Written By Thomas Read
Heavy Rain is a roller-coaster of a time that is more like a movie than a traditional video game. Don’t think for a second, however, that you’ll be watching anything for long. The game’s immersion is phenomenal and you feel like you’re literally in the shoes of whichever character you’re currently playing as. The game has four playable characters, and by the end of the game you feel connected and emotionally invested in each of them. The game is an achievement in storytelling, which is, above all, a cinematic experience that is both entertaining and engaging without a doubt.
The story is vast and contains multitudes, as nearly every one of your smallest choices shape how the game’s plot develops. This can honestly be a bit scary at times, because the game has no game over. If you make a mistake, or something goes poorly, such as failing a life-threatening challenge or even not feeding your son on time, the consequences stick with you. In some cases, playable characters can even die. Every playthrough is unique, and every player’s experience will be an exclusive story based on their choices and actions.
To say it bluntly, the game looks great visually, and the music and sound add to a believable, deep environment wherever you are. Admittedly, some of the environments feel bland or underwhelming, but they are few and far between. Generally, each environment you come across fits well into the city and many are quite memorable. The game is more than redeemed for its presentation due to its standout feature, the character models. There’s an FBI agent, a PI, a foxy journalist and a dad who is giving everything to save his son’s life.
Every character is voiced and modeled by actors that look and sound like, well, top-notch actors most of the time. The character animations are also motion-captured by each actor, making most animations look seamless and extremely natural, with the occasional stiff movement. They all play their roles believably and with deep engagement, so you find yourself feeling extremely invested in all of them.
The gameplay is nothing special, other than its level of immersion. Anyone whose played any number of video games in the last five or so years is familiar with so-called “quicktime events.” Essentially, a button appears on the screen and you must press that button, generally within a time limit. All of Heavy Rain’s controls, not including walking, consist of these events, from opening a door to holding conversations. This is by no means a bad thing, somewhat surprisingly, because of the kind of game Heavy Rain is. It simply works for it, and is very rarely a single button. You will, at times, literally use every finger you have to press the right buttons for a particularly challenging sequence.
Heavy Rain is a game that is not necessarily hard, as you can’t technically “lose.” The goal is more to have things turn out as well as possible amongst the numerous endings. This makes Heavy Rain an experience literally any degree of gamer can pick up. However, having your characters end up alive and happy through all their trials by the end of the game can be extremely challenging, and many will be disappointed they didn’t complete a task correctly or overlooked an important development or clue right in front of their face. Ultimately, however, the outcome of the game is up to how carefully the player performs all their tasks.
Heavy Rain is a unique experience every time with vast replay value. It allows each player to have a unique story in this telling of four character’s lives and the web of interconnectedness in all of them. It would be easy to give this game at least three or four playthroughs, just to experience the depth of all the possibilities.
Heavy Rain is not without its flaws, and there are several. There are some frustrating moments that break the immersion of the game’s world. There are some parts where you can’t find what you’re looking for in a room, or struggle just ordering a ticket for a merry-go-round. Ultimately, though, the game’s flaws don’t subtract too much from the game’s immersion and storytelling, making it an all-around solid experience. It’s perhaps the most emotionally invested I’ve ever felt in a video game.
Overall Score: 87
A true achievement in storytelling that rivals the likes of Mass Effect 2, Heavy Rain puts you in the shoes of several characters and makes you sympathetic and invested in each one of them. An overall beautiful experience, the level of realism on the character models are unlike anything seen in most games. While the controls can be unintuitive sometimes, they certainly serve their purpose and are not a boring task to perform. Players may regret mistakes, and though any person can easily pick up and play Heavy Rain, the more dedicated will reset checkpoints multiple times to get the desired outcome of an important event. The game plays like a movie, and is, if nothing else, good entertainment.
Genre Score (Adventure): 90
To date, the ultimate “interactive movie,” it’s a game that many other adventure games will have difficulty competing with. A clear descendant of old point-and-click adventure games such as Myst, it truly brings them to a new level. While it has its problems, and other adventure games have it beat in certain ways, it’s strong points really shine. Any fan of the genre should not miss this intense experience.