Heavy Rain


By: Sam Prescott    On: PlayStation 3
Published: Thursday 11 Feb 2010 6:00 AM
 
 
 
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So is it a movie, or ain't it? If the whole damn world can't decide, then how should you? Well, you could start by playing it. We wrote in our hands-on preview for Heavy Rain that "it's a game, not a film," but after playing the full version, it seems to have more in common with the silver screen than ever. Am I saying all the uncertainty and media criss-crossing is a bad thing? Hell no. It's only topical. And film or game or game of the film of the book of the Broadway musical - Heavy Rain is an amazing experience.

Father Ethan Mars, PI Scott Shelby, journo Madison Paige and FBI agent Norman Jayden are all on the path of the Origami Killer. He kills young boys, always in the autumn and they all reappear, after a five or six day absence, drowned in rainwater. Each boy also has an origami figure in their hand, and an orchid on their chest - the killer's signature. It's no secret that Heavy Rain's theme is "How far would you go to save someone you love?" - so that's probably why the game starts with doting father, Ethan, at 11:22am on a Saturday.

This was the third time I had played through the game's prologue. I have to say, once you're used to the controls (and, yes, the game does give you an effective tutorial and constant directive icons) getting around the environment becomes quite intuitive. But "intuition" is the reason that there are some minor frustrations with simple things like walking and turning (we covered this in the preview and, sadly, things haven't gotten a lot better). I'm setting this upfront early, because I think it's only a problem that will get new gamers down. I suppose the point is: persevere. To briefly recap on bygone articles, L2 gets you walking, with direction controlled by the left stick. Right stick, or button combinations - whether you're holding, hitting once or tapping - perform most of your actions. These could be as simple as standing upright or opening a door. If you want to shake up a carton of orange juice, well, shake it. You'll get plenty of clues.

The gameplay itself is mostly quick time events, or arbitrary actions (pick up piece of paper by pulling down on the right stick, and watch passively as the next part of the story unfolds). What's interesting about this is it doesn't take long to see the entire control mechanic as being about as purposeful as turning pages in a book: you only do it to reveal the next part of the story. Sure, there are brief snatches of go-go-go, like wrestling with a robber, or controlling Ethan's car as he blasts the wrong way up a busy road, but they're few and far between. This isn't such a bad thing, but it does separate Heavy Rain from the action pack. All those kiddies with the attention spans of gnats out there will be bored with this game in about three seconds flat, so it's just as well it's aimed squarely at the older set.

How did I go most of my gaming life coming across live-action breasts only once or twice, then suddenly get them in back to back reviews? Madison Paige's pair were made very public in a video released to get gamers sweating some time ago, showing her performing a striptease. Well, suffice to say, that's not where they stop. I mention this only as another example of how this game has been made with maturity in mind. There's nothing highly pornographic or sexual about showering (titillating, maybe) but as it's a necessary part of life, and as this game holds up a mirror and sends back a starkly rendered reflection, all ablutions have been included in Heavy Rain. Not only has the nudity been handled quite tastefully, it only goes to highlight the intense graphical realism inherent in every leaf, shirt pocket or mote of dust.

It's only because of the effort that has been put into making Heavy Rain visually spectacular that a few very minor blemishes make themselves known (you could say that the walking/turning issue mentioned above is for the same reason). I'm talking teeny-tiny details here: a car driving through a puddle without making a splash, characters gliding out of the way if they're standing in an NPC's path during an animation, a heavily pixelated shadow. These work for and against the game. If you can be so picky about such things, then Heavy Rain is obviously extremely impressive. Yes? Yes, it is. This will be something gamers will take great pleasure in discovering for themselves, but let me be clear this game came very (very) close to a 10/10 for graphics.

The filmic quality of Heavy Rain would fail drastically if the story wasn't any good, but it's better than good: it hums. Supported by believable characters and that incredible setting, the narrative is absolutely gripping. After only a few hours of play, I felt like I was lightyears away from that sunny bedroom where Ethan had awoken. I found myself weaved into the lives of four very different people. Those movies where the credits roll and you feel like you have to detach yourself from the land of make believe are always the best ones. There is some of that very magic in Heavy Rain.

