Heavy Rain: Move Edition
Developer: Quantic Dream | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment | Release Date: 2010 | Genre: Interactive Drama / Action / Adventure | Website: n/a | Purchase: Amazon
There was a time when the term “interactive movie” meant watching a letterbox size full motion video of b-movie actors hamming their way through a clichéd script. Interactivity was often very limited and thankfully the genre quickly fell out of fashion due to the exorbitant cost involved. While Heavy Rain can be seen as a natural evolution of this genre and is actually being billed as an “Interactive drama” it thankfully bears very little resemblance to the interactive movies of yore.
This PS3 exclusive drops you in a film noir gameworld where a serial killer with a penchant for the dramatic is running amok. His chilling modus operandi involves origami figures left in the hands of his victims who are drowned. At the start of the game we are introduced to our first protagonist, Ethan Mars who is a father of two young boys. The opening moments of Heavy Rain is actually very slow as you perform mundane actions such as brushing Ethan’s teeth and shaving off his stubble. This is all just to introduce the unique control system which displays on screen prompts that you have to mimic with the controller in order to perform actions. By the time we are introduced to insomniac photographer Madison Paige, FBI profiler and private investigator, Scott Shelby, the other three protagonists the story will have picked up considerably.
The four protagonists all have their own reasons for becoming involved with the Origami killer and the story does a marvelous job of drawing you into the film noir gameworld. You control one character at a time and the action switches over to one of the other characters at certain intervals. This keeps the story moving at a brisk pace after the slow introduction and it won’t be long before you are involved in stunning action sequences and harrowing trials.
The control scheme takes some getting used to as interaction with onscreen objects require you to mimic the button presses shown on screen. During the slow paced sections you are usually given a few tries to get it right but during action sequences it turns into quick time events where pressing the wrong buttons or being too slow can alter the outcome of events and lead the story to branch in a different direction. While you are never faced with a “Game Over” screen you can definitely make some wrong choices which can influence the ending or even get your character killed. Brilliantly, even death doesn’t mean the game ends as you will just continue the story with the remaining characters.
Moving the characters feels awkward at first as you have to hold down the R2 button to set them into motion and then press the left analog stick to specify a direction. This is usually how a racing game is played so it feels very strange in an adventure title. Some of the button prompts shown on screen are also real finger twisters although it does add to the tension. Sometimes the prompts can be obscured or shaky in order to convey pressure which can be a tad frustrating at times. There are also times when the best course of action is to do nothing which can feel alien considering as gamers we are conditioned to always make a choice.
The visuals are superlative with some detailed locations and excellent characters. The motion capturing is also very well done although things can dip into the uncanny valley at times. The use of rain throughout the story adds a lot to the atmosphere and the rich background details really bring the gameworld to life. I was constantly stopping to admire how much things are happening around me and how natural everything looked. The FBI agent has a pair of augmented reality glasses which is used to investigate crime scenes and review the case data which adds another level of visual gloss to the gameplay. I found the characters to be likeable as well and became very involved in their plights.
The awesome soundtrack compliments the mood of the game perfectly and definitely adds to the spooky atmosphere. The background music never became obtrusive or grating and mixed well with the sound effects. The voice acting is generally very good with some convincing dialogue but the choice of English actors for American characters can be a bit jarring. It’s not terrible but it is definitely noticeable.
While the game is not very long I found it to be gripping all the way through although there are a few instances where the plot stumbles a bit. The game has quite a few endings depending on the choices you make so there is definitely some replay value. You will also want to go back and do things differently after completing the game to see how different scenarios play out and to earn more trophies.
While Heavy Rain is a stunning game it is not without its faults. Some players might find the controls way too restrictive because of the reliance on quick time events. Personally, I found the action sequences to be thrilling and the game does a great job of creating the illusion of danger and excitement. The autosaves means that there is no going back after making certain choices which coupled with the fact that characters can die makes for some thrilling gameplay. Despite a rather hefty installation there were still parts where the game would pause to load which is a bit distracting.
Despite a few cop outs as far as the plot is concerned I enjoyed every minute of Heavy Rain and can heartily recommend the game to anyone that loves a good adventure title. The action sequences are a lot of fun but are not going to appeal to the hardcore shooter fans. The slow start might also put off a few players so don’t give up too early or you will miss out. The special “Move” edition of the game comes with support for the motion controller and also features a host of extras such as the “Taxidermist” DLC and soundtrack. If you own a PS3 then you owe it to yourself to play this game if only to see what all the hype is about.
*Review originally published December 2011.