GameSpot Reviews - Heavy Rain Video Review

Uploaded by gamespot on 22.02.2010

The goal of every story is to form some degree of connection with its observer. Though nearly
every video game strives to craft a bond in which the observer is less a passive participant
and more an emotionally engaged accomplice, Heavy Rain is one of those few that can claim
to have achieved this lofty objective. A powerful interactive drama, Heavy Rain is an intensely
absorbing experience that meticulously conveys the tension, urgency, surprise, and tragedy
that its characters feel. The overall direction of the plot cannot be changed, but the ongoing
narrative adapts to your every action to construct a deeply personal journey that leaves everyone
who undertakes it with something different.
How far are you prepared to go to save someone you love? This is the central question of
Heavy Rain, and one which the protagonist Ethan Mars is compelled to answer. After Ethan's
son is taken from him by the mysterious Origami Killer, he vows to do whatever it takes to
rescue his boy. This resolve is tested to its very limits when Ethan is prompted by
the Origami Killer to perform a series of trials, each more diabolical and demanding
than the last, in order to prove himself worthy of saving his son. Besides Ethan, you also
take control of three other seemingly unrelated individuals that have been drawn into the
case of the Origami Killer: private investigator Scott Shelby, FBI criminal profiler Norman
Jayden, and photojournalist Madison Paige.
Heavy Rain is an immersive interactive drama that sucks you in and doesn't let go. As you
control each of the four characters, on-screen prompts have you press buttons in sequence,
move the right analog stick in specific directions, shake the controller, and more to interact
with the scenes. Each button input is proportionally difficult to the task being performed, and
when a character is scared or stressed, these floating prompts tremble accordingly. There
is plenty of action to be found in the form of brutal and violent brawls and more, but
even mundane tasks such as brushing your teeth are surprisingly engaging and help to strengthen
your bond to the characters.
Unlike other games that make extensive use of quick-time events, Heavy Rain does not
track your progress in terms of success and failure. There is no right or wrong way to
play, and no matter what your outcome is, the game continues moving forward. Though
the overall narrative framework is unyielding, your performance throughout the game can have
a variety of effects. For example, you may choose to intervene in a domestic dispute
to save a damsel in distress, but you don't have to--you might simply decide it's none
of your business and leave. Whatever happens, it's important to keep in mind that your actions
and choices have consequences--your characters can even die, which eliminates any contributions
they would have otherwise made.
Though Heavy Rain's involving story is its greatest strength, it's also somewhat of a
weakness in terms of the game's replayability. Lasting an intensely satisfying eight to ten
hours long, Heavy Rain is full of branching plot points and permutations, but it's hard
to actually go back and play through the game differently once you've completed it. Your
story--the one that you got so caught up and invested in--has already been told, and the
characters you bonded so closely with won't be the same if you do things differently.
There are also a number of plot holes and inconsistencies that work against immersion.
Several obvious leads and key pieces of evidence in the case of the Origami Killer, for example,
go completely unnoticed by the police department, and a major plot point that haunts Ethan throughout
much of the game is never explained in the slightest. Depending on how you play, you
may be left scratching your head wondering what happened, or how characters that never
seemed to meet know each other. Heavy Rain's problems aren't strictly limited to the plot
either--there are a number of other flaws such as an inconsistent frame-rate, frequent
screen-tearing, and noticeable texture pop-in almost every time something is closely examined.
These technical issues in particular are a shame as Heavy Rain is generally a beautiful
and fantastic looking game. The visual design of the various environments is outstanding,
and whether you're visiting a sleazy motel or tiny convenience store, the painstaking
amount of detail that went into constructing each locale is incredible. Character models
are hyper-realistic--particularly in how that they move and interact--and in many ways emote
just as well as any real person. Occasionally, a stiff or awkward animation will crop up,
but for the most part they're done extremely well.
Though it suffers from its share of plot and technical problems, Heavy Rain is nonetheless
a bold and visionary step forward in the medium of interactive storytelling. Part adventure
game and part psychological thriller, Heavy Rain is far from the quick-time event-powered
movie that it may appear at first glance to be. No matter how your adventure plays out,
Heavy Rain is a profoundly personal experience that should not be missed.