When it rains, it pours. Nothing could more accurately describe this latest thriller by Quantic Dream for the Playstation 3. Unlike common games today, Heavy Rain attempts to modify an old lost gaming genre once known as “full motion video” or “FMV” for short. The idea is to have the player witness a story happen before them and interact with it at key moments to change the outcome. This serves to make the story so involved that the player feels that they are not just interacting with a movie. But does Heavy Rain make it to a bright day or does it drown in it’s own endless rain?
The story in Heavy Rain is a mystery the player experiences through the eyes of four separate characters: Ethan Mars, Scott Shelby, Madison Paige, and Norman Jayden. The plot is that there is a killer that has been abducting young boys and drowning them in rain water. The killer leaves a signature at each murder, an orchid on the chest and an origami figure in their hand. Thus he is named, “The Origami Killer”. Ethan Mars, who has already tragically lost a son, finds that when his son goes missing that he too has been kidnapped by the killer. The killer leaves clues for Ethan within a set of origami figures, but each clue is trial that Ethan must undergo to find his son. Scott Shelby is a retired detective turned private investigator, who is also searching for the Origami Killer. Madison Paige is a journalist who comes to the area seeking to write a story on the Killer. Then we have Norman Jayden, an FBI agent who is working with the local police to solve the the case of the Origami Killer. Throughout the story, the characters not only cross paths, but the player will switch between control of them constantly.
The game play was voiced to be an issue before release and controversially, still is. Heavy Rain is a casual game and to that end, the control is not complicated. In the game’s beginning, the player follows Ethan Mars doing basic every day things such as brushing his teeth and getting ready for the day. The point of this is to get the player used to the controls in a non-threatening environment. Controls include using the six axis control to shake the controller vertically to brush your teeth or horizontally to open doors. There is even a point where Ethan juggles three toy balls and test the players skill at timing. The player is also allowed to move the charactrer, via left analog, throughout the environment. As the game progresses, the controls become harder. As the game is a mystery thriller, the characters often experience moments of fight or flight. It is in these sequences that it becomes challenging for the player to hit certain button combinations such as “up”, hold “R1” then tap “R2”, and so forth. While the player either succeeds or fails in hitting the correct button on the front end, they get to witness the character either escape or be punished in the background. And by punished, they go from merely being embarrassed to being stabbed and shot. For what it is, the game play is solid.
Music is quintessential to all games. In the background, it is impossible to escape the ubiquitous and saturnine sound of the rain clouding the characters in their own world. Proceeding this, comes the traditional dark and chilling mystery music. During the action sequences, the music speeds up to create a sense of urgency and then reforms back into it’s gloomy state.
The visuals are very appealing and impressive. Within the game world itself, the locations are not filled with large bulky objects, but detailed objects. The characters are very distinct and the emotions built in are realistic. The characters move fluidly and there are no awkward bulky movements.During the loading scenes, Quantic Dream shows off by giving us a close up detail look at a particular character’s face.
Overall, Heavy Rain accomplishes what it sets out to become, an interactive mystery thriller that keeps the player involved from beginning to end. The involved story will keep players always guessing what will happen next. Even upon completion, the game holds replay value. Totaling a possible 18 alternate endings, players will have to replay a plethora of times to chang outcomes. If this player dies, how does it end? If this player lives, how does it end? Pick up this title and you’ll have you’re work cut out for you.