Interactive morality test
Review Entertaining, thought-provoking and not to be easily dismissed. These are the reactions that come to mind after working my way through Heavy Rain, the interactive drama/game from developer Quantic Dream, a company previously known mainly for Fahrenheit .
They are also French, and when everything goes a bit Jean Luc Godard I kept telling myself, “Give them a break, they are French”.
"One ring and two jammy please"
The main narrative of this game/interactive film centres on a series of murders committed by the Origami Killer. He is so named because he kidnaps boys and drowns them five days later, leaving them all with an origami model in their hand and an Orchid flower on their chest.
You play four main characters whose stories start separately but become intertwined as you interact with the game. You start the game as Ethan Mars, a successful architect with a fittingly posh house and two kids. Sorry mate, that’s all about to change!
His youngest son is killed in a slow motion car accident at the start of the game and then everything seems to take an appropriately depressing tonal shift as his other son goes missing. The game manages to evoke a great amount of empathy for poor Ethan, even while his terrible luck makes your gaming experience more gripping and involved.
The token female character is reporter Madison Paige, who is introduced to us getting beaten up by masked men in her underwear. I did have fleeting thoughts of this developing into some kind of snuff narrative before the twist came in at the end of the scene.
Another unfortunate - Norman Jayden - seems to be a rather ineffectual FBI profiler with a massive drug problem (I had fun plying him with tripto at every opportunity).
Finally there is poor old asthmatic private detective Scott Shelby, who seems to be this story’s punching bag.
When I'm cleaning windows
I liked Heavy Rain because it draws you in with real human drama, and forces you to make an effort to think about what you’re doing. This makes for some very difficult decisions. This thought and commitment required from you, the player, is its main accomplishment as a narrative piece of work.
The voice acting isn’t great but the soundtrack is immersive throughout and sets the dystopian mood. As does the rain……..did I mention there’s lots of rain? The developers use it as a great visual tool; characters hunch to avoid it and amazingly everyone actually looks wet.
The visuals in this game are claustrophobic, paranoid and amazing, but as my friend pointed out with all the faffing about you have plenty of time to appreciate them, so they’d better be good.
At points near the beginning of the story I kept thinking that this game is one long quick time event, which was good for me because I could get in some practice on the Sixaxis controller – me being mainly a PC gamer.
I have to admit to spending a lot of time laughing about having a piss as the male and then female character, as well as pushing my soon-to-be disappeared kid on sees saw and swings.
I'm having a rail of a time
Why does it always rain on me?
Unfortunately these actions didn’t include the irony of the annoying real world tasks in GTA; but I realised as the game got darker and grittier that I really should be paying more attention to the choices put before me, and their possible consequences.
You could argue that these repetitive everyday actions help you become immersed in your environment and the gaming experience, but I think that these are just distractions from the real core of the game play.
On several occasions the night I played this game I found myself making dubious choices that involved people getting shot because I was reaching for my cider and hit any old symbol when the choice came up!
When I replayed the game, I made different choices in this same scene no one got shot, but the game continued forward to the same conclusion, which I found slightly frustrating.
The PS3’s hardware doesn’t give as much as an uncomfortable hum while dealing with the game play, graphics and audio. The game is just magnificent to interact with and experience, and after playing it I am sure that anyone who starts it with the understanding that it’s not quite as in-depth as KoTR or Mass Effect, will want to see their chosen story all the way to the finish.
Heavy Rain takes time to ramp up, and I would say that is its main flaw. However, if you stay with it it’s absorbing and captivating, more than enough to pull you back in and keep you enthralled in its shadowy eccentricities for hours (literally) on end.
Oh and if you didn’t make the origami bird from the box while the game was loading you have no right to comment on this review.
Where is the security with these cameras?
More screen shots
Honey, that's a bit graphic
The cover of a magazine
Nickelodeon just isn't what it used to be
Stop being nosy
I got you pillared
6 shots and a screwball please
A spot of light clubbing