There are no blank spots among the characters, either. I must admit I liked watching Shelby's arc the best - you can always count on a PI to walk a rather more zig-zagged line to a killer than someone like Jayden, which makes for a more interesting ride. That said, Paige and Mars's stories are just as intense, and when things all start to wind together you ought to find yourself - ick, I have to do it - on the edge of your seat.

Some of the reactions this game provoked surprised me. After playing the preview, I didn't expect to be so affected, but - yes, just like a good movie - it was too easy to slip right in amongst all the world's troubles. Ethan's life, you can't help but feel, is getting away from him: one son is dead by the end of the prologue, and the other is [SPOILER ALERT] snatched by the Origami Killer. On the back of the box you could easily read, "Ethan Mars's life is spinning out of control!" but that's not really true. It feels more like a slow, gut-wrenching twist, and you're there to share it with him.

Heavy Rain also manages to apply a certain delicious pressure. While I was a bit negative about the controls above, they are instrumental in making choices, and that's not always as easy as it sounds. Holding L2 at any time will bring up a circling set of thoughts banging around in the character's head. You can choose to listen to any one of them. A similar thing happens when the character needs to make a decision - depending on the character's stress level, the options may shake or spin at speed. This makes it more difficult to see, read and decide quickly - simply put, it simulates the brain's difficulty in ordering thoughts and taking action under pressure. Also simply put - it's bloody brilliant.

Assessing Jayden's reaction to seeing a weapon pulled on a colleague whom he doesn't much like was one such highlight. Jayden's off-sider has been all up in the grill of a mentally disturbed man, who finally snaps and takes aim. Jayden pulls his weapon too, giving the player three options to attempt a peaceful resolution, and one at something more definite. I had been taking Jayden along the diplomatic road too much at that point, so decided to pull the trigger. [SPOILER ALERT] Perhaps the "Blunder" trophy I was awarded is telling me something...

Show me another game where you can change a baby's nappy, throw a boomerang, play with a remote control car, search a murder scene, shower, stop a suicide, and maybe catch a killer. I bet you can't do it. With an impressive number of chapters and a host of ways to play through each, you'll probably squeeze a few extra hours out of Heavy Rain even after your first play through.

Heavy Rain acts like a film in almost every way. That ability to change the character's course of direction slightly is the only - albeit quite big - difference. Watching a robbery go down with detached movie-convention-predictability and suddenly realising you have to intervene can freeze you up like Paul Henry spotting a mustache on a lady. It adds the third dimension that makes this game a game. In any case, it's an entertaining variation on screaming, "Don't go in there!" at a flickering screen in the dark. Supported by a flawless soundtrack, knowing on some level that you'll get to the end if only by accident, and that you'll enjoy the ride regardless, Heavy Rain can hardly disappoint.


The Score

Heavy Rain
"A movie comes to life in your very hands."
9.0
Excellent
Rating: R16   Difficulty: Easy   Learning Curve: 15 Min

 

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Comments (28)

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guido
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 8:08 AM Posted by guido NZGamer.com VIP
Damn it?! Now I'm gonna have to buy this game?! :-D
 
 
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RealmEnder
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 8:31 AM Posted by RealmEnder
11 February 2010, 08:08 AM Reply to guido
Damn it?! Now I'm gonna have to buy this game?! :-D
Yeah, do it. Looks good.
 
 
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nimrod76
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 8:57 AM Posted by nimrod76 NZGamer.com VIP
The good news is the wife is pretty keen on this so she can buy it :)

Really enjoyed the review but stopped reading as soon as I saw spoiler alert.

Thanks for the heads up.
 
