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Heavy Rain (PlayStation 3) artwork

Heavy Rain (PlayStation 3) review

"It was destined for debate the moment it hit shelvesóor perhaps even prior. A game that isnít a game at all, described by its own designers as ďan interactive dramaĒ where the player takes complete control, even over the most menial of tasks like drinking orange juice or shaving. Some may see it as brilliant, others may call it foolish but I donít think any can argue that Heavy Rain was one of a kind. "

It was destined for debate the moment it hit shelves--or perhaps even prior. A game that isnít a game at all, described by its own designers as ďan interactive dramaĒ where the player takes complete control, even over the most menial of tasks like drinking orange juice or shaving. Some may see it as brilliant, others may call it foolish but I donít think any can argue that Heavy Rain was one of a kind.

Everything else about it is fair game.

And though I could easily tumble into the mainstream abyss, and point out what some may see as flaws I refuse. For as much as I may be ridiculed for saying it, Heavy Rain is verging on a work of art. Some connoisseurs may analyze every stroke, every inch, and pick it apart piece by piece, where as I chose to see it as a whole, compliment it for being brave and simply take a step back to marvel at it.

Perhaps the biggest ďflawĒ for many was the labor Heavy Rain asked gamers to put in to do the simplest of things. Walking required them to push more than one button, setting a plate down could only be done by twisting the analog stick a certain way and calculated moves were required to open a door. Many--perhaps only the lazy ones--hated that, but thereís a massive difference between watching something happen and making something happen. Initially, moving, opening doors, and handling simple objects was more cumbersome than anything Iíve ever endured. And if I could remember my infant years I probably would say the same thing about actually doing them. Yet after a while those things became second nature. I was committing them without actually thinking about them so I was still involved--still active--and my immersion into the characters became far more vivid.

When they panicked, I panicked. Reaching for my inhaler after an asthma attack became all the more frantic because I knew it was up to me to focus, enter the right combination and spare my character from passing out--or worse. When I was running after my son while he was lost in the mall, the chase was that much more intense because every little move counted, and any mistake would have cost me. And when I sat at that shoddy wooden table, knife in hand, hovering it over my own pinky, ready to either sever it or give up my sonís life, I became as anxious as the character it was actually happening to. The prompt on the screen to push the analog stick down shook and pulsed--as though breathing heavy--and only furthered my angst. The impact provided was deeper because I led myself to that point. Rather than making just one choice and watching it unfold, I did every little thing to make it culminate.

Whether I walked away from it or severed my digit, it would have stuck with me. No matter the choice, I would have been left wondering what would have happened if I decided differently. Although haunting, it was at the same time brilliant. Yet itís another argument that many had, saying that even when you made a choice it did very little to impact the gameís overall structure. While that wasnít always true, a good many instances that I thought would play out later never appeared. While several may ask what is the point of giving the gamer so many choices if they wonít make any significant change later I--under delusion perhaps--could not see the flaw.

Because I donít truly believe that the magic lies in the consequence of your actions, rather in just having the freedom to make them. The drug dealer before me, staring helplessly at the barrel of my gunÖdo I shoot him, or let him live? Do I rush in to save the prostitute that withheld information from me, or ignore her cries for help?

Now, granted, at times it can be frustrating to see only a brief cut-scene play out depending on your choices only to vanish later as the game re-enters the broader story telling I can appreciate the attempt Quantic Dream made. A game like Heavy Rain gives you countless choices, and not all of them can shift the entire make-up. It would have to be huge; much bigger than even a blu-ray could handle. But itís a start, and we may in fact see something that magnificent one day. Heavy Rain can only be applauded for making the attempt, and potentially paving the way.

Itís those choices and the interactivity that smoothes out some of the rougher edges. Though the controls are responsive with the quick inputs, sometimes the longer, more involved tasks show its flaws. Your characters stop walking even when nothing has changed; they turn too far or not at all, making it hard to lock on to an object that youíre trying to approach.

Although there is one heart-wrenching, extreme opening sequence the game tends to be sluggish for most of the middle. More time is spent introducing the characters and their background than there is actual progression. There are some entertaining highlights like the crime-scene investigation and the trials, but itís lacking some real intense moments for three of the four protagonists. The depth is there, and I like that theyíre trying to build the characters so you care about them, but they went a little too far.

Fortunately, the gameís style, involvement and willingness to take a risk absolves that. Even when youíre in a mediocre scene, itís a step above a lot of other games with the same problem because Heavy Rain involves you further. Like any controversial work some ridicule it, bash it or negate it because they donít feel itís up to par with what came before it. Brilliance is often misunderstood for madness, however, and I donít believe Quantic Dream set out to make a great game--even though in many ways they did that. They made a game to shatter the standards of interactive entertainment. One goal they accomplished--so well that few will ever live up to it.

