Title: Heavy Rain
Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Format: PS3 BluRay Disc
HD Format: 720p
ESRB Rating: M
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
In a city somewhere on the US east coast (at times it reminds me of NYC, other times of Boston), young boys are kidnapped, only to be found three days later, drowned in rain water, with an origami figure on their chests. Such shenanigans have been going on for over a year. Twelve boys have been taken. Creepy clowns and kooky carousels abound. What can a father do to keep his son safe? Or as the mysterious killer says, “How far would you go to save your son?”
Such is the premise of Quantic Dream’s newest PS3 title, Heavy Rain. There is some history here as this is the krackerjack developer that brought us Indigo Prophecy roughly five years ago. So we’re talking about a development house with a strong reputation for high production values and compelling story lines. In those respects, Heavy Rain does not disappoint. Playing this game is like stepping into a movie where you can pick what happens. It’s sort of like a choose your own adventure for PS3.
The story is complex and it sucked me in. It was like I started to play and thought it was boring and then all of a sudden it was four hours later and time for bed. The emotion of the game comes along and sweeps you away. Which is a good thing, but it’s important to understand that this game is not for everyone. If you’re looking for a thrill-a-minute romp then look elsewhere. If you are looking for a deep dark emotional and frightening story, then this is it.
This is a psychological crime thriller that has its moments where it is simply beautiful and purely gripping. You play as four separate characters: Ethan Mars, an architect whose sone has been kidnapped; Scott Shelby, a private investigator; Jayden Norman, and FBI Agent, and some really hot chick who ends up being more important than you think she’ll be named Madison Paige. The only thing you’ll remember about this last woman is that when playing as her you get to soap up your breasts in the shower, take a tinkle in the toidy, and strip for a pimp. These are mature themes that will definitely grab your attention. The four story-lines intertwine and play off of each other which is very cool.
The game starts in a sort of happy and almost mundane level. You’re Ethan Mars and you work from home. The fun includes getting dressed, brushing your teeth, and walking down stairs. It’s really a tutorial level just to learn how to control the game. The highlight of the first level is setting the table. I’m not kidding. And, for some odd reason, you are using your mother-in-law’s china to set the table for your 8 year old’s birthday party. Who in their right mind would do that? So these plates are being used at a kiddie party but if you set the table too fast your wife freaks out.
Then next level involves the family going to the mall. This is where I have to be critical of the game, very critical. In order to keep the story on track, you are forced to navigate through a finite set of choices in a heavily scripted sequence. And bang, your son gets hit by a car and dies.
The screen fades to black. The world is bleak, sad, miserable. You, Ethan, are miserable. The world is gray. It’s two years later and no one wants to talk to you, especially your son Shaun. Your wife left you. Apparently you are too stupid to take care of yourself or anyone. And frustration creeps in when you realize that the character is a moron. One son has died and this guy can’t even watch his other son when he plays. And then I realized that this is not an open world. This is not freedom of choice. This is very far from something like Grand Theft Auto. The game is on rails with the illusion of being open. It seems to me that forcing me to do some things and giving me 2 choices for something mundane is not an “interactive story”. This is very much like a graphical Zork, an old-style text game that presented you with some choices and was written as a bunch of if-then statements. Same thing but with more graphics. I also want to know why everyone has called this game beautiful when it is a paltry 720p. What is the point of the PS3 being 1080p if first party titles can’t even be high def?
As you play through the game it gets better. It gets better in terms of controls and choices along with the story roping you in emotionally and psychologically. Choices start to matter. During a liquor store robbery I tried to sneak up behind the felon but I couldn’t so I had to reason with him. Some things in this game outright pissed me off. For example, while you are playing the FBI agent, a suspect pulls a gun on the local cop who is your partner. You have the suspect dead to rights. I warned him three times to drop the weapon and then I shot him. That is how I would handle the situation. If I had to repeat the level 100 times I would do that 100 times. No way I would warn someone to put his gun down and then let him continue to point it at my partner. And then Heavy Rain tells me I’ve done it wrong. Very frustrating.
Yet I kept getting sucked back in. The story is that good. I have to hand it to writer, director, and studio head David Cage at Quantic Dream. Frustrated as I was, I needed to find out who the origami killer was. I really did. I kept playing until the end and I enjoyed it.
Heavy Rain is a solid game of this genre. It is an emotional roller coaster, not a thrill a minute romp.