Heavy Rain review (no spoilers)

We picked up Heavy Rain on Tuesday (its launch day) and passed it on Sunday, which marks a personal record for passing a game, mostly because we don’t buy many games on launch day šŸ™‚ I liked it a lot – here’s ars technica’s spoiler-free review, and my thoughts are below.

The environment of the game is really striking. In the first scene you’re at home on a nice day in a beautiful house, and although it was pretty clear the game wasn’t going to be this way for very long, the calmness and beautiful music really hooked me early. (waiting for the soundtrack to come out…) Some have complained that the game takes a few hours to really get going, but I enjoyed even those first few hours.

The game itself is like an “interactive movie”, in that there are a lot of cut scenes and a lot of “quicktime events” (i.e. “press X to do this action, and you better do it fast”). While I find quicktime events annoying in small doses, when used consistently throughout the game it made me feel a lot more engaged.

The control scheme is pretty interesting, too – it has you use the right analog stick for a lot of actions, some of which are ridiculously mundane. Different gestures are used at different times to do different things, so you don’t have to remember them, but they always feel at least somewhat natural (pressing right and then clockwise to turn a door handle). These aren’t usually too challenging, but again it contributes to the “I’m making this happen” feel.

The way you walk is sadly, a bit annoying – I consistently had trouble getting my characters going in the right direction, especially in close quarters where the view kept shifting. This wasn’t too bad except for one scene in particular where I had to move fast…

You have choices throughout the game, and these choices affect how the story plays out. For a while, I was a little in disbelief about this, since I’m used to games forcing you to make the “right” choice, but after chatting with others playing the game I would often find that they had done something different, and something happened differently later. There are whole scenes that I haven’t seen because of the choices I made. Handily, the game allows you to go back to any scene and play it again, either while saving changes (so you can continue the story from there) or just to see how that scene plays out if you make another choice. Now I’m eager to watch other people play to see what they do differently and how their story turns out.

The game is rated M and definitely earns it, especially for its dark storyline. This makes me glad we still have companies like Sony and Microsoft willing to publish more “adult” games – I can’t imagine a game like this ever showing up on a Nintendo console.

Anyway, if you’re a fan of games I’d definitely recommend picking up a copy and supporting an original game that tells a story and does a good job of it.

As an annoying epilogue, last night when Andrew was trying to play, some weird Playstation firmware bug (that seems to only affect the older “fat” PS3’s) made it not launch, which is pretty terrible. Not Heavy Rain’s fault, but here’s hoping it gets fixed real soon.

6 thoughts on “Heavy Rain review (no spoilers)”

  1. Why is it that so many good emotional games/movies center around bad things happening to children? “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “Children of Men”…as a dad, I’ve left these more stressed than I came in. Not that I’m condemning these — they just personally stress me out. šŸ˜‰

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    1. I think it’s precisely *because* it gets to you, as a dad, that they revolve around such things. Just trying to hit the most emotionally charged situations to get the biggest reaction.

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  2. was unable to unwind with Modern Warfare 2 last night because of the problem you mention, but he’s shooting people online right now, so it appears to be mostly fixed. Since becoming a parent, I’ve found news stories about babies getting hurt more upsetting than I used to.

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    1. Yeah, 24 hours later ours was fine too. I’m not sure how you could have a bug saying 2010 was a leap year… That’s certainly understandable. And in this case the game sets you up to care about your kids a lot. (i.e. get introduced to them before bad things happen)

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    2. copperwolf: Same here. I can’t help but superimpose my children onto the picture, and at that point my palms start sweating.

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