 
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Sp3kt0r
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 10:42 AM Posted by Sp3kt0r NZGamer.com VIP
That was a good review, I'll probably just rent it though,..
Also, you said L2 was the walking button at the top :P
 
 
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apocalyptic_daydream
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 11:04 AM Posted by apocalyptic_daydream NZGamer.com VIP
I've heard of another game where you can change a baby's nappy - it's called parenting
 
 
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MA3LK
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 2:52 PM Posted by MA3LK NZGamer.com VIP
Damn all the reviews for this are in the 9 - 10 range. I might have to buy it now.
 
 
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Deanology
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 3:51 PM Posted by Deanology NZGamer.com VIP
Man.... this game sounds good..
I'm keen.
 
 
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Dogonabus
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 4:47 PM Posted by Dogonabus NZGamer.com VIP
11 February 2010, 11:04 AM Reply to apocalyptic_daydream
I've heard of another game where you can change a baby's nappy - it's called parenting
Scariest environment imaginable.
 
 
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Rapidity
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 8:01 PM Posted by Rapidity
11 February 2010, 11:04 AM Reply to apocalyptic_daydream
I've heard of another game where you can change a baby's nappy - it's called parenting
I know that game, you can shake a baby too
 
 
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Deanology
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 8:41 PM Posted by Deanology NZGamer.com VIP
11 February 2010, 08:01 PM Reply to Rapidity
I know that game, you can shake a baby too
Never shake the baby
 
 
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Rapidity
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 8:52 PM Posted by Rapidity
11 February 2010, 08:41 PM Reply to Deanology
Never shake the baby
But officer I'm sure I read it in the instruction manual?!
 
 
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Srassy
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 9:58 PM Posted by Srassy NZGamer.com VIP
Oooh, I'm glad Shelby's arc seems the most interesting because I personally thought he seemed like the coolest character. :)

Looks like I've got another purchase ahead!
 
 
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Phurdonk
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 10:40 PM Posted by Phurdonk
You know, I wasn't really interested in Heavy Rain. However, after reading this review and playing the demo, I think I might actually buy it now.
 
 
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Ruptunex
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 10:43 PM Posted by Ruptunex NZGamer.com VIP
Nice review.

I need a PS3 again....
 
 
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Oliver
On Friday 12 Feb 2010 4:23 PM Posted by Oliver NZGamer.com VIP
Got this on preorder but still don't know if I'll like it/if it's worth it. Tempted to cancel actually.
 
 
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hot_shot_9
On Saturday 13 Feb 2010 6:07 PM Posted by hot_shot_9
Demo was good, but im not gonna buy this since i get the feeling i'll only be getting 1 game up till april, 2 if im lucky.
 
 
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Dogonabus
On Sunday 14 Feb 2010 12:34 PM Posted by Dogonabus NZGamer.com VIP
12 February 2010, 04:23 PM Reply to Oliver
Got this on preorder but still don't know if I'll like it/if it's worth it. Tempted to cancel actually.
Did you make a decision? Curious.
 
 
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Solid-Snake
On Sunday 14 Feb 2010 7:55 PM Posted by Solid-Snake
Have played the demo through a few times and am slowly coming to 'grips' with the controls. I guess when most of us are used to moving characters with the left analogue stick, it'll take a little bit of time to adjust to something new. I like it though. Have been waiting for this for some time. Passed up on Assassins Creed II to get this and God of War III. Great review.
 
 
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grieving
On Sunday 14 Feb 2010 8:15 PM Posted by grieving NZGamer.com VIP
Definite purchase, even before this review and all the others.
 
 
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MA3LK
On Monday 15 Feb 2010 1:26 PM Posted by MA3LK NZGamer.com VIP
The demo was great cant wait for this
 
 
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Ron
On Tuesday 16 Feb 2010 10:41 AM Posted by Ron NZGamer.com VIP
Managed to get a play for 5-6 hrs, a lot of fun and plenty of levels. I still think there's about 2hrs+ to go.
 
