Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Quantic Dream
Genre: Interactive Drama
Release Date: February 23, 2010
Platforms: Playstation 3
ESRB: M - Mature
You ever get tired of scoring headshots? Are you sick of level-grinding an androgynous anime character that whines like a tired 3-year old? Sometimes it's very refreshing to play a game that doesn't insult your intelligence. Thankfully, Quantic Dream's 4 year effort has finally paid off. For gamers, we get the delightful break from bald space marines in the form of Heavy Rain.
Heavy Rain is the story of 4 people on seemingly separate paths in their lives until the actions of the Origami Killer bring their lives together in an exciting climax...or not. I'd love to dwell on my experience of the story behind Heavy Rain, but you'll be hard pressed to find someone that had the exact same story as you the first time through. The beauty of this "game" is the fact that even small decisions you make during the game can have a major impact on how the rest of the story will play out.
When ever you first start into the game, you'll be forced to perform a lot of mundane daily life tasks. It may appear to be a rather slow way to start the game, but it does two rather important things for the rest of the game. Not only does it teach you all of the controls and future actions you'll have to perform, it also establishes the baseline for what's normal for these characters. By having your character do things like shave and put on pants to start with, it comes as a much larger shock when they have a gun pulled on them. This also makes it much easier to relate to the characters in the story and allows you to feel more of their emotion.
The gameplay (if you can even call it that) may make your average hardcore gamer skeptical. Yes, if you put this game into a conventional context and compare it other games out on the market, it is really just a long cut scene with a bunch of QTEs tossed in. However, this game is in the Interactive Drama genre. You're not supposed to have a heavy attack button nor the ability to toss grenades at people. The game relies exclusively on its story and its characters to keep you interested. Because of the interest I had in some of the characters, there were times my heart was racing; gripping the controller with all of my nervous strength making sure I wouldn't screw up a QTE. If you do happen to make a mistake on a QTE, you won't be forced to do it again, but there could potentially be rather adverse consequences for your characters.
While the game is mostly told in cutscenes, there are enough times where you actually have to walk around (yes, in fact, you can move your character). If you're like me and can beat the original Resident Evil 1 in 1 hour and 57 minutes, then you'll feel right at home with Heavy Rain's sometimes wonky tank walking controls. They do take a little bit to get used to, but after about an hour of playing they started to grow on me. If I have to say one thing positive about them, I'd say they make your character's movement animations look more natural.
Speaking of how your characters look, I have to comment on how the graphics look. I can say, without any hesitation, that the characters and environments look better than any game I've ever seen. It looks as if I'm watching an actual movie and I happen to be controlling the actors in that movie. I can't really say enough good things about how awesome the game looks...so I'll say something bad. Throughout the game, there is a lot of very noticeable screen tearing ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screen_tearing ) in the background. It can be rather distracting, but I'm usually able to look past it.
The audio is also just about as good as the character models. The score is just plain awesome. It perfectly blends with the visuals to add just the right emotions to the given scene. But like the visuals, there are a few issues with it. A few times while playing, I noticed a few times in which the score would jump or just abruptly stop during a scene transition. This, like the screen tearing, can be a bit jarring. The majority of the adult voice acting is pretty good, considering all of the voice actors are French. However, the few children that are in the game sound like ESL students. While the times at which a French accent is really noticeable are few and far between, I think Quantic Dream should have found American voice actors instead.
Heavy Rain is really like no other game of this generation. Will it cause a revolution in gaming? Probably not. What I hope it will do is cause gaming companies to start to care more about their stories and character development as much as they do their gameplay.
Gameplay: 8 out of 10
+ The game does not rely on gameplay, but the controls work and some of the QTEs were exciting
- The classic Resident Evil 1 tank movement can turn a few people off
Graphics: 9.5 out of 10
+ I've never seen characters look more lifelike in any game I've ever played
- I have to take off half a point for that screen tearing
Audio: 9.5 out of 10
+ The score is great, the sound effects are great, and most of the voice acting is great...
- ...except for the French kids trying to sound like they're from Philly
Replay Value: 7 out of 10
+ Trophy Hunters and people who really like the story will play this a few times through, just to see the changes
- It's not really a long game, so it might be best suited as a rental for some
8.5 out of 10