#998 Heavy Rain

Posted: 10th July 2012 by Mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

161st played so far

Genre: Interactive Fiction
Platform: Playstation 3
Year of Release:  2010
Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Sony

This is really old news by now but those of you who are yet to see Kara need to scooch over to Youtube (click here for the clip). I saw both this and another video by the same developers (called The Casting) before playing this game in order to give myself a bit of insight into what this developer was about… I cried at both videos so no pressure then.

Having not been as prepared as Peter, I’ve just read some reviews before we actually started playing, which peaked my interest. It’s an interesting game concept that seems interesting to keep up.

Our Thoughts

For those of you that can remember the slightly odd acquisition post I made last year you will know that Heavy Rain was one of the first games I ever had for this system. In fact it was the exclusivity of this game (along with the likes of inFamous and LittleBigPlanet) that made me want this console so incredibly badly. Why did it take so long for us (and by us I mean me) to sit down and actually play this? At the moment I don’t rightly know.

As you will know this is an interactive fiction game and we have previously looked at one of these games 60 games ago in the form of Facade but the actual experience is very different. For the first part this game is based a lot around the successful completion of quick-time events in order to not only further the plot but also to ensure the survival of your characters (more on that later). Since this game is based around this concept the difficulty of the game is based around the complexity of these events. As long as you are well experienced with a Playstation controller you will be able to play this on the highest difficulty but you have to beware of certain places where you need to hold eight buttons at a time (which reminded me of a game of Twister for the fingers and required the help of a second player for these trickier places). I thought the events in Bayonetta could be a tad difficult but the events here really do demand focus and concentration.

These button presses and stick shifts vary in degrees of severity. Some of these require you to be incredibly gentle (like when you are putting on mascara) whilst others require you to forcefully shift the whole controller to the side (like when you are dodging a mad drug-dealing ex-surgeon’s attacks). Since the difference in the symbols can be subtle (especially in the heat of the moment) you will not complete every quick-time event the first time. That’s fine, you just need to make sure this doesn’t lead to the character being killed in a car crusher.

Other than that this game plays a lot like a cinematic version of a traditional adventure game. In order to find clues you need to walk around the areas (known as sets in the credits sequence) and input directions on the right analogue sticks whilst using the left analogue stick to look around in search of clues or interactions. You need to keep your eyes peeled for these interactions since you never know what you might miss which could prevent you from finding the killer and not saving his next victim. The game doesn’t feature the many puzzles of more traditional adventure games, but in this case it helps – thanks to this, you focus on advancing the stories and how everything integrates, rather than how to get to the next clue. You need to find and solve things, sure, but it’s almost secondary.

Whilst the controls are engrossing in their own way the real heart is, of course, in the story and characters. Interestingly the entry for Heavy Rain in the book criticises this game from lacking in heart and humanity to which I say; what the hell were you playing!? Over the course of the game you play as four main characters: an FBI investigator, an investigative journalist, a private investigator and the tragic father who is searching for his son.  Whilst all the characters are well realised and motivated it is Ethan (the father) that truly melts your heart. This is a man who has already lost his first son in a car accident and a result of this now has crippling agrophobia, depression and a strained relationship with his surviving son Shaun. All four characters are on the hunt for the Origami Killer (so-called because they leave an origami animal and an orchid with their victims) but Ethan’s search is so well-played emotionally that I wanted to cry at many different points.

After a lot of time deciding the movements of the characters you really begin to get under the skin of the characters to the point that when you have to chop of a character’s finger (as one of the killer’s trials) or find yourself close to dying in a fiery blaze your heart really begins to pound. Many games have instituted moral choices as part of their gameplay but so few have executed it so successfully where there are actual far-reaching consequences.

One thing that integrates quite well are the graphics. While not going for photorealism – a step below the Kara clip Peter referenced earlier – they’re real enough to evoke sympathy and make you feel the characters are real. Helped by the characters being based on the real actors (the casting video you can unlock shows this off nicely), they evoke empathy by being such. Add to that the surreal elements that integrate surprisingly well – both in the sense of virtual reality glasses used to investigate clues as well as dream sequences through characters feeling like they’re losing control.

While this mostly works well – up to a point where you have to work your way to big crowds to get to where you want to get to – you can tell that they were pushing the boundaries in some sections. While it’s mostly okay, a few scenes, especially near the end of the game, started lagging, something that doesn’t combine well with the quick actions required in these sections. Luckily they didn’t have an effect on gameplay, but they felt jarring.

Finally the element that really helps up the ante emotionally is the music. Beautifuly orchestrated sweeping music that reminds me of movies in a mixture of noir detective films and modern flicks such as Gone Baby Gone. This is paired with great voice performances by the cast which gives the game the pathos required to link the gamer with the characters.

Final Thoughts

The last time we properly played a longer game to completion before writing it up was The Last Express. Thanks to this we both know how the game ends and have such made sure to have this review free of spoilers.

I am not sure how much replay value this game has but now I want to play Fahrenheit very VERY badly.

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