 
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Dogonabus
On Tuesday 16 Feb 2010 5:29 PM Posted by Dogonabus NZGamer.com VIP
16 February 2010, 10:41 AM Reply to Ron
Managed to get a play for 5-6 hrs, a lot of fun and plenty of levels. I still think there's about 2hrs+ to go.
Was that 5-5 hours of you making Madison shower over and over again?
 
 
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phoenix121
On Tuesday 16 Feb 2010 7:32 PM Posted by phoenix121
Buying this. Looks good.
 
 
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uk_john
On Tuesday 16 Feb 2010 11:07 PM Posted by uk_john
It#s funny, I am an older enough gamer, that I remember when PC's started coming with CD's and we started getting all these so-called 'interactive movies', quite rightly, they were marked down, usually getting scores in the 30's.

Now we get games like this, with 'next-gen graphics' and in our dumbed down media-gaming world, these 'interactive movies now get 90%!

This review, this score, and this game even getting a release tells me how much trouble the gaming industry is now in.

The fact is, this game will not sell. We got the same scores and hype over Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, another game with a great story but almost no gameplay, also got scores in the high 80's/low 90's, but even though being on PC and console, it has only sold HALF of what the first Longest Journey did on PC alone!

We now get 20 hour shooters when 15 years ago they were 40 hour shooters, it's almost impossible to find AAA games that require any amount of intelligence on the part of the player and DLC doubles the cost of gaming, with game features left out, so that extra DLC can generate even more cash, and we get 'Collector's Edition's' that cost 50% more and have no more than big box games had 10+ years ago for the regular price!

This game, rather than being god's gift, is actually another nail in the coffin of gaming and if you're thinking of buying it, then here's a hammer for you....!
 
 
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SpawnSeekSlay
On Wednesday 17 Feb 2010 10:32 PM Posted by SpawnSeekSlay NZGamer.com VIP
16 February 2010, 10:41 AM Reply to Ron
Managed to get a play for 5-6 hrs, a lot of fun and plenty of levels. I still think there's about 2hrs+ to go.
Leads me onto my question, how many hours of gameplay? if its less than 10hours i may just wait and rent it when i can get it for a few days
 
 
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Ron
On Tuesday 23 Feb 2010 2:20 PM Posted by Ron NZGamer.com VIP
17 February 2010, 10:32 PM Reply to SpawnSeekSlay
Leads me onto my question, how many hours of gameplay? if its less than 10hours i may just wait and rent it when i can get it for a few days
About 12hrs of the game, give or take 1hr.
 
 
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Soyerz
On Monday 1 Mar 2010 5:58 PM Posted by Soyerz NZGamer.com VIP
I do want this. First party games normally go down in price A LOT faster which is damn helpful.
 
 
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oblivious2
On Wednesday 17 Mar 2010 10:35 PM Posted by oblivious2
16 February 2010, 11:07 PM Reply to uk_john
It#s funny, I am an older enough gamer, that I remember when PC's started coming with CD's and we started getting all these so-called 'interactive movies', quite rightly, they were marked down, usually getting scores in the 30's.

Now we get games like this, with 'next-gen graphics' and in our dumbed down media-gaming world, these 'interactive movies now get 90%!

This review, this score, and this game even getting a release tells me how much trouble the gaming industry is now in.

The fact is, this game will not sell. We got the same scores and hype over Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, another game with a great story but almost no gameplay, also got scores in the high 80's/low 90's, but even though being on PC and console, it has only sold HALF of what the first Longest Journey did on PC alone!

We now get 20 hour shooters when 15 years ago they were 40 hour shooters, it's almost impossible to find AAA games that require any amount of intelligence on the part of the player and DLC doubles the cost of gaming, with game features left out, so that extra DLC can generate even more cash, and we get 'Collector's Edition's' that cost 50% more and have no more than big box games had 10+ years ago for the regular price!

This game, rather than being god's gift, is actually another nail in the coffin of gaming and if you're thinking of buying it, then here's a hammer for you....!
if you want a great game get demons souls
 
 
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