find out how it changes the story.
Heavy Rain is by no means perfect but it brings a whole raft of new ideas and innovation to the table.
At the very least rent this and give it a shot – once I started I couldn’t stop playing it and I hope many more people enjoy it as much as I did.