The world has evolved games into two categories that are both worth a closer reveal. The high budget ‘blockbuster’ titles can become very generic and live on an established name whereas smaller titles which are full of creativity just do not pack the punch compared to a bigger offering. Heavy Rain is a refreshing title that has the major themes of a large release yet has the innovation and creativeness within the storyline and production value needed to really make this stand out from the rest. Created by Quantic Dream’s inspiration from Indigo Prophecy and renewed sense of exploration and experiment, Heavy Rain takes psychological thrill with attention to details and dares to do things which other titles simply do not try. Unfortunately with such minutiae of details, Heavy Rain comes bundled with large errors such as generic voice acting, and a lack of combat interactivity for an action thriller that all take their toll. Regardless of the issues, Heavy Rain provides a great sense of exploration and takes innovative steps to draw players into a fascinating story full of intrigue and mystery.
Quantic Dream always describes the story as an experimental narrative thriller when it comes to Heavy Rain. The storyline is dynamically split to a certain level and is told through four different characters all involved in the case of the Origami Killer: Ethan Mars – a father of two who is the real main character and the one the player gets to know best, Scott Shelby – a private investigator who is hired by the families of the Origami Killers’ victims to find out who killed their sons, Norman Jayden – an FBI agent, who is drafted in by the local police force to help them in their investigation and Madison Paige – a reporter who is doing her own investigating of the murders and gets caught up in the drama of her own cathartic experience. Each character’s story is intertwined with the other characters for a similar feeling to CRASH and it is not a choice for the player to decide from which perspective the story will be detailed through, an interesting narrative element choice but can present a limited aspect when given the already limited spectrum of 4 characters. As each scenario builds up the suspense, Heavy Rain uses different perspectives of investigation that gives a 12 hour experience over the differing storylines. The story starts with Ethan Mars in his home having a quiet afternoon in before his sons 10th birthday party that evening, which acts as a gameplay mechanic tutorial of getting the player used to the controls while also showing Ethan as a family man with a normal life. Something, however, happens to Ethan’s life forever and the story fast forwards to two years later which is the time in which the main story is set. Two years later seems rather ambiguous for an emotional connection within the storyline, but presents no issues in directly offering players the fact that there is a lot of tension built up by this time. Ethan now finds himself a part of another sad turn of events that percusses his life and embarks on a journey to find the Origiami Killer. Many questions are asked throughout the story: Who is the Origami Killer? How far will Ethan go on his journey? What happens at the end? Heavy Rain builds on this suspense within the gameplay and storyline while making sure the latter two have no real answer as each decision the player makes throughout the game affects the outcome of the story.
Gameplay is driven in Heavy Rain first and foremost by the storyline, which is the key concept of the entire choices and layout. Players walk around a beautiful environment that provides various interactivity options and can discover what the character thinks at special moments in the game, when he/she enters a specific room or scene, or is even conversing with someone in a ‘timed’ converse event (TCE). Heavy Rain and is primarily told by button-commands for conversations and actions with the environment in regular scenarios. Every single aspect in the suspenseful narrative of Heavy Rain includes investigation in one form or another, a key element that is blended across different moods and tones of gameplay than ever before and perfected in Heavy Rain. As the characters experience events, more interactivity builds upon structuring tension of scenario aspect elements that are furthered through the camera angles. The central control mechanism begins with the introduction of the Quick-Time Elements, similar to the same gameplay core followed throughout. The QTE’s are very well implemented into the different motions of the characters and the majority actually feel like they map to a human body doing various actions. The QTE’s are also very clearly marked with flashing icons needing pressed several times, ones with triangles at the top needing held down, dotted outline needed careful movement and normal white outlines just needing pressed normally. Quantic Dream sets up the traditional Indigo Prophecy influence through real time camera angle showing different views for differing action scenarios. The character’s moods themselves also act to the intense action in which players carry out their moves. The players do not solely affect the characters, but the characters also affect the players and their actions to create a thaumaturgic effect.
Heavy Rain controls are decent for the most part but can present quite an issue when it comes to movement, an annoying factor in the game when combined with the different aspects of the environment to get a newer look. While holding down a button to see the environment in a new and different way, holding R2 down and having the right stick in a specified direction can be an issue. The game maps the movement differently when so many angles change and serves to confuse the player as to when the character suddenly turns around and walks in an opposite direction. Quick-Time Events themselves within Heavy Rain are unoriginal and not innovative compared to the storyline elements and presents a rehashed view of adding tension. Action and Tension, while both are well built in some areas of the game slowly through progression and character interaction surprises, are not about how fast a button can be pressed but should allow for more dynamic realism in the controls with an actual fluid fighting dynamic. Heavy Rain focuses on controls throughout but has double standards when compared to other aspects of the game where feet are mapped to rear triggers and provide a sense of some realism in the mapping.
While each character is different, certain characters have different abilities to their controls. One in particular is very keen on looking good, using great technology, and having a substance abuse problem. FBI agent Norman Jayden is one clever fellow when it comes to investigative elements. He is armed with ARI: (added reality interface) prototype, which consists of a pair of glasses and a black glove that can detect and analyze DNA, certain traces, and footprint patterns in the environment in real time, something that is simply incredible and vivifies the CSI scene. The actual search for clues is probably the most tedious part of the game but once you have them and are sitting in your office searching for answers the virtual reality comes into play in full and makes you really want a pair of these glasses.
Graphical detail in the environments with Heavy Rain is absolutely fantastic and the actual character models feel like they have a soul and have obviously been done by the work of an excellent mo-cap team with some strong physical acting and nuances. Unfortunately in the shadows of the killer’s wake lurks another terror in Heavy Rain: the voice acting. Heavy Rain characters can provide a great experience in the emotional expression through their faces while embarking on an incredibly detailed story, but the voice acting becomes stale at time and wholly uninviting. The character’s thoughts in response to the environments are bland and the dialogue sometimes feels disillusioned in a gritty and realistic world.
Heavy Rain comes with an exquisite soundtrack for the tense scenes and musical tastes of enthusiasts. Heavy baritones build a tension and trouble that befalls a certain character, while sharp lapses in the euphonium takes a transitional scene into a whole new soundscape. A lot of Pensante instrumentals convey a heavy tone during investigation scenes combined with the emotional force of Patètico. Heavy Rain latches onto the suspense through the music but also the mournful, and abrupt by presenting different riffs with Spicatto and Mèsto to create short and very fast erratic musical scores that are parapsychological for the experience.
Heavy Rain cannot be called a game. Quantic Dream has created rather a great piece of interactive entertainment despite the very little realistic qualities of gameplay. An in-depth story keeps things focused, while the intriguing mystery and murders redefine a new category of gameplay where a game does not have to be a game in the traditional sense. Heavy Rain is undoubtedly an interactive drama despite its problems that will entice and interest audiences to a newfangled definition of the word: interaction.