French developer Quantic Dream had trouble selling a title about child abduction, but the risk paid off with Heavy Rain, a radical new game based on contextual action.
ESRB: Mature (Blood, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs)
Heavy Rain focuses on the story of a serial killer known only as the Origami Killer and the investigation of his or her murders. The player controls four characters entwined in the events: Ethan Mars, Scott Shelby, Madison Paige, and Norman Jayden. Ethan Mars’s son Jason has disappeared, and everyone is trying to find him.
The basic gameplay is very different than your average game. The only consistent control is walking, while conversational responses and actions are based on the environment the player is interacting with at the time. For example, at one time, a flick of the control stick may start a car, while in another situation it might open a door or cabinet. ‘O’ may set your footing or yank something off of a wall.
For these reasons, the game can sometimes move a little slow as far as games go. It takes the feel of a thriller film that you are engulfed in. Your actions have a direct influence on the course of the game, resulting in several possible endings, an intriguing idea.
On that note, the game is nothing short of compelling, and anyone with the will not to finish it has me beat. The gameplay is super clean, not that there’s too much complicated stuff. It’s pretty simple go here, push this button sort of stuff.
So really, what comes down to making or breaking this game is aesthetics and plot. Like I’ve already said, the game is hard to put down. No one is going to complain about the plot as long as they have the resolve to get through it as opposed to giving up on it for something of a more mainstream style, something I don’t encourage, as this game is one of a kind.
As far as aesthetics are concerned, with as much focus as one would think could be placed on this aspect of the game with the lack of shooting mechanisms, HUD, destructible environment, or an environment that has to react to random possible events in general, one would think that a lot of that focus could be deviated into making this game look really really good. While it’s not bad, and the facial features are probably some of the best to date, there are plenty of spots for improvement, including pants that inflate to fit.
Be prepared to feel a little awkward. There’s a moment where the player has the opportunity to engage in romantic relations with another, which is probably the most interactive making out and stripping you’ll have ever done in a video game. In comparison, there are plenty of really slow moments, too, such as drinking orange juice or setting the table, or even playing with your kids. These moments all lend themselves to attachment to the characters and making the experience that much better. Most notably, it makes death an entirely different experience in the video game world. Where one is usually accustomed to taking lives upon lives over the course of a shooter, the few times your character is on the trigger-end of a gun, it’s a tough decision. The life one is taking and the repercussions it will have on one’s character are magnified infinitely. Good luck with that decision.
At the end, one wonders “Hey, this could be an epic movie.” And yeah, but everyone experiences a different ending, and even if you go through and do them all, each person is going to have a different opinion on which is the best because each person is going to be emotionally drawn a different way, which is what makes this game so great.
I’m a big fan of this title. From a plot standpoint, it’s practically unrivaled in emotional involvement. And for that, for a rare-to-find experience in a world of shooters and platformers, I thank Quantic Dream.
Bottom Line: 9/10