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Feb 23, 2010

Review: Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain
Sony Computer Entertainment, Quantic Dream
Available for Playstation 3

I have to say that Heavy Rain is probably the first game I have ever played that I have checked out the demo first and hated it, but ended up loving the final product. Back in fall of 2009, I attended the Sony Holiday Event and managed to check out a floor demo of Heavy Rain which showed off the game’s graphics, game play but nothing of the storyline. It was so dull that I lost all interest in the game but after seeing a few trailers that did show a bit of the actual story line, I decided to give the game a second chance and boy, was I glad I did because this game is gold.

Created by the same development team behind the game, Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain is a film noir style adventure game that takes you on an emotional thrill ride. The main story centers on the Origami Killer who is kidnapping little boys and drowning them in rain water. He leaves an orchid and an origami figure on each body and police are baffled about who he is. Though you start the game as Ethan Mars, an architect, you will play as 3 other characters throughout the game: FBI Agent Norman Jayden, a private investigator Scott Shelby and a photographer Madison Page. Each character will play a vital role in finding the Origami Killer.

Instead of facing down supernatural creatures, Heavy Rain has you overcoming obstacles that a normal person could endure and therefore allows players to identify with the main characters so much easier than they could with fantasy characters. The story is full of emotional decisions that aren’t always clearly right or wrong but they are definitely hard to make and as a human being you will feel the pressure to make those decisions, especially with the game’s quick time events in play.

While most adventure games are played with point and click mouse controls, Heavy Rain has adopted a different control scheme that incorporates the SIXAXIS controller. Most of the movements and interactions are controlled with a basic one button push or analog stick movement but there are many quick time events that will have you mashing buttons and moving in various directions quickly or holding down a series of buttons in a certain order. Honestly the control scheme is hard to master but it wouldn’t be if the action symbols were a bit clearer to read in moments of panic.

If you’re lucky you can redo an action sequence multiple times until you get it right, but in some cases you only get one shot and if you fail, you could kill one of your four main characters. Timing is very important, so pay attention especially because the game works on an auto save system which means you can’t replay any events. Once you make your choices, they are set in stone.

The first couple of hours of the game are very slow and you will probably feel like you are playing the Sims or something like it but trust me, just play through it (play it well for the trophies) and you will become addicted to the story further in. Once you get past playing Daddy, that’s when the good stuff comes in like the crime-solving, the fist fights and the trials. The puzzles will get harder and the rewards will get better.

You will have to install this game on your hard drive before you play it but the developers have included an actual origami puzzle to make while you wait. The instructions for the puzzle are shown during the install screen and the piece of paper to make it is included in the game case. I wasn’t impressed with the in-game load screens as they were weird close-up shots of the 4 main characters from the game. It was just too creepy to stare at their nervous looking faces the whole time.

One thing you can definitely say about this game is that is it pretty. From the environments to the rain effects to the character designs, this game is downright stunning to look at – almost like watching a movie. Motion capture was used during the character design and it shows through in their movements which are very life-like. A lot of realistic photos and videos are used in the game as background elements which really stand out against the digital graphics but add a cool note of realism to the world.

There are some frame rate issues during some of the faster paced moments of the game which is a shame because the graphics would be perfect otherwise. You’ll have control over the camera for most of the game which is important to remember as you need to change view angles often or you’ll miss important clues. Some scenes though, the camera changes on its own and gives you this fabulous movie scene effect. There are even some split-screen moments in the game which give you multiple view points for an overall view of the event.

While the movements of the characters and their facial expressions are mint, the voice acting in this game can be massively over the top at times. It’s like watching a decent pilot episode of a cop drama or something – you know the show has potential but the actors need more time to get comfortable with their roles. The music is very Hollywood drama with high tension instrumental scores as well as those heart-breaking tunes that have you almost in tears during various high emotion scenes.

If you can focus on the pretty graphics during the first couple hours of Heavy Rain and not the dull storyline, you’ll find an amazing detective story well worth the time and effort. This game is not only addictive to play but absolute gorgeous to watch. I haven’t played a dark adventure game this good since Phantasmorgia which came out in 1995. I hope to see more adventure games like this come out and less of the crap which keeps coming out developers like Dreamcatcher/The Adventure Company.

Rating: 8 of 10
Buy it!

1 comment:

apatheticgamer said...

I've been excited for this game since I got Indigo Prophecy during a Steam sale a few months ago... I might wait for a price drop though :S