Paul Plays Playstation: Heavy Rain

With both Uncharteds down, I figured it was time for a change of pace for my next Playstation 3 adventure. People have been trying to describe Heavy Rain to me for a while now, and the most prominently featured adjectives have been “slow” but “great.”

It’s hard for me to even remember a slow-paced video game that I liked at the moment, as the closest thing I could think of that would be stealth titles where you have to creep around and snap people’s necks. Before that, I don’t, Myst maybe?

So needless to say, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into with Heavy Rain, but with all the praise I knew I would be remiss not to check it out for myself.

What I found was less of an actual game, and more of an experiment in storytelling for the  21st century. Heavy Rain is essentially a ten hour long interactive movie, which has you, the viewer, involved by controlling the characters and having to push buttons or rotate a joystick on occasion.

Press X to love your child.

To describe it in more “gaming” terms, the game is like an incredibly long cutscene filled with quicktime events, which on the surface would seem to be a big turn off to most serious gamers, myself included. Quick time events are generally the pinnacle of lazy game design, and “Press X not to die” is a phrase that widely represents their usual use, and why most hate these sort of tactics.

Here however, when the entire game is practically made up of these moments, it forms a different sort of genre that doesn’t really exist. If I had to compare it to another title, it might be a combination of LA Noire, which combines a gripping plot and a mystery to be solved by clue hunting, and Dance Dance Revolution, were you must constantly follow instructions on the screen during the exciting parts, lest you fail your objective.

But can you fail? That’s a question I never really got answered. As the entire game is merely a string of button presses, it’s one of the easier titles I’ve played, but from what I gather, you can never actually “die” or fail a mission objective. If you mess up these button presses TOO much, the plot might go in a direction you didn’t want it to, but there doesn’t appear to be such a thing as “losing” the game outright, which is another fascinating concept for an industry that hasn’t often tried such a philosophy.

The first thing you’ll notice is how absolutely gorgeous it all is. This is the second time I’ve been literally wowed by a PS3 game graphically, and though I thought there wasn’t going to be a noticeable different from Xbox, on some titles there absolutely is. More than once, someone would walk into the room and with a casual glance assume I was watching a movie. Careful detail is put into the environments and the character models, right down to individual hairs and pores. It’s truly a sight to behold.

Unlike Uncharted, the breathtaking visuals are in the close-ups, not the panoramic shots.

The game has you in control of four characters, a devoted father, an intrepid journalist, an FBI agent and a private investigator, each with their own storylines relating to a mysterious figure known as the “Origami Killer.” a serial murderer who abducts children and kills them a few days later. Know that since this game is quite old at this point, so if you really don’t want to know the ins and outs of the plot, turn back now.

Heavy Rain works in part because its plot is actually pretty fascinating. The four, sometimes intersecting stories, build the mystery well. As you unfold the sordid history of the killer, and the answers you’re looking for are slowly revealed, it’s more compelling than most movies. Partly because it’s interesting in itself, but also because of the gameplay mechanics.

The game starts out exceptionally slow, in the sense that the first few levels have you controlling the father throwing a birthday party for his son. Your first “mission” is literally to take a shower and put on clothes, which involves about twelve different button presses and joystick wiggles to get there. As I wandered around the house slowly setting up my kids birthday party over the course of half an hour, I wondered what the hell I was playing.

He was my favorite. Such a nice guy.

But tender moments like these serve their purpose, as once your first son is killed in a tragic accident, and later your second son is abducted by the Origami Killer, you’ll miss moments like these. The plot for the father turns into a sort of Saw game where the killer puts you through tests to see just how much you love your son. He asks you to drive the wrong way down the freeway, to crawl through broken glass, to cut o ff your own finger, and even to kill a man, all in the hope that you’ll get one more clue to your son’s location before his clock runs out. All of these moments are terrifying not because you have to watch them, but because you have to execute them yourself.

