This is not going to be the most professional review that I’ve written. You could argue that none of them are that professional, since I do love my casual cursing and all, but this going to be less of an actual review and more of a gushing love fest.
You see my friends, Heavy Rain is phenomenal. It ranks amongst some of the most memorable playing experiences I have ever had in a video game. If you are at all on the fence about it, jump the fuck off that fence and run straight to the nearest game store and purchase this. There is no excuse not to purchase this game. Even if you have to rob someone to do it, the end result is completely worth it. I doubt the police would even fault you for it, they understand.
I know after those statements it may seem like there’s no point in continuing to read the rest of the review, but I’ll do everything in my power to make it worth your time.
Heavy Rain follows in the footsteps of Indigo Prophecy, another game I loved, although I had issues with the final third of the game. It really felt like they had no ending and just figured “fuck it, let’s just start typing words and see what happens.” This game feels like the next logical step after that game. It takes everything that worked about it, improves on it, and then ditches basically everything about Indigo Prophecy that wasn’t great.
The highlight of Heavy Rain is hands-down the story. At its heart it’s a murder mystery, but there is just so much more going on here. Although you will definitely be interested in finding out who the killer is and what exactly is going on, along the way you will also find yourself completely involved with the characters and their individual stories. There are few occasions I can think of where I got this invested in the world and the characters of a game.
That investment helps make the game that much more engaging. You are going to be forced to play through events that you really wish you didn’t have to put these characters through. Hell I almost wanted to apologize to them; tell them “look man I’m sorry but I have to do this. The game won’t let me avoid this. Don’t give me that look!” It would be one thing to simply sit back and watch all of these events play out, but to actually play the role of active participant takes things to a whole other level.
The game play will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played Indigo Prophecy. A lot of people have said that the entire game boils down to being one long quick time event, and they’re not entirely wrong about that. All the action scenes do have you pressing the correct sequence of buttons as they appear on screen. The game does do a few things to switch up the formula however.
I think my personal favourite touch is that certain movements require you to hold buttons down. At first you’ll only need to hold down a couple, but by the end you’ll be doing scenes where you will be holding down every single button on that controller. You’ll have to bend your fingers in ways you never even thought possible if you want to get through some of these later scenes. Of course these are always the most intense sequences as well, so the pressure is on not to mess up.
Speaking of which, that leads me to another switch-up. In most games, the wrong button press in a QTE simply means you have to start the sequence over. That is sometimes the case here, but not always. Sometimes the wrong press of a button, results in that character’s permanent death. Yes that’s right, sometimes when a character dies, they simply stay dead and the story continues forward without them. Naturally this adds a great deal of stress and importance to some of these sequences. As I said I got really attached to these characters and the last thing I wanted was for one of them to die because I hit square instead of circle. This brought me to the edge of my seat in a way that few games have managed to do before.
Some have said this game is a slow burn, and in the beginning it definitely is. The first hour of the game has you living through a normal morning in the character’s life. You wake up, shower, shave, get some breakfast, etc. And you are in control of each and every one of these activities. It’s a risky move for the game to start out like this, but the payoff is so worth it. By the end of this opening sequence, you have completely bought into the world of the game and are ready to go where it takes you. This isn’t the type of experience that needs to start off with a helicopter exploding or a shootout and I’m thankful it opens how it does.
I might as well keep the praise train going by moving on to the visuals. First of all, the faces and facial animations are phenomenal. The lip-synching in most games usually resembles a bunch of muppets but this one is right up there amongst the most accurate. I find lately I compare most things to Uncharted 2 but for the life of me I can’t remember how the lip-synching was in that one. I could check, but the game is all the way over there. Anyway point is that in Heavy Rain, lips match words, and that’s a-ok with me.
The overall visuals are also great, especially when you consider the wide variety of locations that you visit throughout the game. I recently played through Aliens Vs Predator (check out the review if you want to read one that’s the polar opposite of this one) and a big turn-off was how every location was so similar. Many games take you to different places, but in Heavy Rain you hardly even see the same place twice. Almost every chapter takes place in a completely different environment, which really helps keep everything fresh.
There is only one area I can think of where I have mixed feelings, and that’s in the audio department. I’ll start with the positive – the music in this game is phemenomal. How good is it? Once I had finished the game I went on iTunes and bought the official soundtrack. How many times have I done this before? Not once. Many years ago I ordered the Chrono Trigger soundtrack off eBay, but that was the first and last game soundtrack I ever purchased. That tells you everything you need to know.
On the flipside, some of the voice acting is a bit…wonky. Most of the lead actors are good, however there’s the occasional side character who just doesn’t bring the A game. Granted a lot of this has to do with what I believe are a group of French voice actors doing their best to portray Americans, so it’s hard to fault them too much. Hell I just can’t stay mad at this game about anything.
Heavy Rain has now taken the throne as my top game of 2010. Bayonetta only held it for a couple of months before it was toppled. Heavy Rain is going to be a tough one to take down though. Sitting here writing this I’m actually struggling to come up with more things to hold against it but I…I just can’t do it. If for some reason you have still held off on buying a PS3, there is no longer any excuse. Every single gamer out there has to experience this one for themselves.