Heavy Rain is developed in France by Quantic Dream whose last release, Fahrenheit, or Indigo Prophecy as it was known in North America, remains one of the most original games on the PS2, and is still one of our favourite titles on the platform given a spin on occasion to this very day.
In 2011 a city on the US easy coast is being terrorised by the 'Origami Killer', whose victims are all discovered drowned, four days after they go missing. Seemingly the only clues: an origami figure and an orchid, discovered on each of their bodies. The public is gripped by fear and paranoia. The authorities seem no closer to a credible suspect. And now another potential victim has disappeared - Shaun Mars.
As the clock ticks amidst suspicion and anxiety, four very different people, father Ethan Mars, photographer Madison Paige, FBI profiler Norman Jayden and private investigator Scott Shelby, are drawn into the investigation - each following their own leads in a desperate search for Shaun. Each of them knows what the cost will be if they don't reach him in time - and they will soon be forced to ask themselves just how far they are prepared to go...
This truly is brilliant and while there are some moments which stretch the limits of believability, including one scene in particular in a police station which would have certainly seen your character being questioned by other police officers and probably thrown into a cell, and a few too many red herrings which have you looking at various characters before that leads to nothing. Still, we have almost never seen a game with such a detailed storyline, and engrossing characters. We must point out that while there isn't a tremendous amount of gratuitous violence, there are mature themes surrounding the child murders, and also nudity and a sex scene to justify the MA15+ rating.
But what about the gameplay? Well movement of the four characters is performed by holding down R2 and using the left analogue stick to move the character around the environment. Throughout the levels you will find things to do to investigate, but also perform day-to-day tasks including brushing your teeth, having a shower, changing a babies nappy, making some food and having a drink. While many events require you to move the analogue stick or press the buttons Heavy Rain also makes use of the PS3's tilt sensing abilities, and to good effect too. Some tasks will as you to shake the controller, tip it from side to side, or swipe it from side to side. It actually, really, works too!
At some points in the game you will enter fights, chases, or battles where Quick Time Events (QTE's) come into play. You know the type, push the required button or direction on the analogue stick before the timer runs out. What makes this the impressive is that the time you get to press the correct button varies depending on the action on screen. If it's a fast, frantic fight you may get a fraction of a second. If it's a slower scene or event you may have a couple of seconds. If you really hate QTE's then this gameplay element may not impress you, but if there was ever a game to change your mind on this gameplay style then Heavy Rain may be that game.
So what about issues? The biggest has to do with controls. We simply have no idea why the developers decided that to walk around you would have to hold down R2 as well as using the analogue stick. It just complicates things and while just moving the analogue stick has your character look around, why not map that to holding down R2. You're going to do a lot more walking around then looking.
So what other issues did we encounter? Well sadly, despite all the hype, the promise, the lengthy development time and the massive push for the game from Sony were disappointed to find glitches throughout the game. There were three main issues. One involved the audio, and in particular dialogue, dropping out during cut-scenes. This occurred twice with dialogue disappearing for around 30 seconds each time. The next item involved the game freezing which occurred once during our play through. The release of a 226MB 1.01 patch may fix some issues, but we don't have the complete changelog to confirm.
It has been nearly four years since we saw that phenomenal tech video at E3 2006 called 'The Casting' which showed a woman talking about various emotions before putting the gun to her head (you can still see copies of the clip here, and it's actually included as an unlockable bonus on this disc). While that scene isn't a part of Heavy Rain it set a benchmark which, we're happy to say, Quantic Dream have met for the most part. Some of the characters, and scenes, really are close to photo-realistic and while the game may not contain the most detailed locations there is a fair amount of interactivity on or with many of the objects. Effects such as lighting, and the rain,
Eclipsing all this however is the phenomenal music score which truly is Hollywood quality. Composed by Normand Corbeil the music really encompasses so much of the emotion and drama of this game. We have to admit that it becomes a little repetitive, but given that this game runs for several times the length of an average movie, that's more then acceptable.
Wow! What a unique, intriguing, delightful title. Sadly there are some technical issues with the game at times, but the experience, multiple pathways, and superb scriptwriting makes this an "experience" worth, well, experiencing. We've played though the game a couple of times now to see how the characters and stories change depending on your actions, and will return several more times. Heavy Rain is what many would call a "flawed masterpiece", but it's one which I highly recommend...
Review By: Dave Warner