In the game, the father has psychotic breaks where he blacks out and wakes up in the pouring rain on a certain street with an Origami figure in his hand. Every indication points to the fact that it is actually HE who is the killer, and his darker self is punishing his lighter half for what happened to his first child, which he deems as his fault.

When this started to unfold, I thought wow, that’s actually a pretty good storyline, if not one I figured out a little too fast for myself. But then the game pulls the rug out from you, and you find everything is not exactly what you suspect. It’s a massive plot twist, but one when fully  explained doesn’t feel forced, and you feel like the game has been playing YOU this whole time, which it most definitely has.

He only fires one clip the whole game, but it makes a mark.

Though the game has slower moments that are memorable (the birthday party, the FBI agent hunting through virtual clues, the PI cradling and changing a neglected baby), when the action picks up, you see how the quick time event format really helps to wrestle the viewer actually INTO the story in a way that movies can’t.

You watch a fight or chase scene in a film, it’s exciting, but all out of your control, and rarely do you actually feel any real danger yourself. But the fight scenes here are truly terrifying, and each encounter is bound to get your heart pumping as you struggle as an unarmed woman against two male home invaders, or fighting off a prostitute’s violent client. There are some moments that are so intense I was shaking afterwards.

Due to an earlier quick time event I had failed, my FBI agent was still addicted to a narcotic that had horrible side effects that would crop up at the wrong moment. I had been tasked with throwing the substance away, but I failed, and the drug was still in my system. I had the upper hand on a murderous suspect, but when I started getting the shakes, he managed to get the drop on me, and knocked me out cold.

“I pity the fool that’s addicted to futuristic drugs!”

I woke up handcuffed in my car that was being loaded into a junkyard crusher. It was absolutely terrifying because of how the game had unfolded to this point, I was convinced that this game would have no problem actually killing me. I was almost resigned to my fate, thinking my drug addiction had led to my demise. But then the button instructions started popping up. There was hope! As the car became more and more closer to a pancake, I kicked open my glove box, managed to slide my gun stashed there across my dashboard, and shoot the cuff chain. I escaped from the  car with seconds to spare, and my heart was racing with a flurry of emotions that I hadn’t experienced from a game or a movie in quite some time.

This is why Heavy Rain is a great game, even if you don’t want to technically call it a game. A game has points, a game you can have do-overs, a game you can lose, but Heavy Rain abandons all these principles to form an entirely new experience all its own.  For a game that’s relatively “slow,” in the sense that it’s more or less a giant cutscene, I’ve never been more involved in the characters or felt more tense during the action scenes in any other title I can remember. It might not be “fun” in the traditional sense, but it’s a truly amazing title that everyone, gamer or not, should experience, as the plot is fascinating and the title is littered with impactful moments that will stay with you.

Truly my best PS3 experience yet, and with all the complaints about the industry being stale and recycling the same titles for decades, it’s nice to see that some companies are out there attempting to break out of the box.

Next up: Demon’s Souls or Infamous


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  1. Great review for a great game.

    As far as your next game to play based on your options. Demon Souls hand down best choice out of your two options. Thats a Game I followed on as much as Heavy rain based on the premises of how it plays.

    Words of advise be prepared to die and dont let death keep you down in that game.

  2. The fun thing about heavy rain is that you can play again and have a different experience with different endings. I’m pretty sure It’s always the same killer, nothing that drastic, but there are some different choices and dialogue to keep it interesting.

  3. Yeah the killer is always the same but the endings can be extremely different. Also you can die in the game. And if one of your charecters die they dont come back and are missing from the rest of the story and you may miss some key points to save your son from drowning. Yeah its pretty easy so most gamers wont actually have a charecter die, but its fun to go back and play and see how if one charecter doesnt make it, how much a dynamic the story shifts.

  4. You should give God of War 3 a play to see yet another title on the PS3 that is unlike anything on Xbox. It’s a button smasher for sure but the graphics and the level design (at least check out the opening level) are amazing.

  5. I recommended Heavy Rain last time and u listened, go with infamous this time. Infamous needs to be played though twice to grasp the full scope of the game. It does get a little repetitive, but the powers Cole has are great and only get better.

