System: PC, PS3, PS4 | Released: Feb 2010
Developer: Quantic Dream | Reviewed On: PC
Heavy Rain turned some heads back in 2010, back then the developer's Quantic Dream had a lot of pressure to deliver something even more revolutionary and outside of the box than their previous outing Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy), and they did this whilst maintaining a compelling and awe-inspiring story full of plot twists.
Heavy Rain can possibly be described as a very evolved point and click game but with only really fundamental elements of the genre within its DNA, however many would argue it is an action-adventure game, an interactive drama, perhaps Quantic Dream has created a genre of their own or maybe the game just simply defies being labeled by a genre altogether. Whatever genre you decide best fits, it is certainly very different and incredibly ambitious. When Heavy Rain was released in 2010 the gameplay was way ahead of its time, it allowed you to interact with each scene to a point where you could visit the toilet, take a shower, brush your teeth or eat something from the fridge, all of which required very specific movement of your controller to emulate the characters actions. Jump forward to 2021 and unfortunately what we have are features you may find in any typical RPG game and controls that can appear sluggish or even just plain clunky at times. On the other hand, the action scenes are an area in which the game shines, they are intricate and intense, expecting you to hit a series of buttons in timely succession or repeatedly mash a button to break or force your way out of a brawl (my reaction and decision-making skills tested to the max). I quite often found myself on the edge of my seat, having the feeling of intensity enhanced by the knowledge that your characters can die, and at a certain point in the game, a character's death can be a consequence of the story and not a game over situation. The real choice formula has been used in games since Heavy Rain but I still feel like Quantic Dream mastered it here, the action scenes are challenging but rewarding and the consequences of choices and failures can influence the games ending, unlike some games that give the appearance of making your choices matter yet end up in the same place, here in the hands of Quantic Dream your choices can absolutely matter.
The story in Heavy Rain is that of a dark twisted but frighteningly realistic fictional drama. A serial killer, a private detective, and a father at rock bottom all play significant roles in this story, and you get to play as all of them. Heavy Rain pieces its plot together over broken scenes and a strong cast of characters seemingly unconnected, to begin with as if inspired by Quentin Tarantino's directing style. The story revealing jigsaw builds in front of your eyes as every hour goes past resulting in twists and turns that hit you like a brick wall, the realizations land suddenly on your virtual plate forcing you to place yourself in the character's shoes. Initially, you play as a seemingly typical, reasonably successful man called Ethan Mars. Ethan has a family, a nice house, a strong marriage, a good career, and a nice sunny day to play outside with his kids but needless to say, he loses big in life due to a traumatic experience that would change anyone who was dealt those cards. In a now gloomy and stormy setting with non-stop, rapidly increasing rainfall (you might say heavy rain), the character soon finds himself in a rock bottom situation, this situation becomes a driving force for the series of events that unfold. One day Ethan has a blackout and fears he has lost his son, he searches the streets surrounding the park where he last saw him but he can't find him anywhere and what's worse is the growing presence of a child serial killer on the loose. As you can probably tell already, Heavy Rain deals with some very dark situations, I certainly enjoyed getting swept up by the plot's darker material and the mystery behind the abductions but what can I say other than that I'm a sucker for a serial killer show and a who done it scenario. As the story unfolds you play as different characters to try and solve the case of the child serial killer (the origami killer) whose calling card appears to be paper origami shapes that are left behind. Each character has their own style, and their own individual reason for being drawn into the story, it can seem a slow burner to start with but it is truly worth the wait to get through introductory scenes, and much like with a good book, the moment you sense the connections of what is going on you won't be able to put it down. The plot and character-building are where Quantic Dream appears to invest their efforts and believe me they land somewhere between great and perfect in their storytelling, I can confidently say that the story content is plenty of reason alone for anyone to at least give this game a go.
So how does Heavy Rain hold up in the aesthetics department?.... Pretty well actually for a game that originally came out on the PS3, granted it had some graphical improvements in the PS4 and PC release which is the version I have been playing. Dark, moody, rain-soaked, and grim are all words to describe how it looks which clearly suits the content of the story well. The facial expressions and character models aren't perfect but they hold up pretty well considering and they would have been rather impressive on the original release, on top of that the lighting seems to hold up with that of a lot of modern games however this seems to be an element that was improved with the PS4/PC version. The music and sound FX are fantastic, ambient, tension building, and sometimes give a feeling of emptiness or loneliness at all the right moments. The whole score contributes to the suspense and thrill of certain scenes much like what you would find in a film and certainly reminiscent of a serial killer TV drama. The voice acting is fine throughout although sometimes it can come across as a bit wooden, and there is something slightly off about the way conversations can pan out. There is a thin line between whether the acting and dialogue delivery is a development and direction choice or just low budget acting and writing, possibly the latter but somehow it sort of works...most of the time.
Heavy Rain for the most part shines bright even against today's standards, although you will need to forgive the poorly aged control system and sometimes very odd dialogue to get lost in its world, thankfully the ambition of the game and the story make it easier to get engrossed. Heavy Rain gets you involved with the intricacies every step of the way and some of its defining moments are when the game gets you to put yourself in the shoes of the characters, prompting you to ask difficult questions of yourself in those situations and ultimately choosing between a compromised, a bad or a less than good outcome. The game looked great in 2010 and still delivers reasonably well today so long as you take a step back and don't expect it to look like a newly released title. Thumbs up to developers on this one as I managed to thoroughly enjoy the game twice with a 10-year gap between.