REVIEW: Heavy Rain (PS3)

Heavy Rain.  What an experience.

This is a game that was on my radar well before its release.  But then, for whatever reason, I did not get around to playing it until 2+ years later.  I’m not kicking myself for not plunking down $60 on release day.  I’m going to actively attempt to avoid discussing story throughout this review.  Because it is just such a great time watching it unfold.  And it’s abundantly clear that a lot of time and effort went into all aspects of creating this game.  So I honestly feel like it would be cheating both the player and the creators to spoil the experience.

In Heavy Rain, you take control of four main characters over the course of the game.  The first is Ethan Mars, a father whose world has recently been turned upside down and is trying to find his son.  Then there is Scott Shelby, a private investigator on the trail of a serial killer.  But he’s not the only one on the hunt.  There’s also Norman Jayden, a young FBI agent with problems of his own.  Finally, there’s Madison Paige.  She’s a photographer, and an insomniac, who is pulled into the story by mere happenstance.

The characters themselves are one of the biggest highlights of the game.  They all feel like real people with real motivations.  Even the supporting characters are (more than) sufficiently fleshed out.  No one seems like an afterthought or simply a “means to an end”.  Throughout the course of the game you really become emotionally invested in these characters.  Some more than others, of course.  But considering this is a video game that’s quite an accomplishment.  It’s legitimate investment in the characters that typically keeps me from becoming fully immersed in a game.  Not a problem in Heavy Rain.

Moving on to the gameplay, which is accomplished through a series of button prompts and motion controls.  This is where my main, well only, issue with the game lies.  It’s not the button prompts that bother me.  I actually like that style of control for a game such as this.  It allows you to focus almost entirely on the story and the environment.  My problem is with the motion controls.  And it’s not due to poor execution by the developers.  But rather I flat out don’t like them.  Period.  Aside from stuff like Wii Sports, I see no point in motion controls in general.  I see it as a gimmick, a fad.  Much like 3D in movies.  The only reason I’m holding this at all against the game itself is because there is no option to turn off the motion control.  In a story-driven game such as this, where there is very little traditional “gameplay”, I really don’t see why all of the controls can’t be accomplished with the ten buttons, two joysticks, and d-pad already on the controller.

As I said earlier, I’m not going to discuss story much.  It’s amazing.  I’ll just leave it at that.  This was the most absorbed I’ve been in a game in a long, long time.  Probably since Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, honestly.   I started this game on a Friday night and finished it up that Sunday afternoon.  I could not put the controller down.

Bottom line, this is one of the best games I’ve played in recent years.  And it is definitely one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had with a video game.  It has a very cinematic feel.  In fact, this is about the closest to an actual movie I imagine is possible in a video game, given current technology.  But it walks that line between video game and movie flawlessly.  Never did I feel gameplay was bogging down story progression (which is a minor complaint I had with the Uncharted games).  And never did I feel that I was being skimped on gameplay.

There isn’t much else to be said about Heavy Rain, while also keeping this review spoiler-free.  There just isn’t really anything out there you can compare it to.  In my opinion, it’s a true innovation in gaming and I hope it sparks the creation of many more titles with this same style of gameplay.

If you haven’t played this yet and are even the slightest bit interested in checking it out, do so.  You may not love it as much as I did.  But I honestly can’t imagine you’d regret playing it.

I cannot wait for Quantic Dream’s next effort ‘Beyond: Two Souls’.