|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Quantic Dream||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 23, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matthew Walker
Can video games be a valid art form or cultural entertainment? Or more simply put, can they evoke an emotion in a player the same way a feature film or book can? While gamers and journalists alike know the answer to those questions, too often critics and so-called judges outside the industry have always answered with a resounding - NO. While I can admit a lot of games out there have a storyline that reads like the side of a can of SPAM, there are some noteworthy titles that truly capture the imagination.
I won't get into semantics, but the question remains: Can video games stand amongst some of Hollywood's greatest and be received as classics based on their story and experiences? Is Heavy Rain the title to break the barrier, or does it feed into the overall assumption of the industry?
I know what most are wondering about the following review - can I read it and the particulars of the game not be spoiled? Absolutely. I've kept this review spoiler-free so the story can truly be experienced by everyone who plays it. Simply put, Heavy Rain is, by far, one of the best written stories I have ever had the privilege of reading, watching, or playing. Having said that, it is important to point out Heavy Rain pulls no punches with its story. This alone reaches a new level for the industry and one that should not go unnoticed.
The importance of the story is further conveyed to the players, since you don't really have the pass/fail scenario we have grown accustomed to when playing games with quick-time events (QTEs). Heavy Rain has a narrative that grows from the way you handle the QTEs. Instead of feeling like you are being controlled by the game, you will more often feel like you are the one telling the game what to do. Let me explain. In Heavy Rain it really feels like you are in the driver's seat throughout the game. This is your epic; you are the director and this is how it is all going to play out after you have made your editing choices. The QTEs in Heavy Rain never feel out of place. Even in the smaller instances, like pouring yourself a drink, they flow as they would in your everyday life.
Since more recent games have found ways to include the QTE mechanic, in order to make players more involved with the cutscenes, it is refreshing to see a game grasp onto it and deliver something that is both traditional and refreshing all in the same breath. At first glance it is easy to say Heavy Rain is just a title with QTE and long cutscenes. However, this is part of the magic of the title. To say you will be using your controller in some of the most interesting ways to date would be a bit of an understatement. Don't let that scare you, though. You will need to give yourself a little bit of time to adjust to the controls. I don't say that as a criticism of the game. Instead, in order to enjoy the game from beginning to end, you will need to grow accustomed to using the controller in unique, different ways.
At times you will find yourself in the more traditional events like a boss battle. Where you have to be quick on your toes, or thumbs as the case may be, and hit the corresponding buttons. There are more than enough brawls to keep those that enjoy a good eye-button coordination test. Again, the magic here is not how well you do, but how much can change depending on the decisions you make. For example, you can execute the inputs perfectly, thus defeating your rival in the most pristine fashion. If you are slow or decide to react slower than you "should" have, you can prolong a fight so your character gets beaten up, thus slightly changing how things might play out later. In other events you could be doing something as trivial as getting out of a car or shaving. These events have to be played out but how they are is another aspect of how you control the pacing of the game.
I won't say the decisions you make in something so trivial as to whether or not you have a glass of orange juice or mess up a plating arrangement will have a critical effect on the overall story. I can say, however, you will create ripples constantly in the game. You may not notice them, they may never come to fruition the way you'd expect, but the ripples are always there. The ripple-effect is perhaps my favorite aspect of the game. Quantic Dream knew people would find this intriguing, so they included an option to go to previous chapters in the game to play through them again in order to see what would have happened if you did things differently. Just make sure you always use the provided option to save before you dive into earlier, possibly game-changing events.