What are you willing to do to save someone you love?
At first, I thought of this as nothing more than a very clever ad line to drum up queries and interest in this paticular title. After having played through this game on my off days, I've come to the conclusion that this is not something thought up by a "round table" of advertisers, but an actual state of mind you will find yourself in several times as this drama plays out before you. Heavy Rain will require an investment. Not just the usual investment of time to actually play through the game, but an investment of yourself. By the end of this marvelous game, you will have invested so much of yourself into caring for, and about, the characters on your screen that you will actually feel exhausted when it's all been said and done. And THAT, is where the true beauty of this game lies.
Heavy Rain is a "made for console" drama that requires the player to take up the roles of four different individuals with four different backgrounds and, with the decisions that you make, molds them all into one beautifully tragic experience for you, the player. And what an experience it is.
Graphically speaking the game is exquisite. The colors and use of locals work together to bring forth a certain air of dreariness matched only by the continuous rain that falls throughout your time spent in Heavy Rain's universe. Walking through the halls of an abandoned apartment building will have you stopping to marvel at several minor things that make up the major picture. That isn't just light shining through the window. That's individual streaks of the outside lighting filtering through a dust covered piece of glass to throw disconcerting shadows upon the interior. The rising particles of dust through said streaks wisk aways as you pass through, your worn and fatigued face showing the strain of the situation as you come into the light. The attention to detail on the character models are so well done that there will be times when you question the fact that you are actually playing a video game. Faces adjust and contort to display the full spectrum of human emotion and you find yourself believing what you're seeing. That's part of that investment thing I was referring to. It's not perfect by any means. There will be some tears and an occasional pop in, but I've only experienced this twice, maybe three times at the most, and there will be an occasional moment of "stiffness" from the characters. Altogether though, the game itself is absolutely beautiful.
Gameplay appears to be a topic alot of gamers seem to get hung up on when it comes to this title. The entire game is comprised of QTE's (quick time events), though some lack the "quick" factor. However, this isn't going to be a "twitchers" type of game. There will be times when percise button presses will be mandatory within a given time frame. But there will also be moments of slow, deliberate button presses and joystick manipulation involved as well. At first this might seem a bit mundane and a little too uninvolved for some. I assure you, however, that the pacing of the several different actions and the scenes they play out in are so varied that you will soon find them of a less tedious nature and more of an extention of yourself and how you'd react in that given scenario. One thing I will give the gameplay mechanic of Heavy Rain is this. Nothing, involving the interaction with the controller, hampers your immersion in the story. In other words, the directions given (if you so choose to partake in given action) do not interfere with your ability to see what's happening on the screen. This may seem like a small thing, but when you get into more of the intense moments of the drama, this is very key. And trust me, there will be moments in this game where you are so focused on what's happening, gripping your controller with a herculian like strength, that even though you will know the motion or button you need to input, you won't even realize the option is there until you've either already done it, or you've let the moment slip by. Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling that there will be alot of gamers that this paticular style of game play will turn off.
Yes it's true there will be some seemingly pointless actions such as shaving, brushing your teeth, even popping something in the microwave to warm up. Again, while these actions may seem ho-hum, they actually go a long way towards you and your investment into the characters you're playing as. By living as these characters, you start to care. By caring, you start to think and feel as they do. By thinking and feeling as they do, you make decisions based, not on how you want x scene to play out, but how that paticular character would at that given point in time. You are no longer trying to get through a "stage". You're trying to survive the moment.
Story. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the "meat and potatoes" of this game. I cannot (and will not for sake of spoiling the slightest detail) describe to you the value and power behind the story that drives this game. A fellow poster here on the site (forgive me, I can't recall your name atm sitting here) asked me about the game the other night when he noticed me playing it. Here's what I told him. This game is, from the story alone, utterly MINDBLOWING. If a major factor for you in buying a game is story, as it is for me, then you will be doing yourself a grave injustice by NOT playing this game. And again, it all goes back to my underlying theme in this post. Investment. I know, I said I wouldn't spoil anything, but I will give up this one tidbit for sake of trying to capture what it is you go through while playing this game.
*Spoiler warning- DO NOT READ THE NEXT FEW PARAGRAPHS IF YOU DON'T WANT ANYTHING RUINED FOR YOU!*
As stated, you take the role of four different characters as they try to unravel the mystery of the Origami Killer. A killer who abducts young male children, and drowns them, leaving their dead, mud covered face to be found near a set of railroad tracks. He leaves a small orchid on their body and an origami figure in their hand as his calling card.
