Sunday, February 28, 2010

Heavy Rain review

Despite being somewhat a fan of Quantic Dream's Fahrenheit, I have never been really interested in Heavy Rain - at least not until only a couple of months ago. The original "The Casting" technology demo for example did not pique my interest, not least because I wasn't actually wowed by the apparent visual fidelity.

The lure to Heavy Rain isn't so much the gameplay (which it hardly has, but bear with me), but the actual cinematic story telling mechanism. The developers has gone to pain to stress the consequences of the player's choice. So in Heavy Rain, a character (there are four major characters) can die - but this won't result in a game over. Instead the story line will progress, just without the dead character, and ultimately lead to a different ending and lost storylines and 'opportunities'.

Once a player completes a chapter, the chapter will be made available on the main menu screen. Here the player can reload the chapter and replays it right to a new ending if he or she wishes. It is an impressive save system that allows for a high replayability especially if you are like me and wishes to gain the 'perfect ending' or explore other possibilities. Those who wishes to gain more 'Trophies' would also be happy with the system.

As Heavy Rain relies heavily on its dialogue and storyline it would be a great disservice to spoil the game for you. Still, a small synopsis couldn't hurt. The game revolves around the four main playable character's search of the Origami Killer (who is so named as the killer leaves an origami in his/her victim's hands - duh). That's about as much as I would like to say and if you have any interest in the game you would probably already knew that.

Gameplay wise the title is divided into two sections - third person exploration (including menial tasks like showering and heating up prepack food) and QTE cut scenes. For a game that is so tightly controlled, a gamer may feel claustrophobic as they struggle to do anything relevant. But as mentioned earlier, any action, or should I say - in-action, can lead to consequences which at times may lead to a playable character's death. In a game that is often dubbed one long movie, the futuristic ARI glasses (used to locate/view evidence) of FBI profiler Norman Jayden can break the monotone.

Visually, Heavy Rain is a very pretty game. Animations are fluid (if at times stiff) and Quantic Dream almost managed to get away with the dead eye look that is so prevalent in realistic animations and modern video games. The environment are detailed and varied though the lack of full interaction and 'invisible wall' did annoy me for a game that is supposedly based on a realism. Still I've to appreciate the game makers desire to keep the linear narrative as intact as possible to service the storyline.

The voice acting quality varies but certainly far better quality than most video games. I've read of complaints about how poor the British and European actors attempts to mimic American accent, but I have to say that they do sound convincing - certainly a far improvement over the majority (well, all) of American voice actors attempting to mimic British of French accent. So competent voice acting, but not quite Uncharted 2 level.

Heavy Rain is probably the first genuine cinematic (with visuals to back it up) interactive film, and I can see a bright future for this genre. Gamers who are expecting more gameplay wise will be disappointed. Whether you will enjoy this or not is not relevant - Quantic Dream's accomplishment with Heavy Rain and their unique way of telling a story should be applauded. So whilst Heavy Rain isn't quite there yet, in a world of generic Western brown shooters and colourful but stale Japanese RPG, it is still worthy of your attention.

One last thing: people who complain about the nudity in Heavy Rain ought to get their brain serviced. Luddite fools.

Update: Having played more Heavy Rain, I found the game to be quite buggy. These ranges from screen freeze to none-loading textures and glitchy animations.

Heavy Rain is out now in all regions. Buy now from or Amazon UK and support this blog.

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