16 February 2012 | MaximumMadness
An ambitious, thrilling and interesting video-game, "Heavy Rain" twists the format around by becoming more of an interactive-movie than a full-fledged game- and it is amazing!
I really don't know whether to review David Cage's 2010 PS3 release "Heavy Rain" as I would a video game, or as I would a film. The game is a unique exercise and experiment that further blurs the thin lines between the mediums of games and films. (A line that has been continuously blurred over the past 10 years, as many video games deliver compelling plots and intriguing characters that are beyond the processed, sanitized crud that Hollywood spoon-feeds the public... There have been games with Hitchcockian levels of suspense and storytelling lately.) Indeed, the game is, more or less, an interactive movie. You spend about a third of the game watching scenes go by as you would a film, taking control of the characters at points to interact with others, explore areas, and looking for clues. It is very much like one of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books you'd read as a child (your choices affect the outcome of the story, with dozens of different endings), although this is a very mature, adult tale of love and sacrifice.
Pascal Langdale provides the voice (and motion capture) for out main character Ethan Mars, a man who lost one of his two sons in a tragic accident that also put him in a coma for a period of time. When his only other son is kidnapped by the infamous "Origami Killer" (so-called because he leaves an Origami figure in the hands of his victims), and he gets a box of clues beckoning him to a series of demented tests in order to save his son, he must go on a treacherous journey to get his son back.
The player also controls three other characters at times, including Scott Shelby (Sam Douglass), a private investigator hired by families of the victims of the killer. Maddison Paige (Jacqui Ainsley), a beautiful young journalist whom meets Ethan and tries to assist him. And Norman Jayden (Leon Ockenden), an FBI agent whom is brought in to help with the investigation, who hides a severe drug addiction from everyone else.
These four characters all have compelling story lines in their own rights, and together, they form a marvelous cast for our story, which is essentially a mystery/suspense tale of Ethan trying to get his son back, and the others all trying to find the identity of the killer. The plot is loaded with cunning twists and turns (including a climactic twist near the end that I didn't see coming and pulled the rug out from under me), and as said before, is the sort of classic, Hitchcock story that movies just don't give us anymore.
I will now break down the game by it's various aspects...
Graphics... 8 out of 10 The character models for our four main characters are stunning and quite lifelike. Environments are generally brilliantly realized, and secondary characters also look convincing. This is a gorgeous, life-like game. It does lose a few points for two reasons- 1) some scenes with vaster scopes do look clunky (large crowds in the game look cartoony and unrealistic, and some textures pop in and out), and 2) the design of the game isn't very convincing. This game is supposed to take place in the US, but you can tell it was made by Europeans- it isn't realistically designed at times.
Sound... 10 out of 10 Normand Corbeil's orchestral score for this game is incredible. One of the finest scores in gaming history, in my opinion, and one of those rare scores in games that feels like it would fit into a Hollywood film. It is very emotional, tragic, and suspenseful. In addition, the voice acting on everyone's part is perfect. Everything clicks in the sound department.
Controls... 9 out of 10 The controls are difficult to master (having to hold "R2" to walk feels... wrong), and are very simplistic. To be honest, you could probably play this game with one hand at times. As this is more of an "interactive movie", there isn't much button mashing or anything like that- this is a game where you will occasionally need to hit a few buttons, or use some quick reflexes. But once you get past the eccentricities of the control scheme, you will find it works darn-near perfectly! (With the exception of a few moments where you are suddenly required to press and hold about seven different buttons at once, which are frustrating as heck!)
Story... 10 out of 10. As I said above, it is a strong mystery/suspense tale. A serial killer known as the "Origami Killer" has been kidnapping young boys and drowning them in rainwater over the course of several days. Ethan Mars, the father of his latest kidnapping victim has only a few days to save his son.
Overall... 10 out of 10.
This is a unique game. It certainly isn't for everyone (I know more than one person who adores it, and I also know more than one person who loathes it), and it feels like an enormous experiment, albeit an incredible one. I love this game. And I highly recommend it!