By Daniel Lipscombe
It’s wrong to call Heavy Rain a game, it isn’t really. Yes it requires inputs from your fingers to your controller, but beyond that, what you’re living is a cinematic experience like no other. David Cage and his team at Quantic Dream have created an emotional work of art that connects with the player on a level never before realised. It’s hard to talk about Heavy Rain without really giving away any plot points or scenarios, but I will try to make this as free of spoilers as possible.
Playing Heavy Rain is akin to being the editor on a serial drama, it’s up to you to move through each section of the story and reach a satisfying climax. Do you save that person or did you dislike them enough to let them die and ultimately change the fate of the characters? Controlling the fate of the cast is rather daunting really; just one wrong move can see any of the four characters die, for good.
The interactions of the cast inspire real feelings within yourself, push your kid on a swing and you’ll smile as much as them, head into a near death situation and find yourself tense and twitchy. The beauty and simplicity of the control system really goes to highlight that too. When opening a door, just push the right stick in the direction on screen, if your character needs to control their breathing then slow movements of the stick are needed. After time you find yourself moving your thumb with as much caution as the situation needs.
Everything is instinctive and flows wonderfully, the only time you will find the button presses becoming more complex is when your character is struggling. They struggle, so you must struggle, holding down a combination of buttons that would usually cripple your hand. It would be easy to say that Heavy Rain features hundreds of Quick Time Events (QTE) but this the inputs here carry more weight, after all, if you miss that crucial button press, you could have your head smashed in.
This isn’t particularly a tough game and many people will easily stroll through each section, there are however times when you may be left scratching your head as to where to go next or who to talk to whilst trying to push the narrative along. Quick reactions are needed however for fight scenes and it’s worth nudging anyone in the room with you and hushing them whilst you concentrate.
Heavy Rain is so wonderfully engaging, there is a constant feeling of connection with the game world, and even the loading screens display the marvellous visuals of the main characters as they simply exist. And it’s these visuals that help create such a cohesive environment, being able to see a smirk or a furrowing of the brow helps to heighten the connection between player and character. This is let down occasionally by glitches in the graphics such as a strobing of a background character or screen tearing, as these moments remind you that you’re playing a game.
Some moments in Heavy Rain may cause some confusion, why should I need to make Madison go to the toilet? Why does Ethan need to be able to drink from the orange juice carton? Because it goes further in building a real world, adding your own quirks to these people. Does it make a difference to the story? Unlikely, but small increments /can/ change events, will you miss a scene because you didn’t look out of a window, will you find something your friends didn’t? The wonder of Heavy Rain is simply experiencing what it has to offer.
Heavy Rain is, at its core, a murder mystery. We have a killer on the loose – The Origami Killer who kidnaps children and drowns them in rain water. Each character has their own way of tackling this crime, Madison is a journalist who moves outside the law in her own way, Ethan is a father in distress and must test himself, Norman is an FBI agent with a mysterious past and the ability to find any clue and Scott, a private eye who has been hired by the families of the murdered to track down clues on the killer.
Everyone will inevitably have their own favourite character, but each of them shines regardless. The cast is well fleshed out and each twist and turn in the plot takes its toll on them as well as you. Not surprising as they will have to overcome some dreadful situations on their journey, fistfights are plentiful and enjoyable, obstacles are overcome with complex button presses and at times the atmosphere will become troubling and intense.
The story moves along at a frenzied pace to a satisfying conclusion, the playtime itself will run you around six or seven hours depending on how quickly you solve issues or find clues. With many endings possible there’s plenty of scope to replay the adventure, whilst this will still be fun it will of course lack the original spark as you will know the crux of the story. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem as the ending that I personally received left me all warm and fuzzy, but I was left wanting to see the many other outcomes.
For anyone interested in narratives for games moving forward or drama in general, you will revel in Heavy Rains storytelling and marvel at its characters. The latter is slightly hampered by weak voice acting at times, but this can be forgiven in respect of just how much emotion they are trying to deliver.
Never before have I been so moved by a game, by the conclusion of the game I desperately wanted these characters to survive and reach their end. I cared about them, not just because they might die, but because they were real to me. They cared, they got scared at the same time as me and we travelled the same ups and downs as a team. Despite a few minor flaws along the way, Quantic Dream has created a masterpiece of gaming and it’s something that anyone with even a passing interest in gaming should experience.