How far will you go to save someone you love?
From the tagline alone, Heavy Rain immediately lets you know what you’re in for. In early 2010, David Cage (director of both Fahrenheit and Beyond: Two Souls) brought PS3 gamers across the world to their knees with the release of Heavy Rain, which tells an emotional story of perseverance, loss and mystery as you navigate the emotional whirlwind of losing a child. The game has you undertake the role of 4 main protagonists who are all, in some variation, linked to the case of a missing boy, suspected to have been taken by a relentless and calculating serial killer. Across the 10-hour narrative, we are presented with punishing choices, exciting action sequences and shocking revelations as the mysterious kidnapping of Shaun Mars unfolds before us.
The story revolves around Ethan Mars, a single father who is thrust into a world of pain and adversity after the disappearance of his son, seemingly taken by the elusive ‘Origami Killer’. Upon discovery, Ethan must act as a pawn in a much larger game if he ever wants to see his son again.
The game will have you frequently shift from the perspective of Ethan to one of the other 3 main characters. Madison Page is a young photographer with chronic insomnia, only finding sleep when she checks into motels. Here, she meets Ethan and acts as a confidant to help aid the search for his son. Norman Jayden is an intelligent and thoughtful detective tasked with working alongside the FBI to save Shaun Mars, and Scott Shelby is a ruthless, no-nonsense Private Investigator, tirelessly tracking down the culprit. While each character has their own agendas, they will often cross paths resulting in some of the titles best moments.
The game starts with a simple, yet engaging focus on Ethan’s normal day-to-day life. This allows us to bond with the character, which makes it all the more heart-breaking when his life takes a turn for the worse. Once introductions subside, however, the game plunges into a darker and more sombre affair with the first of its exceptional plot twists.
To add to the pre-determined story elements, Heavy Rain’s atmospheric and hard-hitting narrative comes with many branching dialogue choices, alongside drastic consequences based on your success or failure to perform an action. Excitement builds late in the game after each character is presented with tense and morally-grey decisions, with the story simply continuing onward should any of the 4 playable characters meet their end, allowing for immense replay value as uncovering a new ending each time is extremely satisfying.
The shift in tone is jarring and sudden, as the game quickly starts to show its true colours in the first few hours. Complementing the rapid tonal change, the games colour palette of murky browns and harsh greys is incredibly overbearing, especially following the playful, light-hearted introduction.
Despite Heavy Rain boasting one of the very best narratives you’ll find in the realm of video games, the gameplay can often feel clunky and outdated. Set out like a traditional adventure title, Heavy Rain has you awkwardly navigating each area, interacting with items or people by using the right analogue on the Dualshock controller in a series of prompted directions. While the game starts out slow, early sections will feel like you’re fighting a losing battle against the wonky control scheme, as you endlessly walk into walls and up and down flights of stairs thanks to the constant and unwanted camera changes. Why this couldn’t have been fixed by a simply ‘point and click’ system is beyond me.
Action scenes continue the trend of unimaginative gameplay, as you are often suddenly thrust into long and drawn out quick time events, where failure to adhere to the troublesome gameplay can drastically change the outcome of the story.
The game’s presentation, however, is nothing short of flawless. While the PlayStation 4 upgrade had issues with frame rate drops, the standard day-one edition on PS3 runs smoothly and seamlessly resulting in a far more immersive experience. Voice acting, while varying in quality, holds up well and the characters feel three-dimensional thanks to excellent motion-capture work. It really feels like you’re experiencing a 10-hour movie.
Therein, however, lies another on the game’s shortcomings. If you’re the kind of gamer that requires deep and intricate menu systems and fruitful upgrades, you’ll be bitterly disappointed. Heavy Rain truly feels like an engaging and captivating story, which comes at the expense of the gameplay being far less involved that other AAA titles.
With the hotly anticipated release of Detroit: Become Human right around the corner, you’d be foolish skip Heavy Rain beforehand. Thanks to a superb and complex narrative, perilously difficult dialogue options and stellar performances, Heavy Rain continues to be the gold standard in choice-based storytelling.
- Compelling Story
- Meaningful Choices
- Great Cast of Characters
- Stunning Visuals
- Troublesome Controls
- Uneven Pacing Towards the Beginning