To a greater extent than most games, Heavy Rain is a story-driven adventure. As this is the case, the following review is devoid of plot spoilers, aside from character descriptions and a brief overview of the plot setup.

How far would you go to save someone you love? That's the question posed by Heavy Rain's tagline, but when it comes to discussing the game itself, it might be more useful to ask: “how willing are you to try something different?" Heavy Rain is many things: it's a slick little thriller, a work of interactive art, and undoubtedly one of the gaming experiences of 2010, but one thing it's not is familiar. It's a genuine departure from the status quo, and if you're the kind of hardcore gamer who thrives on shooters and little else, you may find it hard to get your head around.

For the sake of space, I'm not going to spend much time discussing exactly what Heavy Rain is. If you're totally new to the concept of this game you'd probably do well to check out one of our previous previews, but the gist of it is that you get to play through roughly 10 hours worth of “interactive fiction” - a term coined by the project's overseer, David Cage. Rather than using levels, or any other conventional video game structure, Heavy Rain unfolds its story over the course of 50 individual scenes. At any given time you'll control one of four characters, all of whom are looking for The Origami Killer – a child murderer who abducts his young victims and drowns them in rain water. Hunting for psychopaths isn't the safest of occupations, but if one of the protagonists should happen to die in the course of the investigations, the story will carry on anyway. There are no Game Over screens here, just a sinister narrative that grinds on to a conclusion – regardless of player death(s).

This highly unusual format, coupled with the game's astonishingly beautiful graphics, has attracted a lot of attention and dribbling hype from gamers and members of the press alike. This isn't “just” another PS3 exclusive; it's a balls-out attempt, on the part of developer Quantic Dream, to do something genuinely original with the medium. Sony has taken a big risk by backing this project, and everyone knows it. Personally, I've been eagerly awaiting Heavy Rain ever since I first heard about it, but after my last hands-on test the faintest shadow of doubt had crept into my mind. Yes, it was beautiful, and yes it was both provocative and highly original, but I also had a slight sense of being kept on a leash, of being forced along a relatively set path. Given all the noise that Cage had previously made about player choice, this seemed to be a potentially game-ruining disappointment.

Well, having played and finished the final product several times, I'm delighted to report that Heavy Rain is a roaring, highly emotive success. The preview code I was playing last time was limited to the first three hours or so, and to be honest these opening chapters are something of a slow start. However, as soon as the basic plot is established the action kicks up a gear, and from this point onward the pace barely falters. As per my promise at the top of the page, I'm not going to mention anything that even vaguely resembles a spoiler, but let's just say that the story is absolutely packed with surprises and stand-out moments – the kind of events that you'll instantly want to rant about. For the past few days my colleagues have had to listen to all manner of excited screams and caterwauls from the room next to the office, and every time they've attempted to investigate the noise I've nearly decapitated them by slamming the door shut.

The games uses 24-style split screens, but it does so sparingly.

The games uses 24-style split screens, but it does so sparingly.

There's been a lot of discussion around Heavy Rain's control system, and particular its reliance upon quick time events, but this arrangement is ultimately one of things that allows the game to be fresh and unpredictable. As a general rule you use the left analogue stick to steer your virtual actor about while using the face buttons and simple movements of the right stick to interact with the game world, following subtle on-screen prompts that appear over objects in your vicinity. Critics might argue that this imprecise setup effectively weakens the link between the player's input and the character's actions on screen, but after half an hour's worth of play it starts to feel like second nature. More importantly, it means that Cage and Quantic Dream can throw almost anything at you they like: rather than being a rigid system for governing, say, you're running and gunning (as per any shooter under the sun), the controls in Heavy Rain are a virtual Swiss army knife that allow you to deal with anything and everything.

Take a hypothetical situation in which your unarmed character is being chased by a man with a gun. You might typically start with a sort of “on-rails” bit where you're running away; during this interlude you might have to hit a series of sudden button prompts to let you evade obstacles in your path, and you might get a split second choice of routes to take: up a set of stairs, or into an open doorway. You opt for the room, and after barricading the door, you're suddenly returned to full player control. You've got a limited amount of time to act: you could run over to the window and try to open it; you can dash to the phone on a nearby desk and call for help; or you could try to hide inside a cupboard. The first two choices would probably require simple, one-off actions, while the latter would force you to press and hold a series of buttons in sequence, simultaneously. This kind of challenge frequently crops up throughout Heavy Rain, usually during highly stressful moments, and it ultimately resembles a kind of hand-held version of Twister. The hardest of these tests will leave you with both hands contorted into a painful knot, mirroring the struggle of your on-screen counterpart. It sounds a bit daft, but it works extremely well.

