Heavy Rain review
Heavy storytelling; light replay value
Holy shit, what is this!? A game fueled by quick time events and story!? Makes you think of a non hack and slash version of Ninja Blade on the 360, doesn't it? It doesn't? Probably because while Ninja Blade was an okay clone of Ninja Gaiden at best, Heavy Rain is its own game with no influences (well, except from Quantic Dream's previous game, which I haven't played) and all that jazz.
The story is that Ethan Mars's son, Shaun, has been kidnapped by the Origami Killer. Stricken with grief by the death of his other son, Jason, Ethan has to go to extreme lengths to rescue him while keeping his mental demons inside him. The tests he goes through almost remind me of Saw, though not nearly as deadly... I mean, do the victims in the Saw franchise have to crawl through glass and get through streams of electricity? Not that I know of, though I stopped at Saw 3 like any sane person would. His trials give meaning to the phrase "will you do anything to save the ones you love", since he goes through so much, that it's unbelievable.
You also get to control three other characters. Scott Shelby and Norman Jayden are investigating the Origami Killer case, though through different means - Scott is a door-to-door detective while Norman is an FBI agent that works with the police force of the city. Meanwhile, our fourth character, Madison Paige, is a journalist that, when she checks into a motel and meets Ethan, gets invovled in the case. Not much to say about their stories without spoiling anything - and trust me, you really don't want me to spoil the story, since it's the main reason you buy the game.
All four of the main characters have a lot of depth to them. You can tell that the writers paid careful attention to detail with them. You feel for them throughout as tensions rise and they get involved in sticky situations. Unfortunately, you get so attached to them, that making different decisions when you replay the game changes them, and the connection is lost, which throws you off. In a sense, it feels like the writers put a little too much depth into them.
This is a strange one to review, since there isn't much emphasis on gameplay. Already, you're thinking of scurrying back to your precious Modern Warfare and Halo, but just stay with me for a bit. There are two bits of interactive play. One that's more like your typical walking around the joint, and one that's more like Dragon's Lair on the arcades, but with more buttons.
I'll start with the crappy walking around bits. Seriously. All you're really doing is walking around, looking for clues and listening to the thoughts of whoever you're controlling. If that's not enough, you have to hold R2... this isn't a *bleep*ing racing game, Quantic Dream! I'm not driving 200 miles an hour! I'm walking at half a mile an hour! The stick controls are also a bit of a pain at first, since your character has more trouble moving around than Chris Redfield in the first Resident Evil game - there, at least you used just the d-pad - and it literally feels like you're moving a tank, even though only one of the characters is a tank. Man, *bleep* this section!
But we all know what Heavy Rain does right here - the quick time events! While you're watching an action scene or doing something other than strolling around, you have to press the button that appears on the screen. Well, press, hold, mash, and you even have to flick or shake the controller in some directions, since this uses sixaxis controls - it all depends on what pops up on screen at moments, especially in the cutscenes.
What shits me is how responsive the sixaxis controls are. They are so crap in this game, that you can't tell if you're even doing anything. It feels like they have a delayed response, because when you go to turn them like a wheel, it's sometimes like you didn't do it. This makes me glad that Sony are going to refine motion controls through Move, because the sixaxis is just crap in general, and this is a fine example of that.
The main draw here is that even if you miss some prompts or choose a decision that doesn't seem right, you can turn the story some other direction with future decisions and making sure you react. If a character dies, the story changes dramatically, and play control goes to whoever's remaining. Fortunately (or unfortunately?), not all of them can die. Yep, big spoiler, but some characters are so integral to the plot, that they've been granted some sort of immunity. Who do they think they are, Superman?
The graphics should be perfect, since it has to match the story and make up for the lack of real gameplay. For the most part, yeah, they're awesome! The dark colors, almost film noir-like, match the dark nature of the story and also give it a thriller look, which is the genre that the story would go under if it was written as a novel. The models, textures and colors all go together to create an almost photorealistic look, which is what it should be gunning for, since, like I said, it has to make up for the lack of gameplay. Excellent graphics... so excellent, in fact, that I can't overlook this one minor flaw, which is that some peoples' limbs sometimes go through other peoples' limbs and bodies. That is so N64!
Your speakers will love this game very quickly. The soundtrack hits you like a ton of bricks as it's orchestrated very well. Each track suits the situation very well - from the slow tracks during the investigation scenes, to the faster ones during the action scenes, each track hits you in the face and rams itself into your brain so that you'll never forget it, unless you cram a lot of other stuff into it. The voice acting is also pretty good. A lot of people complain about the kids' voice acting - listen to the kids here, then listen to kids in real life, then the kids back in this game. The voice acting, like the graphics, are meant to be realistic. Believable acting is the name of the game, and it just got all the trophies!
It's hard to rate this, since the most there is to do is push buttons when they come up, and walk around to investigate. Yeah, not much to it.
Oh good god, this makes me hate sixaxis more and more! That sucks, because the other buttons work finely! Walking around.. why R2? Why does it feel like Resident Evil? Bah. The rest work finely, thankfully.
This is what Heavy Rain is about, and it works for the most part. There are some holes here and there, but eh, it's still very well told.
Maybe aside from arms phasing through entire bodies, these are some gorgeous ass graphics. Excellent color and texture usage, all catering to the atmosphere the storyline and soundtrack convey.
Damn, this soundtrack gets at me... because it's damn awesome! Seriously, during the tense moments, it really picks up and kicks your ass! Love it. Voice acting is pretty good, too.
Ouch, this would hurt a lot. Your connection to the various characters, the story being told - seems like a one off thing. Not much to do after all that's said and done, except kick the guy in your head saying "what if" through chapter select. Hey, you might get more trophies!
It's not fun when the sixaxis doesn't cooperate and when movement feels cumbersome, but it's fun when it's during these intense fight scenes. Yeah, you're just pushing buttons, but it's just fun watching them.
Heavy Rain is a good investment if you enjoy a good thriller mystery story with probably the only time quick time events are done right. If you expect to play more than just some buttons here and there and moving like a tank, go get God Of War 3 or Killzone 2 instead. If you want a good mystery storyline, head towards this game.
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