As an XBox 360 owner during the Seventh Generation of gaming, Heavy Rain was a game that I was unable to get my greasy mitts on during its original 2010 release. It was one that I remained very much aware of though, so when I heard that it was coming to the PS4, I decided it would be a good time to pick it up.
I know some people have been getting wound up about all these HD remakes of previously released games, but as someone who didn’t own a PS3, I have to say I’m very pleased that a lot of these games are seeing re-releases. I think sometimes people fail to comprehend just how convincing Microsoft’s win over Sony was during the last generation, and indeed how comprehensive Sony’s victory looks like it will eventually be during the current one. For every entitled PS3 owner who played Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain inside and out six years ago, there will be many more that have never played it and might be interested in doing so. For that reason, it makes perfect sense to roll the dice on it again with a fresh audience, of which I am a member, waiting in the wings.
The question is, is this game worth a go if you’ve never played it before? I’ll let the following picture assist me with answering that question.
Heavy Rain is essentially an interactive movie where you switch between four different characters as they try to locate kidnapped 10-year-old Shaun Mars. Shaun has been abducted by a notorious serial killer known as “The Origami Killer”. The Origami Killer drowns young boys in rain water and then leaves an origami figurine in their cold dead hands as some kind of morbid apology. This makes the ordeal even worse for children who have a paper allergy.
The four characters you control are maverick private investigator Scott, drug addled F.B.I. agent Jayden, undercover reporter Maddison, and Shaun’s beleaguered father Ethan. Each of the four characters have specific points where they can die, which effects how the narrative eventually plays out. This in theory adds replayability to the game, as whoever survives will impact the game’s ending and also play a large part in whether Shaun makes it out alive.
I don’t want to go into any more detail than that for the risk of spoiling the story, and as we’ll explore in more detail a paragraph or two further down, the story is an integral part of Heavy Rain‘s appeal. To take away the game’s story is to almost destroy it before it even starts. One thing I will say is that the eventual villain of the piece is always the same. What that means is that your actions in the game can only really decide whether the villain succeeds or fails in their ultimate goal. This might affect the desire to replay the game more than once as you’ll know the twist before it happens.
What I will say is that I found myself caring a lot about each character’s eventual outcome, and such a thing is integral if a game like this is to succeed. For that alone, the game wins some brownie points from me, even if that may not translate to other players.
David Cage, the erstwhile “director” of this game, has been openly mocked in the past for his use of the word “emotions”, but I can’t think of a game I’ve played in recent months that lingered on my consciousness as much as this one did. There are some truly visceral and hard hitting moments in this game that left a lasting impression with me long after I had played them. Gaming enthusiasts who are looking for something that will grip them from a pure emotional (aw, now I’m using it!) standpoint will no doubt find a lot in here that they will like.
There is one section of the game where a character is forced into an act of self-mutilation that I found to be one of the most affecting moments in any game I’d ever played. You’re forced into a position where you actively have to hurt this character in a thoroughly disgusting manner, and I found it to be overpoweringly gruesome and miserable. That being said, I can’t deny that the game made me feel this way for all the right reasons, so it left me in a bizarre position of both hating the section of play while also really admiring it. Such scenarios occur with reasonable frequency throughout the game as a whole.
So story and drama fans are likely to get their fill with this release, but what about those who are more about gameplay than story and quick time events? I fear that many of these players will find Heavy Rain to be a frustrating and possibly empty experience. The controls are so fiddly and the camera so haphazardly aligned that even the simple task of navigating your character from one side of a room to the other can be a torturous ordeal. Characters will only walk if you press the “R2” button and then you control them with the left analogue stick. However, steering your character is tantamount to directing a remote control car through an obstacle course when its batteries are half dead and there’s a wall of marzipan obstructing the aerial’s signal.
With some sections of the game limited to strict time limits, you will often find yourself pulling out your hair in frustration as your character gets stuck on a piece of scenery during a crucial moment. By pressing “L1” you can change the camera angle, but most of the time this doesn’t tend to help as the camera is always at a fixed angle that you can’t really adjust with any sense of satisfaction. If more control had been given to the player to arrange where the camera was, this might have reduced the constant level of frustration that permeates even the most simple of tasks.
So when it comes to a purchasing decision with Heavy Rain, it really does come down to what you expect and want from a video game. If you’re all about gameplay, you might want to give this one a miss. The characters control poorly and the big action sections are little more than interactive cut scenes with quick time events out the wazoo. It’s a shame, as some sections actually make use of the PS4 controller in interesting ways which both entertain and excite. A car chase in particular proved to be a lot of fun, with fast moves required to avoid instant death. I personally didn’t mind all the quick time stuff and found it quite pulsating at times, but I’m aware more hardened video game enthusiasts may find the whole experience to be a little too “casual” for their liking.
If you’re all about story and like playing games which are essentially interactive movies, then you could do a lot worse than Heavy Rain. As far as games go in this genre, it does enough to hold your attention while also throwing in the odd blockbuster level/scene that makes it feel like something slightly more special than it actually is. I certainly enjoyed my time with it and I’m glad I got to play it.
Graphically, the game looks decent, although some of the animation can be awkward now and then (especially during the dour and thoroughly passionless sex scene which you can indulge in at a certain point). One huge negative in regards to the game is that it’s buggy to bollocks and back, which only adds to the mounting frustration in certain scenarios.
There’s also some actual top half of the body nudity in this, so the prudish amongst the readership best be warned. In the very first chapter with Maddison, you control her as she frolics around her apartment in her underwear. You can make her have a shower and she’ll actually get her twazzocks out for the whole world to see, in a scene which would surely cause Anita Sarkeesian’s brain to explode at the flagrant sexism/bap parade. I was only making her have a shower because I thought you had to for story purposes you understand (a ruse as convincing as Mr. Snrub), and I was expecting the camera to move away, but no, there she was starkers in the shower. If you’re a parent thinking of buying this for your 11 or 12-year-old son, you might want to be wary. I mean, he’ll be chuffed like nobody’s business if he can get hold of a copy, but it’s probably best to err on the side of caution with this one.
So overall, whether you should get this game depends mostly on what sort of games you want to play. Chances are if you have even a passing interest in this genre, you’ll be satisfied with what’s provided. If you’re not, this game isn’t going to convert you.