3 July 2010 | freemantle_uk
An extraordinary game
Before it's release in March 2010 there was already a massive amount of buzz to the release of Heavy Rain, impressing at video games conferences, including E3 when it's film rights in 2006. This was a game that promised a truly interactive experience.
In an unnamed Eastern American city, the Origami Killer is stalking the streets. His modus operandi
is to kidnap young boys in the autumn and place them in a well until their drown from rain water: so they usually have about 3 to 6 days to live. In 2011 he continues and the games focuses on 4 characters. Ethan Mars (Pascal Langdale) is an architect whom oldest son died and lives a depressed live. He is distant to his younger son Shaun. But when Shaun is kidnapped by the Origami Killer Ethan has to go through a series of Saw like trials set up by the Killer for clues to his son's whereabouts. Norman Jayden (Leon Ockenden) is an FBI profiler sent to help the police with their investigation. He has to find clues and suspects as he battles against his police partners and his own drug addiction. Madison Paige (Judi Beecher) is a journalist who suffers from insomnia. She befriends Ethan and conducts her own investigation to help him, using her contacts and journalistic instincts. Finally there is Scott Selby (Sam Douglas), a private detective who has been asked by the victims' families to investigate the case. He asks the parents of the victims questions and suspects the son of a powerful millionaire. He is also befriended by the mother of one of the victims, Lauren Winter (Aurélie Bancilhon), who forces herself on Scott as a partner. They all race against time to save Shaun Mars and find the killer.
The big selling point of Heavy Rain is that the player makes their own way throughout the game, with every decision he/she makes will have an influence on the outcome. If a character dies in the game their stay dead, there are no extra lives. This is a game where you have to conduct actions for the investigation, sometimes, you it won't let you move forward until you do a certain task, but also miss things that could have consequences afterwards. The other part of the gameplay are real time action scenes where you would need to do the right command in the middle of say a fight or a chase scene. If it goes wrong then you character may die. The gameplay was very similar to Shenmue, one of the best games that was made for the Dreamcast; but there is more threat in Heavy Rain and some of the interesting aspects are hearing the characters' thoughts and taking a conservation in a different direction. The game also has multiple endings, depending what happens to the characters, on whether they live, are arrested or pick up enough clues. It a good reason to play the game many times over.
The other excellent element is the story, which could have worked as a film. It is dark, violence, but mostly has a good combo of down-to-earth realism to more over-the-top elements you would expert in a computer game, e.g. the electric maze. The tone is much like a film noir, with dark complex characters with interesting backstories, particularly Ethan's. Many cut-scenes in games annoy some people, but in this game they are important and it adds to the cinematic nature of the game. There is a great voice acting in the game. Langdale is the best as the emotional depressed but driven man who feels the guilt of loosing both his sons. Hopefully his live-action acting is just as good.
But there isn't complete freedom that is promised. There are still scenes that you are forced to go through and there is not much change in the outcome of some events. If the game was able to combine Shenmue's fights, Heavy Rain's multiple ending and storyline and the Sandbox environment of the Grand Theft Auto and other Rockstar games then you would have the perfect game: besides the Football Manager and Total War series.