Heavy Rain (2010 – PS3) (2016 – PS4)
PS4 / Rated M
Action / Adventure
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developer: Quantic Dream, SCE XDev Studio
Losing someone you love is one of the toughest things we have to go through as humans. It’s even tougher if they’re young. You end up asking a lot of questions and you sometimes question yourself, especially if you had a chance at preventing the loss. In Heavy Rain, a game by David Cage and Quantic Dream, a father loses his child and is on the brink of losing another. Feelings of guild, depression, love, and contempt all rear their head as he tries to save his son. How far are you willing to go to save someone you love from the clench of death? This is the primary theme that drives Heavy Rain, as well as its four main characters.
Tension has been rising as a serial killer, calling himself the “Origami Killer,” has been killing innocent children by kidnapping them from their parents and drowning them in rain water. Their deaths are marked by the presence of an origami figure, placed in the kids’ cold lifeless hands. The latest victim is Shaun Mars, son of Ethan Mars, one of the four playable characters. He’s kidnapped during the course of the game and he only has a couple of days to live. It becomes a race against the clock as Ethan is given a set of trials that test his love for his son and his willingness to go through hell to save him.
Meanwhile, you play as three other characters who are all concurrently after the Origami Killer in one way or another. Norman Jayden is a criminal profiler who works for the FBI. He is contracted by the town’s local police department to investigate the recent killings and he uses the help of his gadget ARI (Added Reality Interface) to help with the investigations. Madison Paige is a freelance journalist and photographer who ends up meeting Ethan at a local motel. It’s through this chance meeting that she starts to become involved in the Origami Killer’s doings and she begins to start a private investigation of her own. Finally, there’s Scott Shelby, an ex-cop turned private investigator who has been contracted by the Origami Killer’s victims’ families to investigate their murders. Each of these characters, including Ethan, have their own stories and motivations that drive their actions. The game flips between perspectives, giving you control of each of these characters as the game goes on.
There’s a lot of heavy material that the game covers and there’s a lot of tense moments that will make you sweat, quite literally. There’s a lot of twist and turns, including one big one towards the end that caught me off guard. However, after going back and examining the events that led to this twist, everything made sense and came together, which is an indication of a really well-written twist. There’s also some plot-holes here and there, but they aren’t too offensive and they don’t detract too much from the story. The performances were also really well done. The characters you play as and interact with were all motion captured, which really helped convey emotion and feeling. You could see the emotion in character’s faces, giving them more life and believability.
The game is an adventure game where all of your choices affect the story in ways that are predictable and not so predictable. Gameplay mainly takes the form of quick-time events and dialogue choices. If a character dies due to a failed quick-time sequence, then the story goes on. There’s no game over screens to save you. The story is constantly adapting to your choices (and your mistakes) and contains a multitude of different endings based upon the story’s happenings. A lot of games claim that your choices affect the story but there are few that have high-impact decisions. Every little choice you make in Heavy Rain affects the story in big and small ways. Even the smallest of details, like the color of a character’s clothes, can play a big part in the way the story plays out.
One of the things I really liked about the way the game handles its quick-time events is the way they conveyed emotion through these events. As you play through the different sequences, buttons will appear on the screen indicating a quick-time event. Sometimes these indicators will be calm and stable while other times they will be shaking uncontrollably. This can lead to some frustrating moments where mistakes are easy to be made, but this works in the game’s context. If a character is nervous and at the precipice of danger, then they are more likely to make hasty decisions and mistakes. You always know what the character is going through based on the presentation of the quick-time events, which is brilliant and works really well in conveying story without explicitly describing how a character feels.
Heavy Rain was initially released in 2010 on the PS3, but I have been playing the PS4 remaster, which gives the already good looking game a complete HD makeover. The game looks amazing and even the slightest details like the boxes you find in a convenience store are all retouched and redone in a higher resolution. The game still looks a little dated at moments but the gorgeousness is undeniable. Unfortunately, the movement mechanics were not redone for the remaster. Movement is handled by pressing down the right trigger while moving the stick in the direction you want to move. It’s a dated mechanic that does not hold up well at all. I often found myself running into walls and scooting past an object in an environment that I wanted to interact with because I was trying to grasp the character’s movement. It’s not a thing that gets better with time either. I was still having annoyances with the mechanic late in the game.
David Cage’s game took the gaming industry by storm when it was first released. Heavy Rain, despite some of its mechanical woes, still holds up extremely well today, thanks to some of Quantic Dream’s remastering work. There’s a thrilling story to be told, one that will most likely move you in one way or another. All of the characters are dynamic, interesting, and even relatable in some ways. Heavy Rain was on of PS3’s best games and that quality still stays true today.