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Heavy Rain Review

In 1895 the Lumière brothers made the first ever motion film and now in 2010 the French, in David Cage, are reinventing the cinema again albeit in a new medium via the Playstation 3. This is no ordinary game, its story is told in a completely unique method; “Thank you for supporting Interactive Drama”, it’s the first trophy you obtain (they are awarded during loading screens to avoid ruining immersion) and it says it all. This is an incredible Film Noir thriller of a game and the best thing about Heavy Rain? Its corrected all of Quantic Dreams’ faults from their previous effort Fahrenheit and made one the best games of this generation.

Don’t be mistaken into thinking this is a video game of a movie though because it is not, this is more akin to a TV series with its episodic nature and slowly unravelling plot. It drip feeds you with information and drama slowly whilst revealing clues as to the Origami Killer’s identity as you progress. Its a masterclass in pacing similar to and influenced by Seven, Saw and Silence Of The Lambs as well as TV series such as The Sopranos and The Wire. Thankfully the plot does not reach the ridiculous levels of fantasy that completely ruined Fahrenheit as it all stays within the confines of reality… well except for the ARI glasses.

Almost every scene in the game is magnificent, and varied as you go from one scene consisting solely of Ethan and his son Shaun going through house hold chores to you narrowly avoiding death in a car compacter. But its not just the individual scenes that are great though, its how they all join together with a harmony that creates a story with a beginning, middle and an end. Heavy Rain certainly starts off slow with a tutorial involving shaving and brushing your teeth but as the pace builds up these actions you’ve learnt become life saving. Although it can be argued that the more mundane tasks such as drinking orange juice and laying the table can feel more fulfilling than the more imperative life saving tasks later on.

Heavy Rain is not afraid to pull any emotional punches with Shaun telling his dad that he does not blame him for Jason’s, his brother, death. Its powerful stuff and concludes a scene which effectively sets up the main story of the game. Thanks to the facial motion capture all the characters feel real possessing real emotions add weight and gravitas to the dialogue, I can;t think of another game that features acting as good as this other than Uncharted 2. Unfortunately the acting is not flawless with the occasional clunky dialogue, e.g. characters explaining what they are doing when the actions don’t require a commentary. David Cage does have enough confidence in his screen performances that he is not afraid to let scenes end lingering on a character’s face showing emotions without being over the top. A lot of care and attention has gone into Heavy Rain and it shows.

Switching between the four characters is hugely satisfying with them all seeking the Origami Killer you unveil the story from 4 different angles and as the game progresses their story’s overlap with finesse. The Origami Killer is a great conception and the more you learn about them the more intrigued you are to find out who they are. I can honestly say I never managed to figure out who the killer was until they were revealed. As a typical film noir there are plenty of twists and turns along the way, especially when the pace picks up, it keeps you guessing and enthralled until the credits roll.

Unfortunately one of the annoying “quirks” from Fahrenheit remains in Heavy Rain and that is making your protagonist walk. Its mighty difficult sometimes to get them to turn and face where you want them to, many a time i found myself going in circles or missing doorway etc.. The problem with the controls is that they move like a car in that you hold R2 to make them accelerate/walk and you steer with the left stick, only problem is it can be hard to judge which direction they’re heading in.. Fortunately you’re never required to move quickly or precisely to avoid danger etc so it never hinders your progress and only causes mild frustration.

Heavy Rain is unlike any other game released at the moment and is a truly unique in a genre of its own, it can only be best compared to the point-and-click genre. It’s also one of the most melancholic and harrowing video game experiences I’ve ever seen portrayed in video games. This is a mature game with mature themes for adults, there’s no cartoon violence or excessive swearing seen in other “mature” games and the video game industry is all the richer for having it. Its an unmissable title which shows what else can be done in video games other than putting a gun/sword in the protagonist’s hand. I hope other developers follow suit as there needs to be more variation, especially when it is this outstanding.

*Played to its conclusion once and some chapters were selectively replayed.

This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Heavy Rain provided by Quantic Dream.