Though I hope, at least, they try.

Nightmare's avatar
Community review by Nightmare (July 06, 2010)

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zippdementia posted July 06, 2010:

This is a killer review, Nightmare. I think it responds nicely to both the praise and the criticism of Heavy Rain and manages to keep its hands clean by remaining very personal in its prose. Nice job.
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Suskie posted July 07, 2010:

What a weird review. At times it feels like a direct rebuke against negative Heavy Rain reviews and comes off as extremely condescending (people who don't like the controls are called lazy and at one point, I believe, compared to infants), while at others, you seem incredibly unsure of yourself, constantly bringing up the fact that some people don't like it and at one point suggesting that you're delusional for enjoying it.

I think at this point I'm naturally biased against any attempts to play up on Heavy Rain's "dramatic" scenes -- OMG ASTHMA ATTACK REACH FOR THE INHALER OR THERE MAY BE CONSEQUENCES -- because I know how lame the game is in action, but at least I can read Zipp's review right now and comprehend where the average Heavy Rain fan is coming from. Even putting aside from the fact that some of the examples people are using to sell this game nowadays are pure BS (the mall scene had consequences? are you kidding me?), this review came off as whiny and melodramatic, making weak arguments and constantly bringing up opinions that aren't the writer's own.

But then I am growing increasingly less tolerant of Heavy Rain praise by the minute, so if Nightmare dismisses everything I've said here, then I don't blame him.

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hmd posted July 07, 2010:

guys let me just put on my csi sunglasses here and
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Nightmare posted July 07, 2010:

Thanks for the feedback, Zipp. I tried to both write a review that would explain the game, but at the same time address some of the major concerns others have complained about. I think Heavy Rain is perhaps one of the most talked about games of last year, and there aren't many who haven't read some potentially negative comments on it. I'm glad you liked it.

As for Suskie, I can really only say to each their own, and the above description may have warranted you seeing the review as weird. I didn't mean to imply that doing something different in the mall, or even not reaching the inhaler in time would have had a drastic turn, but--in an effort not to reveal any spoilers--it might, and in playing the game for the first time you really have no idea, so the tension is still present, and I reacted as if the threat was very real.

I did refer to cynics as lazy because the walking argument seems to be kind of shallow. You don't hear anyone complaining about some first person shooters requiring you to push several different buttons to fire a gun, or action games demanding a specific combination to roll out of the way. I may have been more abrasive towards that because it feels like people are only looking for something to complain about there. That's why I made the reference I did to infants. I wasn't calling them children, only saying that real life was like the game. At first, walking was an odd sensation and probably required a fair amount of focus, but as you grew up--as you played the game more--it became second nature, and mid-way through I didn't even notice it.
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zigfried posted July 07, 2010:

I did refer to cynics as lazy because the walking argument seems to be kind of shallow. You don't hear anyone complaining about some first person shooters requiring you to push several different buttons to fire a gun, or action games demanding a specific combination to roll out of the way

I think the difference is that most action games use a simple button combination (often a single button press) to perform complex tasks. From the sound of it, Heavy Rain uses more elaborate combinations (or multiple button presses) to perform simple tasks. Action games that require elaborate combinations to perform simple actions are generally called "bad" and quickly forgotten. It's similar to the negative reaction many people will have after they try using Natal/Kinect.

Your review does make a case that such things are good in Heavy Rain. I'm just pointing out that your above analogy to action games could be seen as supporting their complaint.

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Suskie posted July 07, 2010:

Yeah, that's not a good analogy simply because what Heavy Rain is doing is taking what's been established as standard in 3D games -- pushing the analog stick in a direction makes your character move in that direction -- and adding an additional complication for no discernible reason. You're right that it's not worth dwelling on (which is why I didn't dwell on it in my own review), but, for example, I could easily see someone making the argument that holding either of the PS3 controller's awful shoulder buttons for an extended period of time doesn't do the game any favors. I didn't get any noticeable cramps while playing Heavy Rain, but it's happened for me in other PS3 games (most notably Prototype), so it's not uncalled for. Just as an example.
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zippdementia posted July 07, 2010:

The only three problems I had with Heavy Rain were (a) sometimes the voice acting falls off in a jarring way (b) the opening is much too long without really building any feeling and (c) I have no inclination to go back and replay it.
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aschultz posted July 27, 2010:

Having not played Heavy Rain, I had to read other reviews to find what this game was about--was it a sim, or did you just wander doing stuff without the story ending? However, on reading them, I think this review fills a niche very well, perhaps more as an essay, and given what it chose to focus on, perhaps getting back into the game would've made it long and unreadable. As it is, the length feels about right--and you shouldn't be forced to make your review wear a nicely starched shirt and a proper striped tie.

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