SHAAAAAUUUN!!!   3 comments

Quantic Dream released two games prior to Heavy Rain. Their first title was an action-adventure game called Omikron: The Nomad Soul. Little did they know that the gameplay mechanics they explored for their second game, Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy), would be a commercial success. Dubbed “Interactive Drama” by game designer David Cage, Quantic Dream updated the winning formula for the company’s third game and first outing for the PS3.

Heavy Rain is probably one of the most ambitious games to be released that blur the lines on what defines any medium as a game or an art. The game has a huge emphasis on story. It’s not like the developers made the game and wrapped a pretty little story around it. The story itself is what drives the game.

“How far would you go to save someone you love?”

Heavy Rain uses this control scheme first introduced in Fahrenheit called “Quick Time Events.” A button or more appear on screen to perform any actions for the playable characters. Some are button combinations or analog stick movements you can perform in succession. Other actions make use of the PS3’s Sixaxis functionality of moving your controller. The placement of these actions on-screen depends on the situation at hand. If your character is in a hurry and out of breath, the actions to perform could be shaking, blurred or fade away after a few seconds. This gives you a sense of urgency and requires that you actively participate and pay attention. Some scenes have you decide on what to do, be they an answer to a question or a different action to be taken of your choosing. Your actions determine the dialogue and progress of the game.

One important thing to make a note of is that there are no right or wrong decisions. When you’re playing as one of the four playable characters, there are no actions that would result in the “Game Over” screen. Quantic Dream’s previous game had a win/lose scenario when you fail certain actions. Fail enough times and it’s game over. There are no such things here. The game goes on until it has run its course. Changing the outcome of the story makes Heavy Rain a game and not just a CGI movie. The branching narrative is determined by your actions. Your character may die, but the story continues. Of course, with missing characters, you’ll miss out on some scenes and key elements of the plot. It was reported that the script is 2,000 pages long to cover all the possible branches in the story. While this was wonderfully told, it doesn’t mean it has no flaws.

The first few hours are very slow. I think this was meant to get you accustomed to the control scheme. There are also many mundane actions you do like getting out of bed, walking towards the cabinet, pull up a shirt, get dressed, walk towards the door, open the door, and many more. Unlike in a movie where these things are left out, these were meant to give you almost absolute interactivity with your surroundings. Certain parts that seem bland are actually integral to the characters, their story, and their relationship with other people. These slow bits are important later, so you will have to pay attention. Once things start to pick up, you’re in for a ride.

As mentioned before, you follow four playable characters. You only know little about some of the characters’ past, even if you look them up prior to playing. This was done intentionally to keep the narrative moving. Other than that, they are well-developed and explored as the game progresses. They start out as complete strangers from one another, but their destinies intertwine because of the Origami Killer: A serial killer whose MO is to leave the body of their victim with origami animal figures. The killings happen on the rainy season of the year, hence the title. With all the different choices and outcomes, Heavy Rain is not a linear story. There are multiple endings.

Environment details from the intro of the game.

The story is split into multiple chapters (including a prologue and epilogue) among the various playable characters. The game automatically saves your progress at the end of each chapter. All the decisions made in the previous chapter will be carried over to the next chapter and may affect the outcome and interactions there, if not into the next following chapters. If you wanted a different outcome, you may skip back to previously played chapters and choose to save it or just play it out without affecting the main save point. Note that if you skip further back into previous chapters and choose to save the results of your decisions, all chapters after that point will be erased. This is a nice way of trying out individual scenes for those chapters and getting all the different endings. However, I highly recommend that you play out the story to it’s entirety without any help from an FAQ or walkthrough site. The beauty of this game is to immerse yourself into the story. I’m sure you’ll have no problem doing that, unless you’re a heartless evil person who shouldn’t even be playing this game.

As for the graphics, the developers put a lot of detail into the characters, objects and surroundings. The water droplet patterns on glass, on people and on the street are nothing like you’ve ever seen in most games. The characters’ faces were modeled after real models and actors, whom also did the voice acting and most of the motion capture for movement. With so much attention to their facial expressions, clothing, cars and pretty much everything else were secondary. They populated the game with as much real world items as possible. With your focus on the characters, you won’t mind the “realness” of a box or a flower.

The voice acting is one of the best for any game. It’s better than most, but for a game that pushed the envelop on realism, with a story that takes center stage, you tend to notice the flaws and overacting on some of the voices. Heavy Rain is supposed to take place somewhere in the US. Some characters are supposed to have particular accents like in the middle east coast, but they ended up sounding Northeastern with a Boston/New York hybrid accent. Some of the dialogue could have used some localization. It didn’t ruin the experience for me. It’s also understandable that the real life actor/models and voice actors were mostly European.

This review is 3 years in the making. Granted, I bought the game around the same time it was released, sporadically played for a year and finally decided to complete it a few months back. Heavy Rain is an excellent game. Depending on your sensitivity level, you may or may not cry/tear up. You will feel for the characters in your journey and root for them. The overall plot, characters and twists will keep you playing. The story draws you in to a point where you completely forget it’s a game and not a movie. That in itself is an amazing feat.

I’m done.

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3 responses to “SHAAAAAUUUN!!!

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  1. It was an awesome game… I didn’t even play it, I WATCHED my roomie play it, because it was that entertaining… but still, THAT FUCKING MALL SCENE. “JASON!! JASON!! JASON!!” You’d think they coulda taken more than TWO different soundbites for that. Sheesh.

  2. Pingback: Diary of a Gamer #1 | StupidSystemus

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