Developer(s) – Quantic Dream
Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment
Director – David Cage
Producer – David Cage
Released in the middle of 2010, one of the most exciting years in the seventh generation of gaming in my opinion, Heavy Rain was a game developed in very much the same vein as a prior Quantic Dream game named Fahrenheit, containing multiple character narrative and a string of moral choices, which effect the events throughout as well as the ending. For me, this game was a sign of the times; that many developers were choosing to allow story in video games to take precedent over gameplay. Ever since, games like The Last of Us, Journey and Outlast have been met with overwhelmingly positive critical reception, and I think Heavy Rain can be seen as a catalyst for this trope; one that I think the industry would be far better off without.
Graphics – 8/10
From a technical standpoint, the game’s visuals are top notch. It’s easily one of the most realistic looking games of the seventh generation, making use of motion capture technology, extremely effective use of lighting and flawless textural details. The game also does an excellent job of establishing a truly morbid and dark atmosphere in stark contrast to the upbeat premise that the game begins on. The most outstanding criticism I would levy against the game’s presentation is how during every load screen, the characters faces are displayed close-up as if to beat players over the head with how advanced the visuals are.
Gameplay – 2/10
The game plays out pretty much identically to Fahrenheit, and by proxy, it feels just as empty and dissatisfying to play. The only incentive on offer to people who play the game multiple times is through different endings, artwork and developer commentaries, which to me, says a lot about how much effort the developers put into this aspect if they felt the need to go to as great a length to convince people that the story and visuals make up for the lack of gameplay, when it clearly doesn’t.
Controls – 7/10
For an action adventure game that isn’t particularly action-oriented compared to many other games, it isn’t surprising how much the game’s control scheme adds to the dullness associated with playing this game. The controls feel extremely stiff, and although there are a few context sensitive sequences, reminiscent of God of War, they don’t last long enough in my opinion, and there are also too few. It’s why I’ve always dreaded to think what the PlayStation Move edition of the game is like. I’ve always found the idea laughable.
Lifespan – 3/10
One playthrough of this game can be made to last merely 6 to 7 hours, which is quite typical of how long mainstream games have been made to last for a good number of years now. Although this game was clearly designed to be played multiple times, It’s easy enough to figure out how to get the best ending the first time round, and after that, there’s not much cause for playing the game again anyway.
Storyline – 7/10
Undoubtedly, the best thing about this game is the story. It centres mainly around a man called Ethan Mars, whom after the tragic death of his son Jason, is divorced from his wife and living alone with only his second son Shaun to care for. Shaun then goes missing, and it is assumed that he has been taken by an infamous criminal going by the pseudonym of the Origami Killer. Ethan resolves to find Shaun, and is put through a series of trials by the killer in order to test his commitment to his son. The story is also told through here additional characters; an FBI profiler named Norman Jayden, a journalist named Madison Paige and a private detective named Scott Shelby. The story is extremely dark and at times downright depressing, but it can end either well or poorly depending on player desire.
Originality – 2/10
In my review of Fahrenheit, I commented that the only positive hint of uniqueness the game had going for it was its combination of action adventure and point and click adventure gameplay. But now that the idea has been done before, Heavy Rain has even less going for it, since it incorporates an identical style of gameplay, and only having a good story to keep things even remotely interesting throughout. This to me, is much more of a negative thing, since the story clearly came before the gameplay in the developer’s eyes, and made for what was in my opinion, an extremely dull experience overall.
To summarize, Heavy Rain is most definitely one of the worst games I played throughout the seventh generation, since the majority of effort was focused into the wrong aspects, and the most important aspects were neglected greatly. Quantic Dream have managed to impress a lot of gamers over the years, but they have yet to impress me at all.