  6. My friend who played it at the same time as I did had a completely different story, he lost a character half way through and ended with half the cast, yet what I love is the fact you dont feel like you’re missing out. Thee are definitely sliht changes in the endings you can have as well, I hope quantic dream keep pushing the genre in different ways. Great review!

  7. While I love the hell out of the game, I really must differ on how forced the twist was, as well as how the whole “Ethan = Origami Killer” was played out. I felt that it was just too much of an obvious red herring. Not to mention that it then turns into an obvious plot hole (Why was he blacking out? Was he having psychological problems? And why was he always waking out in the same place with an origami figure?)

    It’s still an amazing game and a great trip. It’s just that the story, while greatly told, is not as good as it may seem.

  8. One thing you forgot to mention in your review is how important and poignant the soundtrack is. It’s one of those things people don’t usually notice but in this game, the music does an outstanding job of both setting the tone of each scene and driving the story forward. Glad you enjoyed it.

  9. Characters CAN die in this game. I messed up the FBI Agent in the car scene myself the first time and he was dead. Was quite a shock realizing that the rest of the story no longer had him in it…

  10. The game is definitely more like an interactive movie than a game, but works because it’s completely plot driven. If the plot was on par with Gears of War, than it probably would’ve have failed miserably– and I’m not saying GoW has a bad plot, but the real joy of that game is the shooting.

    It’s crazy because talking with other people usually leads to them describing how different an experience the gameplay and plot was for them. Several seem to lose the detective their first go round in the junkyard, and I almost lost the woman in the fire (refrigerator ftw!)

  11. of course A 10 hr. long interactive cutscene looks great, the ps3 and xbox 360 are on par graphically. Gears of war 3 looks better than uncharted 2.

  12. @Camden
    Gears of War 3 also came out 2 years after uncharted 2. If you’re going to compare games it should be Gears of War 3 vs. Uncharted 3. And from what I’ve seen Uncharted 3 looks way better than Gears 3.

  13. Infamous is fantastic but requires you to play Infamous 2 to appreciate the whole experience. The story to Infamous 1 is one of the best I’ve seen in a game and Infamous 2 is just a better game which nicely wraps up the two-part story. Play’em both.

  14. Great review of an amazing game. Yes, I call it a game for sure. Like others have said, you can die and truly mess things up. On my first play, all my characters died or went to jail and the very last scene had the killer walking freely in the city. Holy crap was I devastated ! Having played at the highest difficulty and never reloading, I got my ass handed to me. On a second play, I took easy settings and REALLY was careful. Very different feeling. No game ever played with my emotions this way. Amazing.

  15. I won a copy of Heavy Rain when it first came out. Had to follow a series of clues to find a secret location and then once I got there had to compete with a bunch of other people to make origami figures the fastest. Needless to say I have played through the game a few times, each time being a unique experience. Try for the Perfect Crime trophy as it makes you side with the killer and do everything you can to let him get away with the crime. I also got PS Move recently, and it actually adds a pretty good experience to the game. – This game is still one of the best gaming experiences I have ever had.

  16. and no, uncharted 3 does not look better than gears 3. having checked out both betas, no competition really. characters too floaty in uncharted, hiding bad textures with bloom and lots of post processing effects

  17. Camden – Simply put, you’re wrong. Have a look at these two screenshots. First from Gears 3 and the second from Uncharted 3.



    Noticed the differences in texture design and how both games deal with “action”. Gears becomes very plain and blurry when not able to use the texture map that’s draped over 90% of the game. Uncharted on the other hand, while not exactly picture perfect shows clear definition of texture detail in the foreground and I would argue, even the background looks more detailed that the main characters in Gears.

    It is a statistical fact that due to the PS3’s specifications, it is capable of handling higher quality graphics and framerate. While this may not always be the case, (sometimes due to developers building the game on 360 and porting it and sometimes simply due to a developers lack of ambition) to claim that the 360 and PS3 are on par graphically, is nothing short of fanboy-ism.

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