What started as a tech demo way back at E3 in 2006, over the years has managed to transform into one of the most anticipated titles of 2010. David Cage, the creator of 2005’s Indigo Prophecy, is both the writer and director for this “film noir thriller” where he not only lives up to his previous work but also exceeds it in every way. Heavy Rain, while not perfect, is a video game work of art.The best way to describe Heavy Rain (HR) is to call it the first real game for an adult audience. While other games rely on over the top language and gore to earn the highly coveted “M” rating, HR does it by telling a truly mature and engaging tale. Its story is dark and twisted, with even some M. Night Shyamalan (before “The Village”) sprinkled in; and it’s the suspense and the tension the title creates that keeps you wanting more and more.
At this point, I think it’s safe to say that everyone familiar and even those who aren’t really, are aware that in this game you’re on the trail of a person known only as the “Origami Killer.” What you may not know, and what I think makes for a much more emotional journey is that the killer’s victims are young boys.
Usually, incorporating children in games is a touchy subject. Even in games like Rockstar’s GTA series, sure you can run around shooting hookers, but have you noticed there aren’t any children in Liberty City? In Heavy Rain, although children play a major role in the narrative, it’s really all about a father’s love of his child and the lengths that he would go to protect him.
The game opens up with you playing as Ethan Mars, who is the dad in a perfect cookie-cutter suburban family. You have a nice house, a wife, and two sons. The first 30 minutes of the game are spent exploring the house and preparing for your eldest sons birthday party. This also plays as the game’s control tutorial. After the family arrives, you take part in the birthday activities and the story then fast-forwards to a family outing at the mall. Tragedy strikes as Ethan’s eldest son is killed in a car accident, which also puts him in a coma for six months. This is where the game’s impressive opening credits sequence begins to roll.
It is then two years later, and Ethan is now separated from his wife, distant from his surviving son, and suffering from depression, anxiety, and the occasional blackout. It’s the fall raining season, and the “Origami Killer” has popped up to terrorize the city as he always has for about a decade. The killer arrives this time of year, as it provides for the right amount of precipitation to drown the young victims in rainwater. Ethan has one young son who is still alive. I think you all can see where this is going.
The F.B.I has sent help to the city’s police department in the form of agent Norman Jayden, who joins as the lead investigator on the case. Jayden knows exactly what he’s up against as he also serves as a psychological profiler, further taking you into the mind of a serial killer. Not only does he have probably the coolest sunglasses on the planet (just wait until you see what I mean) but what makes him so intriguing is that throughout what is going on he is also fighting his own personal demons as well making his character feel that much more human.
The police department and the F.B.I. aren’t the only ones on the case, as there’s also a private investigator trying to catch the killer as well. His name is Scott Shelby, and he’s a middle-aged, asthmatic, retired police detective who spends his days interviewing the victim’s families in hopes of piecing together enough clues to stop the killer from striking again. I think players will enjoy playing as Shelby the most, not just because he’s badass, but also because his scenes almost always involve some of the most strange and unique sequences throughout the title. When’s the last time you changed a baby’s diaper in a game? I thought so.
The controls in HR can be hit or miss. Although they are simple (for the most part) they synchronize well with the action seen on screen. The integration of sixaxis motion control is nice touch as developer Quantic Dream, throws it in at the right times throughout the game. My only complaint about the controls would have to be consistency, especially with the right analog stick. While some motions are sometimes very natural and pulled off with ease, others can be overly sensitive which can very frustrating. It can make the simplest tasks like opening drawers or even standing up from your chair quite daunting.
The control layout can also take some getting used to. Movement relies on holding down the R2 button, while L2 let’s you explore what you’re character is thinking. This may feel awkward at first but because the game starts at a snails pace it allows for enough time to adjust to it.
Visually HR showcases some of the best graphics you’ll see in this generation of video games. It isn’t because it has a crazy amount of polygons or characters on screen at once. It isn’t because of the cut scenes as everything is done in engine anyway. It’s because Quantic Dream has pulled off what I like to call a little bit of their very own “Pixar” magic.
I say this because when you watch any of the animated films by “Pixar”, while most characters in the films aren’t even human, their expressions and mannerisms are, and that is what truly helps you (the viewer) connect. Human movements and gestures in HR, combined with some unbelievable lighting provide for a level of realism that can be borderline creepy at times.
Character models are awe-inspiring and environments are just as breathtaking… for the most part. Where graphics are one of its biggest assets, it also can be its biggest weakness as well. Let me explain what I mean.
There was one part of the game where I had found myself visiting a character’s house. And while I was in there I noticed all of the incredible detail scattered throughout, especially this one particular leather chair. It looked so realistic that I stopped dead in my tracks just to stare at it for a bit.
A couple of moments later, the character I was playing as decided to have a cocktail with the homeowner. After the drink is poured and my character is holding the wine glass in hand, is when it hits me. All of that pizazz I felt from the leather chair is now gone because all I can think of is how fake the glass and the drink inside it look. That’s just one example of issues on the design side; let’s move over to the technical end shall we?
One issue I was experiencing about a third of the way into the game was screen tearing. I know that it happens in many titles, especially those that have a lot going on at the same time. However, It didn’t happen to me during a shopping mall scene, earlier in the game (when it probably should have). During that scene it would be understandable as there are a ridiculous amount of characters on screen. Instead, I experienced screen tearing when my character was the only one on screen. Now it may seem like a nitpick but when a game’s experience is dependent on it’s visual impact, issues like these can hinder it.
Now while there isn’t any multiplayer, there are options for exploring the PSN store. In other words, get ready for some serious DLC. Maybe some episodic content perhaps? The title is packed with trophies galore and it awards said trophies for playing through the game certain ways. However, there is a way to snag a ridiculous amount of trophies through your very first play through because of the way the game saves.
Trophies are awarded during the loading screen, but the game doesn’t auto-save your progress until after it. In other words you can try different things before the auto-save in order to get your trophies, then just press start and reload your game from the last checkpoint and try something different without having to play through the whole story from the beginning. Cheap? Yes, but hey, who is going to know?
Overall I have to say that even though Heavy Rain isn’t without its faults, it is probably one of the most engrossing experiences you can have on a console this generation. Quantic Dream, has taken a tech demo and turned it into something truly special whose story can rival the screenplay of any big budget Hollywood thriller with some of the best visuals around to boot. So while, I’m uncertain about it’s replay value or longevity on your shelf (unless you really need another platinum trophy in your life) I think that this is something that all PS3 owners need to experience at least once. So I guess the only question you need to ask yourself is: How far will you go to save the one you love?
Title: Heavy Rain
Platform Reviewed: PS3
Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: Available Now
Review Copy Info: A copy of this title was provided to DualShockers Inc by the publisher for reviewing purposes.