Heavy Rain Review

The floodgates are open. VideoGamesDaily spends a rainy day in with Quantic Dream’s masterful PS3 debut.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, February 10, 2010

Each chapter is a self-contained, heavily choreographed vignette, with a couple of objectives and at least one or two surprises in store. Loading times are masked by a close-up shot of the playable character’s face, an elegant transitional tactic which gives you a chance to linger over the majesty of Quantic’s motion captured animations and the nicked, stubbled, bloodshot persuasiveness of its textures and shaders.

Ethan's commitment to fatherhood comes under increasing pressure.

Ethan's commitment to fatherhood comes under increasing pressure.

Crudely broken down, there are two levels of involvement in Heavy Rain. There’s the over-arching macro layer, in which you piece together the clues, unearth hidden agendas, make the key choices which drive the experience through one or other seam in the game’s narrative tapestry. And there’s the micro layer, a rich mulch of on-the-fly choices and tests – whether you pay for somebody’s room number or no, whether you undo the buttons of your blouse, or wash your hands, or survive a fall, or get an hour’s work in before the kids come home, or accept a drink from a stranger, or recall a time and place correctly, or switch lanes on the freeway.

As I noted in our preview, the result is “role-playing” in a far more meaningful sense than is usual. For all the times when you’re called on to assume the mantle of a saint or a sinner, to fall in the fray or survive against the odds, Heavy Rain’s most affecting moments are often those in which all you’re doing is living the character under your control, learning his or her body language, adopting attitudes, assembling a quotidian persona from the thoughts which waft into being at the touch of a shoulder button.

The micro layer informs the macro layer throughout, of course, and the tiniest of actions or decisions can thus be an edge-of-the-seat affair, as you ponder its relevance within the articulation of the whole. Sometimes that relevance will be as obvious as a shotgun blast. And sometimes it won’t.

Jayden's high-tech eyewear is as sci-fi as it gets.

Jayden's high-tech eyewear is as sci-fi as it gets.

Save for the slightly awkward Resident-Evil-ish movement scheme, the controls are completely contextual, and utterly brilliant. I expressed concerns last year (rather facetiously, it must be admitted) that there would be too little connection between Heavy Rain’s control prompts and the scenarios they’re applied to, that one would float free of the other. Thankfully, this is far from the case. In Quantic’s hands, the homely Dualshock layout becomes an interfacial tool of astonishing eloquence and flexibility.

There are several distinct control strands, baldly but usefully detailed on the pause screen. The developer encourages the player to associate certain inputs with certain actions (while occasionally thwarting their expectations). Movements of the hand and arm often translate to Street-Fighter-esque curls of the right stick, snap reactions are mapped to the face buttons, violent efforts call on the controller’s motion sensing capabilities. Trickier sequences are coupled with ticking timers, whether communicated through orchestral build-up or shaded onto the prompt itself.

12 Responses to “Heavy Rain Review”

  1. Stuart says:

    Great review Edwin, it’s just a shame we have so many quality titles out just now or this would be a definite for me. I’ll be picking it up at some point though, and trying my best to avoid any plot spoilers before I play it!

  2. Harold says:

    Birth of a genre? It’s a standard adventure game with nice cinematic trappings

    • Jack the Stripper says:

      This isnt a adventure. In a adventure you have to find and collect items and compine them and use them on the right spot to procced. But thi isnt so in Heavy Rain. You walk in that stages, talk to people, make a qte, maybe find somthing thats importend for the story and procced. That again and again and again.
      No brains needed!

      This is for people that prefer a graphics drama over the challenge of real gameplay to procced!

  3. Eric2929 says:

    Great stuff Edwin; informative as always. Have my copy pre-ordered (something I never do!).

  4. Edwin says:

    Thanks chaps, glad to be of service. I had to rush it a bit towards the end.

  5. Jack the Stripper says:

    Saying this game has a trivial/forgettable story and a almost non replay factor whereas the whole concept is based on storrytelling?
    That what this game is based on,the story, is its mayor flaw and it gets a 9/10? The the story must not be that important for your review! Its like saying the driving mechanics in Forza3 suck but the game is 9/10. Makes no sense to me!

  6. zarbor says:

    Seen a number of reviews of this game giving it high praises. That’s cool that its the birth of a new genre. Not my kinda game. Rental at best to see what all the hype is about. From what I’ve seen, I rather the more traditional gameplay. I like a good story but if I have to chose, I prefer great gameplay over story. None of the reviews give this game great review on the gameplay.

  7. Lawrence says:

    I can totally agree with Edwin’s view on Heavy Rain. It’s been my most wonderful gaming experience to date, be it a short one.
    Thanks Edwin!

  8. Christmas Ape says:

    Awkward jerks of the controller and painfully cramping finger layouts: the “slowly drag the mouse looking for the relevant pixel” of 21st century video games.

    I mean, it’s a novel control scheme, but I cut my teeth on the character-driven investigative adventure genre. It’s not ‘new’ or in any way ‘being born’.

  9. Core Yarn says:

    Truly masterful PS3 debut. My personal top game on playstation.

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