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February 25, 2010
Heavy Rain - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
25/2/2010SonySonyQuantic Dream1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Note the fantastic use of lighting.
So when is a game not a game? When is a movie truly interactive? How often do we get truly original games that push new boundaries, open up new opportunities and present something totally unique?. Heavy Rain is the game set to answer all those questions, and in doing so may become of the most exciting titles released in recent times.

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...

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Visually Heavy Rain is stunning.
When I was a youngster I remember reading those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books which, upon reaching various pages, gave you a choice to take the story one way or another. That is the same with Heavy Rain in that your choices ultimately affect the outcomes, and your actions, or perhaps your lack of can also result in the deaths of one of more of the four main characters in the story. Should they die, they are then written out of the story, and this may affect the other characters.

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!

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Plenty of options on offer...
As you play through the games you will be given an opportunity to enter conversations with other characters and it's possible to guide the course of these conversations by pressing the button that corresponds with the focus you want to take. Similarly you can also get the "inner thoughts" of your character in a similar manner. There are two minor niggles we had here though. Firstly in several of the conversations you will follow a line of questioning, then revert back to the options for the next choice before you've gone through them all anyway. It seems like a cheat. Also, at some points in the game you need to, rather quickly, make your choice, but they often overlap each other making it hard to distinguish which button to press for your desired response. This should have been fixed prior to release.

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.

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Private investigator Scott Shelby in Heavy Rain.
Expected to be released starting in a couple of weeks is downloadable content for Heavy Rain. This DLC will be known as "Heavy Rain Chronicles" and serves to tell the back story to several characters in the game including one which will allow you to play as the Origami killer, another will allow you to play as Norman Jayden and a third as Madison Paige. As yet we are unsure of the cost, or amount of content, but at least the opportunity will be available to explore the, already intriguing, characters further.

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.

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A clue from the Origami Killer perhaps?
Finally we have the graphical glitches which involved some clipping issues, a camera being placed "inside" a character models and some animation skips occasionally. Now each of these issues could have been placed in their relevant areas in this review, but they weren't something to gloss over and did impact on gameplay. Furthermore while we initially suspected it may be our review disc, which are often made before the retail version thus introducing some issues, a small percentage of gamers are reporting similar issues in forums since purchasing the retail version.

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,

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Oh look, rain, in Heavy Rain!
Without a doubt one aspect of this game that Quantic Dream really nailed was the audio. That is, of course, besides the very occasional glitches detailed above. The voice work is simply superb with all voice actors sounding absolutely superb with brilliant scriptwriting adding to each characters charm and personality. Sound effects too are impressive with a natural, life-filled, enveloping sound field that really places you in the locations be it a child-filled park, the bustling city streets or busy police station.

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

GRAPHICSMotion capture work is superb, visuals vary from near photo-realistic to a little less while there are occasional glitches.
SOUNDSome of the best music we have ever heard from a game, great voicework too. But we had a couple of dialogue dropouts?!
GAMEPLAYIs this a game? Is this an interactive movie? Who knows... The controls could have been better but the story is engrossing.
VALUEIt probably took about 6-7 hours to play through once, but will be played through several more times. DLC is on the way too.
OVERALLDespite the technical issues Heavy Rain is one of the most engrossing, engaging and unique games of this generation. Quantic Dream have repaid the faith Sony had in them, and we highly recommend this title to all. If you're still on the fence, at the very least, give the demo on the Playstation Store a shot. Great stuff...

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