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Heavy Rain PS3 Review

 

Score
94%
Summary
Okay, in many ways not a traditional game, but the graphics and unique gameplay will astound you. Not the future of gaming, so to speak, but certainly a clever take on the genre...you'll be thinking and talking about this game for a long time.


Back in 1999, Quantic Dream released a quirky title called Omikron: The Nomad Soul which I reviewed for PCGameworld way back when. The title showed a lot of promise, and made it clear Quantic Dream had no interest in making standard games. They wanted to take things to a different level, and they certainly succeeded with Omikron. I really liked the game, and it's follow-up Indigo Prophecy which also boasted interesting takes on the gaming genre. What I didn't like about those titles was how strange they were. Everything was good with the twist on gameplay, but the games themselves bordered on the psychadelic. After having watched trailer after trailer of Heavy Rain I hoped this one would be rooted a bit more in reality. Luckily, this is the case.

 

To get the most important part of the game out of the way, yes, the graphics will stun you. People move realistically, and there is no zombie effect, no dead eyes that take away the realism. These character models are damn near perfect, the sort we have been promised for so long I forgot exactly when the promises started. The above screenshot gives you just a hint of the graphics, illustrating how well they got even mirror effects. Think back to the original XBox demos...people thought it was amazing that there were semi-realistic water effects in that. This goes far and above, offering a level of graphical intensity unmatched by any game I have played so far. Any game.

Games aren't all about graphics, though I would say you could just sit and watch this one for hours and be entertained. Intead, Quantic Dream wants to immerse players in a universe, in a world that seems so close to reality you'll find yourself caring about the characters as they go through their trials on screen. The first way to immerse you is to make the controls as seamless as possible. There's nothing natural about using an analog stick to walk, but Heavy Rain makes it feel a right as can be. Most of the action on the screen occurs from button combinations, shaking the controller and a variety of other inputs. The game takes full use of the Sixaxis controller.

The story is touching. One of the four characters you will play, Ethan, watched his son die after losing him in a mall. He'd previously been a successful architect with what appeared to be the perfect family. After that, he is destroyed, a shell of himself, and struggling to maintain a relationship with his remaining son. Well, after Ethan suffers from a blackout, he loses his second son, only to discover he has been captured by the Origami Killer, someone running through the streets of the city murdering young boys and leaving an origami figure in their hand. You must track down the killer as Ethan, but also as private investigator Scott Shelby and FBI agent Norman Jayden. Each character has a different angle and the story goes in and out of their lives as they race to find Ethan's son.

You're forced to make extremely difficult decisions in Heavy Rain and this si one of the best features of the game. Every action has a reaction, and characters will react to you later in the game in response to earlier events. In a very interesting twist, your character can die and the story will move forward. There are several different endings to the game (all with the same killer of course) and many surprises along the way. Quantic Dream put a lot of effort into making this a storytelling vehicle. In some ways, the gameplay itself suffers, but that's part of the equation.

Some gamers might be put off by the lack of 'real' gameplay here. The game works for me, but I like murder mysteries and movies like that and this seemed like a very immersive interactive movie. I cared for the characters and wanted good things to happen for them. I also felt a bit in control. The game does let you do things your own way. The below video will give you an idea of what you have to do in the game, but understand, it is a bit of a spoiler. It won't give too much plot away, but it is one of the most shocking parts of the game and you might want to witness it for yourself in game first. It is a little violent, so consider that before watching.

Pretty amazing, huh. Take note of the way you can get into your character's head, really understand what they are thinking, and then guide them through something so awfully difficult. I felt like I was right there when I played through this scene. The sense of realism amazed me. That happens a lot during the game, between the graphics, the choices you have to make and the results of your actions. Nothing of course, could prepare me for the the big revelation at the end. Truly inspired.

The argument will rage on about whether or not this is a game in the traditional sense. I don't think it really matters. What does is how perfectly Quantic Dream pulled this off. It's obvious a cinematic game had been their goal for years, perhaps since Omikron and they have finally achieved it. Kudos for that. This is digital enterainment, the sort of game your non-gamer friends or significant others will not mind watching while you play. As a matter of fact, they will love to watch, and want to know what is going to happen next. Imagine being able to play a game on date night. Utopia is within our grasp.

There's a free demo at the Playstation Store and I highly recommend playing it first. Like I said, some gamers are put off by the gameplay here. It's a matter of taste, and sixty bucks is sixty bucks. The game achieves its goal with near perfection and I really have a hard time believing someone would hate it. I am sure someone will. That's the thing about taste; we all interpret it differently.

Highs: The absolute best graphics and facial animation seen anywhere. Weather effects and ambient sounds are stunning as well. A unique twist on gameplay and plot that make the player feel a part of the world they are watching. Truly immersive.

Lows: Might put some people off with the non-standard gameplay. Some endings don't make much sense, as if there is a desired outcome no matter what you do. All of the boys in the game seem to have the same voice. Some of the acting a little stiff.

 

Score: 94/100

 
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