Heavy Rain Reader Review
Heavy Rain is a game that has achieved something I have not seen for many a moon. Heavy Rain managed to sell out of every major gaming outlet in my city on the first weekend. If you wanted a copy of Bioshock 2, well you could swim in copies of Bioshock 2 if you so wished. Had you wanted Heavy Rain, you just had to content yourself with making paper cranes for a few days.
What does this show, well it shows that if your David Cage you can rest pretty easily in your bed tonight. Also it means Heavy Rain has accomplished what it set out to do and that is bring a new level of narrative to the somewhat stale literary medium that is gaming. However, is it perfect? Absolutely not! Heavy Rain has some issues which you simply cannot ignore. However for all its faults it is still very enjoyable.
The graphics of this game work exceptionally well, close-ups of the leading cast are always enjoyable as you notice a new pimple or scratch on their faces that you'd never seen before. The lip syncing is the best I've yet seen and the animations of the characters are exceptional for the most part. The environments work wonderfully to reinforce whichever tumultuous emotion the direction wants to throw at you next and the lighting works wonders once you've tweaked the gamma controls to your environment [it is highly advisable to play this in a darkened room].
However whilst the backdrop works perfectly there are a few annoyances. Background characters are reused a number of times so the immersion is broken unnecessarily when you notice the same figure is looking at you from three different directions. Also the game has atrocious clipping issues in busy environments. A number of times when I should be near to panic, I couldn't help but grind my teeth as some bumbling extra walks straight through my character with a shopping bag.
Furthermore the game-play is not advanced. The walking controls, whilst you do get used to them, were so frustrating that I got increasingly angry as my character wouldn't turn or walk in the desired direction. A real problem when the music and atmosphere are building to a tense crescendo but your character is stuck trying to go down some stairs. The same path finding problems occur with the supporting cast so where I mentioned clipping this could occur three or so times as the fool found their way out of my character model. Also at its heart Heavy Rain is just a succession of quick time events. They aren't a problem in the context of the game but a number of times an observer to my plight would make a comment such as "wow, you've had to press X an awful lot there". I must re-iterate that the QTE's do not detract from the over all experience but its a shame that was the only mechanism used.
Now onto the meat of Heavy Rain, it's writing. To cut to the chase, Heavy Rain is not special if you look at the wider medium of crime writing. In fact apart from the ultimate twist [a necessity in this type of genre] its rather par for the course. Thats not to say it's not enjoyable but the writing is no better than a reasonable episode of any off-the-shelf US crime drama. Furthermore whilst the leading cast is mostly well written, the character of Maddison Page came across as underdeveloped and tacked on. Which is a shame as the remaining three are a true pleasure to observe throughout.
In the context of the game the writing functions well, in fact it is still very enjoyable. I didn't ever feel true emotion for the characters I was playing but thats not to say their plight isn't worthy of you time.
In conclusion Heavy Rain is the epitome of the phrase "greater than the sum of it's parts". Whilst dissecting it for a review makes it seem rather negative this game is the closest i've ever got to theatre whilst sitting at a Playstation. The greatest compliment I can give it, is that I felt I had to complete the game as quickly as possible to see how it turned out; and when it did finish both me and my partner (who enjoyed watching it as much as I did playing it) wanted to go back and try it again as we felt gutted with the outcome we had constructed.
Do yourself a favour and try Heavy Rain, you may hate it but at least you can say you were there when gaming decided to throw aside its nappy and try the big boy pants for a change.