[Check out Jeff's second opinion in this updated review!]
With one of the biggest marketing campaigns for a video game in recent history, Heavy Rain arrived under a shadow of uncertainty. Quantic Dream had claimed that their latest title was, without doubt, the most interactive video game ever made. Early reviews, on the other hand, remarked more upon its imperfect execution rather than its ability to entertain.
For such a huge release, and under the expectation that each player’s experience would be entirely different to everyone else, it seemed only fitting that Gamer Limit allowed two writers to review Heavy Rain.
Read on to find out if we have indeed entered a new age of gaming.
I may be a fan of Jim Sterling and his ability to piss off 90% of the gaming community, but that doesn’t mean that I take his absurd “journalism” any more seriously than you.
It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that I took his pre-release Heavy Rain review with a grain of salt. While he touched on several worrisome points in the article, I still had faith that the Fahrenheit developer would be able to pull off a massive victory for interactive gaming.
Right from the get-go, playing Heavy Rain is something entirely different to the norm. Even something as simple as moving your character is turned on its head to suit the PS3 controller. While this is at first frustrating, you’ll soon come to understand the need for such a dramatic overhaul in peripheral logistics.
Quick Time Events are core to Heavy Rain, and adjusting your styling of gaming to suit is imperative. While I’ll be the first person to picket against the overuse of QTE – and trust me, there are plenty in this game that are unnecessary, if not downright ridiculous – Quantic Dream has managed to use this oft-despised feature to their advantage. I dare say that there was no moment in the game more thrilling than racing along a highway, against traffic, while scanning the screen for the next QTE in order to save my character from certain death. And that sequence is just one of many.
I’m not going to bore you with plot points, because frankly, you need to let the story unfold in front of your eyes. Heavy Rain believes in its story entirely, and if you are unable to delve into the world of a serial killer and their victims, you won’t be able to appreciate Quantic Dream’s offering for what it is.
Throughout the game you will command four main characters, as well as a couple of sub-characters as the story progresses; fans of Fahrenheit will doubtless enjoy the fan-service paid to them in one particular sequence. The story unfolds much like a book, which isn’t surprising considering the sort of wrap this game was getting from its developers throughout production. Each “sequence” could be considered a chapter, and you are given a wide range of options at any one time; you may decide to do everything possible to obtain specific information or items, or you may choose to do nothing at all – all choices have consequences.
This is where the excitement of Heavy Rain lies: in the ability to see the consequences of your actions. Whether these actions are as vast as once proclaimed by the developer is debatable, but the fact of the matter is that there is something truly invigorating about knowing that, without your intervention, your character could die at any moment.
I like to think that I have a high tolerance for bugs and glitches; game testing will do that to you. However, when a title has been so heavily touted as providing an “interactive experience”, one expects to be delivered a near-perfect piece of gaming.
Heavy Rain is no such title. It’s actually quite depressing to see a game that has so much intensity, and such a unique outlook on how a game can be played, fall victim to bugs that should have been picked up in, if not the early stages of production, at least the final once over before the game was shipped. Quantic Dream should take a long hard look at their QA department and apologize to their supportive fans – they definitely don’t deserve a broken game.
Unfortunately, the flaws in Heavy Rain are going to be made more prominent than the elements that make it such an entertaining game. Audio cuts out at random moments, putting speech bizarrely out of sync. Loading screens freeze, characters glitch and catch when walking around objects, and fellow Gamer Limit staff members have even experienced outright system crashes. While I can’t attest to the last problem, I encountered every other bug on more than one occasion.
Flaws are flaws, and there isn’t much we can do about it now. Let’s just hope that Quantic Dream releases a patch fast so that more gamers can enjoy what all of their time and effort has produced.
It’s a strange thing writing about a game that has so many problems, but still thinking fondly of it on a daily basis. Sure, there are plenty of glitches. Sure, a few of the characters are stereotypical bores that do nothing more than attempt to tug at your heartstrings. And sure, the graphics are far less impressive than what the PlayStation 3 is capable of.
But Heavy Rain is something that is just so different. I can’t remember the last time a game managed to jerk me out of my seat from the sheer intensity of a situation. I haven’t immersed myself in a game’s storyline as much as Heavy Rain’s for years, and I doubt I’ll emotionally connect to so many characters anytime soon.
Naysayers will have a cry, and they’ll complain that they didn’t get the whole package; after all, Heavy Rain is a victim of its own hype – like so many others. But when you look past all the imperfections and tattered edges, you may just find something that gaming has been waiting for.
Character models are extremely disappointing, but the city itself, and the beautiful rain-drenched environments are exceptional.
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The glitches will doubtlessly frustrate some gamers, but don’t let that take away from the originality and intensity involved in each sequence.
The music plays an integral role in Heavy Rain, and it will doubtless have an impact on your decisions.