Ethan finds himself caught up in this madman's plot when his youngest son, Shaun, is kidnapped and no traces of him can be found. The only clue is a letter sent to his house, typed up by the Origami Killer himself. Now the fact that this is happening makes for a good story in and of itself. However, prior to the kidnapping, you play out a scene in which you spend time with Shaun. You interact with him, talk to him, find out about him and for all intended purposes, be the young boy's father (there's so much more to it than that but I swear I don't want to give up too much info). By having things play out this way, when the actual kidnapping occurs; you, sitting there in the comfort of your gaming room, WILL feel the panic and heart stopping sickness that Ethan displays on your screen. Again, this goes back to that whole investment thing I keep referring to.
Another scene, famous by now only because of the content contained therein, involves Madison. The beautiful female journalist battling insomnia. When you first meet her, it's just another night which finds her struggling to walk in the serene land of slumber. What to do to relax...what to do. How about a nice shower? That sounds like a good idea. Until you see the flash of a shadow in a distant part of your studio apartment and you hear the rustle of movement. Again, this goes back to investment because, and I kid you not, at that exact moment in the game, I felt and said to myself, "As a woman, I don't want to be nude in a shower when there might be someone in the apartment." In other words, I was genuinely freaked out by the thought of having to take a shower when there might be someone present. At that point, I didn't want a shower scene to go down. A game just made a grown man feel uneasy about seeing a woman nude in a shower. How many games out there can convey that kind of thought and emotion?
*END OF MINOR SPOILERS!*
Presentation. The only thing I can say about how this game is presented to you is that there are ALOT of people in Hollywood that learn a thing or two from this title. Everything from graphics to sound and music, to interaction all blends well in this concoction to bring forth an experience that I honestly cannot put into words. Slight things such as the thoughts that circle your head shaking in tune with the controller in your hand during moments of high stress. The ambiance of the different areas as you traverse them. The expressions on your characters faces as they wrestle with the brevity of the situations before them. The flucuations of the voice acting bring with them the emotion you yourself feel. The intensity of fighting for your life. Yes you will fight for you life in this game, and you will feel as though you just got through doing so when it's over. The consequences of your actions over the course of the game. You will make decisions and you will question yourself on a regular basis throughout this game. I can't count how many times I found myself talking to the t.v. while I played this game, as well as talking to myself. "Damn, why did I agree to let her come along." "Come on girl, move, move." "Get up Norman, get up quick man. Come on!" "**** Shelby, you can make it, you can make it man." I said these things, out loud, and more during my time with this game.
Overall, if I had to give some sort of number scale, it'd probably look something like this:
Easily some of the best I've seen. Again, there are some hic-ups here and there but they're minor and easy to overlook.
I'm trying to be objective here because I know that there will be some people that will be put off by how you interact with this title. It doesn't bother me, and in fact I feel that this game wouldn't work any other way, but again, I know there are some that just won't get it. What is there though is well done and you will find yourself involved and totally wrapped up in what plays out before you. Again, I don't think this could be pulled off under any other platform.
Leave no doubt. I've said it throughout this post and I will back up what I have said here. This has to be one of the single most greatest games I've ever had the pleasure of playing. If it were a book, you'd read it several times over and highlight your favorite sections. If it were a movie, you'd buy and own the blue ray version and learn every line word for word. There may be a few plot holes but they are easily overlooked and the power and drama that is delivered throughout would make TNT wonder if they truely "know drama."
Again, trying to be objective here because I know there are some aspects of the game that just isn't up somes alleys. However, if you allow yourself to become completely inolved and invested, and over look the very minor things that are present in ANY game on the market today. Then this game is unlike any you've every played before. You will be tested. You will be bruised. You will be battered. You will question your actions, your motiviation, your will. Your very soul will be drained by the time the end credits roll. And then, when you're done and you've taken a moment to step back and take everything in, you WILL sit at the table for a second helping.
While the music itself is top notch and well placed, I give this category a nine simply because I am also including the voice acting involved also. Now I'm not saying it's bad, in fact, it's probably one of the better voice acted games I've played, but there are moments where the flux and pitch in the voice doesn't necessarily match the drama on the screen. It's hard to describe but once you play at length, you'll see what I'm talking about.
Replay Value- 10
The simple fact that there are so many choices and so many ways scenes can play out, it would be wrong of me not to give this game a 10 in this category. Funny thing is, once you've played through it once and think you know everything, the game will quickly prove you wrong the minute you start playing again. I'm halfway through my second playthrough (it's hard...VERY HARD to put this game down) and I've already had more "Oh my God!" moments than I can count.
Overall this game is, IMO, a must own. Remember how ICO was one of those titles that sort of snuck up on you and cracked you over the head with such unforseen force that you had to take a moment just to absorb everything? I mean we all knew (those of us who played it) going in that it was going to be something special. But what we expected and what was given were two entirely different things. I see Heavy Rain being the same way. We know it's a good game going in, but in no way are we prepared for the experience. And trust me when I say this...you are in no way prepared.
So tell me truely...
What are you willing to do to save someone you love?