Heavy Rain Review (PS3)
Everything I have read about Heavy Rain leads me to the same conclusion – this game is a critic’s wet dream. “Exhausting, exhilarating, and, crucially, involving” (PS Magazine). “Powerful and emotionally engaging narrative” (GameSpot). You get the point. It manages to push all the right “critic” buttons: innovative, graphics driven, and story rich.
The game reminds of me of all those sad depressing artsy movies about special people that somehow manage to win the Oscars time and time again. Those movies that are lauded for their craft, composition, and story; those movies that suck all the fun out of life and that I avoid at all costs.
For critics, fun seems like just another tag line. If you have enough of the other check boxes marked off, fun becomes unnecessary. In computer games, the critic’s hard candy (right now anyway) seems to be graphics and story. Heavy Rain has both, but it is incredibly short on fun, which for me is really the point of any good game.
When I was first presented with the game, it was described as being a new take on the adventure game. After having played it, I found that it rides the line between adventure game and interactive movie, leaning more heavily on the movie side.
Which translates into a lot of sitting around and watching. But even the interactive parts are incredibly slow and dreamlike resulting in much more of a movie experience then a game experience.
And when I say slow, I mean like watching paint dry. The first night I played, a few of my cohorts joined so they could check out the game. They both fell asleep – hell, I almost fell asleep and I was the one playing. No one would join me to play anymore after that night. Frankly, I almost didn’t play again, but the mystery had me intrigued. Curiosity killed the cat and all that.
At the end of the first night I swore I would never play again, that the game was crap and my time could be better spent on almost anything else. After sleeping on it, the irritation blurring a bit, I wondered if maybe I was being too harsh and that it might actually improve.
Two more nights were wasted with this ridiculous cycle. Play, quit extremely irritated, sleep, wake wondering if it would get better enough to actually figure out the mystery.
After the third night of playing I was so disgusted with the game and myself for wasting even more time on it, that I went online right then and looked up the solution. Best decision I have made in a long time.
Looking up the answer cured me of all interest in playing the game. In fact it helped solidify my absolute loathing of the game. The person who ends up being the bad guy…totally ridiculous!! UGH!!
So yeah my experience was a bit different then most critics’ out there. A little more to the tune of: It was boring, emotionally manipulative and the story not only had plot holes the size of Texas, but also made no sense. The characters were all completely unlikable, irresponsible, and incomprehensible.
Release date: February 23 2010
Genre: Interactive Drama
World and Story
This seems like the most appropriate place to begin as the game is primarily focused on the story. (I will do my best to keep this review spoiler free!)
At its core, the story is about a serial killer who drowns kids in rainwater. The player experiences the events through the lives of four different characters as the story unfold in the search for the latest victim.
The cast of characters in order of appearance are:
-The Dad has the privilege of being the game opener. We get to live his downfall into a scruffy pathetic mess. He goes from Dad galore, to a man who is severely depressed and has huge black outs. He does all he can to find his missing son.
-The Dick, or Private Eye – fat, aging, and a drunk. He is researching the murders. Eventually joined by a grieving mother, looking for revenge.
-The FBI agent has by far the best most interesting bits of the game. His forensic collection device is incredibly fun and interesting to use and frankly I would have loved if the game had just focused on that feature. The man himself, also another mess – drug addict. He is the newest guy in the investigation.
-The Dame comes in rather late. Even she is a mess, insomnia and nightmares drive her to seek sleep in seedy motels around town, which is how she meets The Dad. She seems to be solely a love interest.
Lovely cast of characters really. (← sarcasm)
The setting itself is very film noire with dark city locals and lots of rain. This is highlighted in the passage of time, which is marked not only by date and hour, but also by how much rain has fallen, water level.
It’s moody and broody and makes you want to sit back with a snifter and smoke. Sadly instead of being hard hitting, like a film noir should be, it whimpers, whines, and complains of hurt feelings.
Realism is back and it is indeed impressive. They did an incredible job on the graphics, and yet, despite all the effort, the realism just isn’t quite real enough. My technical side is impressed; my human side is still creeped out.