New stuff to check out

To add your comment, please login or register

Highest Rated Comment

thpcplayer's Avatar

thpcplayer

Awwwwwww someone here certainly hates me. Thumbing each and every post of mine without any reasons( i think all my last 50 posts have been TD'ed). I dont think i was offensive to anyone atall.
Such a shame that a gorgeous website has been ruined by trolls and fanboys
Sorry if i went offtopic a little. It is most probabbly my last post ever.
{logs out}
Posted 16:18 on 11 February 2010

User Comments

mattack's Avatar

mattack

"Interactive Fiction" has been used for *decades*. Since the 1980s at least. I highly doubt that David Cage is the one who coined it, back then.
Posted 20:21 on 06 August 2013
Mr_Ninjutsu's Avatar

Mr_Ninjutsu@ mydeaddog

Unless that was sarcasm? But yeah I'm getting this for my birthday whoop whoop.
Posted 08:12 on 14 February 2010
mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog

Quote:
Originally Posted by jtorry
I just finished this and it was amazing.

It really is, isn't it?
Posted 04:05 on 14 February 2010
Neon-Soldier32's Avatar

Neon-Soldier32

Really looking forward to this now tbh, just because of reviews, and if James is showing some emotion that isn't hatred towards everything, then it must be good =P
Posted 02:27 on 14 February 2010
jtorry's Avatar

jtorry

I just finished this and it was amazing.
Posted 01:15 on 14 February 2010
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls@ SebVG

Heh, that's a pretty novel idea actually. I think you should try it at VG mega-towers and stick a camera beside the TV so we can watch it :D Yes, some of us would watch the whole thing, but it would obviously need to lose the vast majority of the footage for the majority not to get bored. Maybe drink heavily before hand and plant some traps for the Orry-O Bros to walk into when they go to make tea in the kitchen...

...

you know, to make it funnier and more 'videogamerish' to watch.
Posted 23:53 on 13 February 2010
cousinwalter's Avatar

cousinwalter

Has anyone been playing the four days experience? and if so do they know what the prize is going to be if you got the right suspect at the end? hopefully it'll will be something epic.... they have already given away clothes and stuff in home and early access to the demo so fingers crossed.

Anyway great review as always neon, i've been stoked about this game for what feels like ages. Like some said above I think if it gets to 1m copies sold it will be considered a success. Most people I know are looking to get it, even my manager who I convinced to buy a ps3 when he was drunk on our xmas party.... which begs the question could this game cross over to the causal gamer maket, that is if there is such a thing on the PS3?
Posted 10:27 on 13 February 2010
clangod's Avatar

clangod

Yeah this looks better played with silence, a dark room and volume. Chatting with mates throughout the game would definitely effect immersion. I'll be trying to play through this without distractions I think.

Wouldn't want to miss anything.
Posted 09:30 on 12 February 2010
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev@ SebVG

Passing the controller around could take away from some of the immersion in the story and maybe ruin the atmosphere, and the inevitable talking that would take place from those who aren't playing.
Posted 08:25 on 12 February 2010
SebVG's Avatar

SebVG

Glad to see so many people open minded to this game, from what I have seen it looks really interesting. My biggest "hope" is that you can sit down with a group of mates, passing the controller around scene by scene, and almost watch it like a movie. I really feel like this could work, but then again games with really deep stories can be very personal.

Thoughts?
Posted 02:40 on 12 February 2010
jakeistheman's Avatar

jakeistheman

great review neon, been very cautious of reviews mainly because of spoilers so great job. Also defiantly getting this, i love original ideas and since iv never played a game like this its a must buy for me.
Posted 21:01 on 11 February 2010
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev@ rbevanx

There was no mention in the review, to my recollection, about the screen tearing. I wonder if it was fixed for the final/review build.

As regards to the will it be a system seller question, no I doubt it. If it sells 1m copies I'd be impressed.
Posted 17:52 on 11 February 2010
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ El-Dev

Yeah it's clearly a game worth checking out. I will be getting it on launch.
Even if Neon hated I still would have got it tbh, as I was so impressed by the demo.
Posted 17:48 on 11 February 2010
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev

If the thumbs system is being done away with I reckon we should be allowed an ignore user function then. Although this really isn't the place to discuss these matters.

Heavy Rain appears to have got rave reviews from the sites I read anyways.
Posted 17:41 on 11 February 2010
clangod's Avatar

clangod

I don't have enough thumbs to re-establish the balance. Sorry, I've failed you all...

Now I can dedicate my time to gaming and leave saving the universe to the movie stars.
Posted 17:15 on 11 February 2010

Game Stats

9
Out of 10
Heavy Rain
  • Nerve-shreddingly exciting at times
  • Believable, well-drawn characters
  • Incredibly beautiful
  • Loses impact on repeat playthroughs
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 26/02/2010
Platform: PS3
Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: Adventure
No. Players: One
Rating: BBFC 15
Site Rank: 395 4
Check Price