Heavy Rain was 2010’s unique, quick-time, interactive adventure that both surprised and chilled audiences upon release. The game was developed by QuanticDream, a company who work on just as many films as games, giving Heavy Rain both a cinematic and game-like feel. It is heavily based around story, choices and character development, meaning Heavy Rain is great for interaction with its players.
The game is set in the present day, during the serial murders of the “Origami Killer”. The story may sound regular, but it unravels in a style unused by many games today. This is because Heavy Rain chooses to model its story and gameplay after film noir, meaning it is a dark and gritty tale that shows the true damage and repercussions one small incident can cause. Although the film noir style is different to others, it can at some points sacrifice fast and action-packed gameplay for slow-paced yet concentrated gaming; where the player must focus on the tasks they are given and act upon them.
The player takes control of four different characters: The main protagonist, a man whose son was taken, possibly by the Origami Killer, a woman who befriends this distraught man. An FBI agent sent to help the police catch the Origami Killer, whose detective skills and peripherals help him search different areas for clues which may help him in catching the killer; and a private eye, who helps and debriefs the victims of the Origami Killer.
These four characters may not seem like much, but what they bring to the table really cements Heavy Rain’s plot in place, because it’s their growth, personas and story-arcs which fit together to create the sense of despair and emotion in the overall story.
Upon the first hours of gameplay, I noticed that the unique play-style mentioned earlier, may not be to everyone’s taste. Especially the casual gamer demographic who are used to a faster, short and sweet style of game. Heavy Rain is more about absorbing the storylines and atmosphere as opposed to mindless action. However, the lack of appeal for that audience clearly wasn’t an issue, as the game sold over two million copies and was granted a live-action film, currently in production.
As mentioned before, Heavy Rain is an interactive drama, which is a rare find in video games, as stories styled like this are usually better suited for the big screen, and can be a gamble, something which large game developers tend to stay away from. Part of the game’s interaction comes from its dialogue, meaning you have the choice to pick whatever your character says or does. It could be an aggressive retort, or a calming response, each differing changing the way the game’s story plays out.
Another part of the interaction are the quick-time events featured throughout every moment of the game, instead of going near an object and simply picking it up, you will have to take advantage of the SixAxis controls and move your controller or push buttons and analogue sticks to perform the action you chose. These actions can vary from chasing after a suspect of a murder while dodging traffic and different objects, or playing with a baby. It might be driving down the wrong end of a highway, or it could be making your son some dinner. It all depends on the choices you pick and what kind of player you are.
The only problem I found with the game that really took me out of the very well made immersion, was the voice actors. Some were fine and on par with the games that are out today. However, others weren’t, as the developers QuanticDream are a company located in France, meaning that many of their voice actors are from Europe, portraying American characters’ voices, and unfortunately it doesn’t work too well in many cases. It would’ve worked brilliantly if the game was set in France and the actors used their original accents, as that would fit together perfectly and even given a foreign and therefore more mysterious feel to most gamers, potentially adding to the immersion. However, that wasn’t the case, and it may spoil the part of the game for some players.
Overall, I’d say the quick-time play-style, which is the most unique and challenging aspect of the whole game may turn some gamers away, which is why I felt that the game being a live-action film is a great idea, this way the players can experience the game without having to fiddle around with controls they may not be used to, or sit through some parts which will be condensed down in the long-run. Perhaps it would have been a better idea to release it as a stand-alone film to begin, and then create a game if it was in high demand, even more so as QuanticDream create both films and games.
Although Heavy Rain is different, it also excels in many areas. If you are able to look past and even enjoy the unique controls and styles it fosters, which most people will be able to do, you will be given the experience of a chilling storyline, brilliant characters and a view of how they develop, as well as choices which are more advanced and consequential than any other game I’ve seen.
Heavy Rain is an award-winning title and is still very relevant in the fields it was created for, although it is not for all, it is definitely for the story-driven player.