One playthrough will only set you back about 8-10 hours, but with so many different options made available, you may very well be heading back for a second or third turn.
Heavy Rain is a flawed gem. The glitches are disappointing – Quantic Dream certainly knows that. But what lies beneath is so exquisite that you should make up your own mind about it.
A second opinion: by Jeff Effendi
While it’s only been a week or so since Heavy Rain’s release, the addition of another, more delayed perspective has been beneficial for this alternate opinion. The hype train’s slowed a little, and so has my fat-kid-in-a-cake-shop excitement regarding Quantic Dream’s latest QTE. I’ve had more time to think through my experiences with the game, more Heavy Rain-based articles by Jim Sterling to read, and all the time in the world to gather my thoughts.
You’ve probably heard it before, but Heavy Rain isn’t your run-of-the-mill game. You can’t classify it as an action adventure, a shooter, an RPG and what have you; it’s a game based on how quick you respond to floating buttons on-screen. As tedious as it sounds, you’ll be surprised to find that it actually scores some points for being immersive. You, as a gamer, control almost every action that’s taking place. Whether it’s taking out your asthma inhaler, brushing your teeth, or pulling the trigger of a gun; you’re in control. When you’re playing as Dad of the Year, Ethan, you’re right inside his shoes. When you’re playing as drug-addicted FBI profiler, Norman Jayden, you go through the motions he is.
That’s what’s commendable about Heavy Rain; the developers clearly wanted you to be absorbed by these characters, and they succeed in nearly every respect. With numerous personal moments only you get to witness, from Ethan’s ‘challenges’ to Scott’s visits to the victims’ families, they have a sense of ‘home’ to them. You’re no longer a stranger playing this videogame, you’ve been invited to see their world and solve their crime. In that sense, it resonates on a personal level.
Along the grizzly rain-drenched adventure, moral choices also play a significant role later in the endgame. The moments in Heavy Rain, while limited, were intense and well done. While the purposes of some of the scenes come across as obscure or ambiguous at times, most of them become relevant as you close in on the Origami Killer. Almost every scene seems to play a part, and almost every moment feels intensely gripping. Not every game can get you to cringe, laugh, shout, sympathize and hate. Even so, to me, only Heavy Rain has succeeded in allowing its players to empathize with its characters.
Right, onto the experiences I hated. Despite all the elegance of the game’s polished production, engaging moral choices and palm-soaking scenes, Heavy Rain does trip over at times.
Firstly, some of the scenes were so damn pointless to the game’s climatic end. For a videogame that runs for less than 10 hours, Quantic Dream could’ve filled every ‘chapter’ with a purpose. There are not a whole lot of scenes in the game, and while most carry significance, those that aren’t should’ve been scrapped. In fact, these chapters even at times provide for plot holes that aren’t addressed by the end of the game. This is wasted space; they could’ve added more weight and meaning to the story if only they omitted the useless scenes. Just like a TV show, the number of episodes in a season means that every episode counts. Filler episodes, just like Heavy Rain’s obscure scenes, do not impress and add nothing to the ‘show.’
Second, the characters move like PlayStation Home avatars. As you all know, these avatars move like Sean Kingston… except they’re thinner. They’re painfully sluggish and take you right off the immersion during the more ‘physical’ moments of the game. When you’re looking for your kid in a shopping mall or a subway station, you don’t stroll or power walk, Ethan, you run. The character movements are extremely stiff at times, and they may even work against you during the time-limited scenes in the game. Holding down R2 to walk doesn’t make any sense to me. Characters can get ‘stuck’ in the environment; you can fiddle for a good 5-10 seconds just to try and get out of that one, stupid spot. For a game that relies on immersion and emotional involvement, not being able to rush and run during the urgent moments is dumb.
All in all, Heavy Rain is still undoubtedly one of the most intense entertainment experiences of my life. There are a few things that are to be noted though before we wrap up – mainly disagreements with Simon’s view on the game. The visuals, while they aren’t Uncharted 2, boast some of the most detailed character models this generation. Personally, I didn’t experience any glitches, bugs, freezes and/or system crashes either. I think the Origami Killer twist was underwhelming, and David Cage and his team could’ve done more to answer every plot hole while keeping the ‘shock value’ of the killer’s identity intact.
Heavy Rain isn’t so much a videogame as it is an experience. It doesn’t supersede its older brother, Indigo Prophecy, in terms of ambience and gameplay, but it does provide an enthralling, emotionally involving experience that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s a game that certainly creates a sense of urgency successfully, unlike a certain BioWare game.
Just picture Megan Fox and her eyebrow-raising thumb and compare it to Heavy Rain: sure she’s flawed, but let’s be fair and admire the whole package. Megan Heavy Rain, I love you.
Alternate opinion overall score: 9.0/10