Although the models look really good, they tend a bit to the waxy and have movement transitions that appear very stiff. Here is where the realism can come and bit you in the ass, because the models look pretty darn human the little inconsistencies stand out all the more.
Of course the water should be mentioned. It is quite the star of the game after all, and it is certainly star worthy. The developers obviously felt so as they highlighted the awesome power of their water emulation engine by putting it on display in various loading screens.
When its not water, the chapter loading screen has the upcoming character looking out of the TV and around the room almost as if they too were waiting for the load to finish. Nothing like staring at a model for two to five minutes as you wait for the game to load. If that isn’t a blatant cry for graphics worshiping, I don’t know what is.
Sadly, putting game play third seems about right. Much of the game is not really, what I would call, filled with “game play”.
The controls are odd, and take a little time to get used too, but the entire beginning two hours is there just so you can get used to them. The most difficult for me to get used to was the push R1 to walk. I believe the idea for this was to free up the joy sticks for other things.
Most interactive parts are essentially just button prompts, also called Quick Time Events. Push X to brush your teeth (I’m not making that up, its really an option!), hold down O to pick up a bottle, or shake the controller to brush off some lint.
There is another dimension to the prompts as they also specify how to push the buttons, whether to spam them, or to hold them, or to softly push them, turn or twist or drop them. (Okay I made up that last one.)
Know the buttons and their associate symbols well before you play this game.
Supposedly various decisions and actions you take in the game will change the ending, so if you would like to see the alternate endings you must play through it again.
Single Player only.
Things that bothered me
-Attempted emotional manipulation
The entire opening sequence is about the Dad. He wakes up, you move him around, getting him dressed and washed. It’s slow and completely odd performing such menial tasks, but it allows for low stress learning of the controls.
The thing that really bothers me is that the whole set up is supposed to make you empathize with the character. He chats with his wife; he sets the dinner table, and plays with his kids. I can’t explain how much of his time is spent staring at his children with a soothing dreamy melody playing in the background. The only thing missing from the pictures is a huge neon sign that screams PARENTAL LOVE.
All this emotional manipulation did exactly the opposite for me. I despised the time I had to spend with the Dad, mocked his decisions, bemoaned his stupidity, and generally rushed through his bits as fast as possible.
Thankfully none of the other characters had any sort of back story at all, which left me room to like or dislike them for their current selves.
I seriously dislike being pushed around, especially emotionally. And this game is about as huge of an emotional bully as it gets. Seen any tear jerker movies lately? Don’t need to, just play Heavy Rain!
According to the blurb on the back of the game case “every action you take has consequences”. Here’s the thing, the story is about a killer who kidnaps a kid. There are four people involved and one of them did it. How much wiggle room is there really? Well it didn’t feel like much at all. Not once did I actually think that any of my actions would have consequences.
Oh sure you could chose not to follow the leads and puzzles, but there isn’t anything else to do, so really what sort of choice is that?
The other sort of “choice” I was given was either succeeding or failing in the mad button mashing game. In the end that’s not much of a choice either.
Maybe I would have to play it again to notice the differences, maybe the choices add up at the end. I don’t really know, but from what I have read there aren’t that many alternate endings. Whatever the case I’m not finding out, because this game is getting the boot.
Which leads me to the third most irritating thing about the game, the controls.
I don’t like being surprised with sudden button mashing. The game is so darn mellow that the bursts of sudden (very brief) action are almost out of place. And then to make matters worse they up the difficulty level by shaking the image of the button prompt around so it is hardly readable.
-Could go on and on and on…
…but I won’t because the review is already too long. I probably should have dubbed this section “Things I liked about the game”. Would have greatly reduced the length.
Six hours played, spread over three nights, which means I got about halfway through the game. It also means I am very much done with the game. Now I just have to find a willing victim to dump it on.
I certainly was curious. I am certainly no longer curious. In fact I wouldn’t mind if a future me had gone back in time and told the past me to really not bother with the game. Maybe if the future me had just spoiled the ending right away, the past me might never have wasted three entire nights on the game.
Kotaku: Heavy Rain Videos better than Heavy Rain