EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the game has been out for almost two years, this review will contain some spoilers, though nothing big so that major plot points aren’t ruined. However some information expressed within will reveal characters, backgrounds and some general plot points and gameplay information.
In February 2010, Developers Quantic Dream and publishers Sony released a game that looked to capture the film noir feel of the past, where every choice you make directly affects your future. Heavy Rain was pretty much critically acclaimed across the board and would continue to be even today when fans still clamor for sequels and with a potential film in the works. I picked up Heavy Rain, like many games, used at my local GameStop after reading a short review in Game Informer. I liked the idea and decided that with some time off in my immediate future, i’d use the time to play it. Little did I know how engrossed in the game I would become and how even after finishing it, I want to go back and do it all over again.
In Heavy Rain, you will for the most part control 4 characters who are all somehow involved in the string of child abductions and murders conducted by who the media have nicknamed “The Origami Killer” because of his habit of leaving a small origami animal and a lotus blossom on his victims. Though you play as 4 characters, you will spend most of your time as the character Ethan. In he beginning of the game, Ethan and his family head to the mall and Ethan must watch his son Jason. After buying a balloon from a clown (that I swore for half the game was the Origami Killer), you find that Jason has wandered off. After a frantic search of the mall, Ethan discovers Jason outside and across the street. Like kids do, Jason darts into the road towards his Dad as a car begins to hurtle towards them. Ethan dives into the road and grabs Jason, just as both are struck by the car.
Two years later we find that Ethan survived after a 6 month coma but Jason did not. Ethan and his wife have separated and share custody of their second son Shaun. After a day in the park, Ethan blacks out and wakes to find himself in a strange part of town with an origami figure in his hand. When he returns to the park and then home, he finds that Shaun has disappeared. At this point in the game new characters become involved like Norman Jayden, an FBI agent who uses experimental “Added Reality Interface” glasses to see clues at crime scenes. Early in the game, Jayden is the character you receive most of your information about the Origami Killer from. You learn that he only kills in the fall during heavy rainfall, drowning his victims before disposing of their bodies.
Another character you soon take on is Scott Shelby, a former cop turned Private Investigator who is searching for the Origami Killer on behalf of the families of the victims. A heavyset guy, with a house that looks like it belongs to Eddie Valiant in Who Frame Roger Rabbit, Scott does a lot of the “legwork” as far as getting info on the Origami Killer throughout the game. The fourth and last character we meet is Madison, a photojournalist who suffers from insomnia and night terrors. Honestly, her night terrors were the scariest part of the game. I felt like I was going to have them after those scenes. Madison comes across Ethan at a local motel and learns that the Origami Killer is forcing Ethan to do sadistic tasks in order to prove he’s a worthy father to save his son.
Now with the basic back story and characters out of the way, lets talk gameplay! Heavy Rain plays like a combination of The Sims and the expressions used in the Fable games. You control where the character walks and interacts with objects, but rather than simply tapping X to interact with everything you have to move the joystick in a certain direction or even tap or hold numerous buttons at once. During fight scenes youll be prompted to hit certain buttons to strike, block or evade your enemy. For me this got to be frustrating, comparing it to boss battle movies in the Force Unleashed. Not only do you spend all your time looking for where the next prompt will occur that you dont get to see the brilliant animation but I’m personally not that fast at it and many prompts were lost to me, causing me to often lose fights, get caught, or even trip over my own feet! Luckily the difficulty level can be adjust for people who aren’t that familiar with the buttons (easy), generally familiar with the buttons (medium) and people who are absolutely familiar with the buttons (hard). I played through on medium, and after my crappy game ending I may have to play through on easy! The game can be played with the regular controller or the Playstation Move set up.
In Heavy Rain, it isn’t just about what you do, but what you don’t do. In one scene, one of your characters will have to wipe down everything he’s touched for finger prints to avoid being picked up police. I got everything BUT the door handle to the bathroom and was picked up the cities finest and detained. Being detained led to the character not being in a later scene. There are multiple endings to the game that can actually be combined so that you may get 3 brand new endings the second time through, but one ending can still be the same. Some fans claim there are upwards of 20 different ending combinations that make each experience unique.
While the general gameplay and character movements will remind you of The Sims, the animations for cut scenes and even fights are so beautifully done you forget you’re playing a game. The game technology involved full body and facial scans of the actors and actresses for their roles in the game. In the case of Madison, two women were used to create the character, one for face and voice and the second for her body motion capture. Way to create the perfect woman, huh? With how seamlessly the characters move in cut scenes and movies, you easily forgive the blocky movements with how they walk and even how unrealistic their jeans look when they are putting them on. (Don’t Ask!) One thing I noticed though was the voice acting was not up to par a lot. Sometimes the emotion was just right, bringing you into the characters and their emotion. On occasion the voices were so flat you might as well have been seeing a nervous 6th grader doing Romeo and Juliet. Makes me wonder if maybe, just maybe, they shouldve gone with professional voice actors to go with the actors that did the motion capture.
By the end of the game I was so caught up and in shock as to the story, all the flaws of Heavy Rain were forgotten and in the past. Easily overlooked for what was easily one of the most addicting games I’ve ever bought. Without giving away the major plot point that I warned about, my ending went as such. No one saved poor little Shaun, who ended up drowning as the latest Victim of the Origami Killer. Ethan was arrested and sent to the looney bin where he committed suicide, Agent Jayden was murdered, Madison went back to her home where her night terrors continued and Scott was wandering the streets in the continuing rain. For what it is, I was so disappointed in myself I immediately wanted to go back and play again! Righting wrongs, kickin ass, and saving poor little Shaun! I held back however to give it time for everything to sink in. Then today, while researching a bit for this very article I read a quote from the game’s director. It was…
“I would like people to play it once…because that’s life. Life you can only play once…I would like people to have this experience that way. I’m fine with [reloading to avoid a bad result], but the right way to enjoy Heavy Rain is really to make one thing because it’s going to be your story. It’s going to be unique to you. It’s really the story you decided to write…I think playing it several times is also a way to kill the magic of it.” – David Cage
Am I killing the magic of the game by wanting to replay? There’s so many different endings, it almost seems insulting to the people who put in such hard work for all that only for each player to only see ONE potential ending. Yes, that is life and in a way, that quote makes me uneasy about playing again. I may not achieve the best result my next time through, hell, maybe next time EVERYONE will end up dead. Who knows? Certainly not me if I don’t play through again.
PETER gives Heavy Rain 4 out of 5 stars or some other BS rating system. He enjoyed it a lot but still had some small issues with the game. He wishes LA Noire had been THIS good.