by Ben Lelievre
reviewed on PS3
It's all about the story, right? (cntd)
It is not a story that could have done well in Hollywood because of its plot holes and under-development issues (Madison is CRIMINALLY under-used, she's basically Ethan's nurse), but it is a story that rocks the video game world because it makes you, the player, a part of it. Developers, consider the bar raised.
But it's all quick time events, no?
No, in fact, minimal button pressing is required. It is reserved for high tension or complicated action. Most of the time, when the tension isn't very high, you will be playing the game using the joysticks. The controls are contextual. Whatever is happening on screen, the controls will adapt to it and show it a-la Quick Time Event. That's the price to pay for having a highly story driven game. This is rarely monotonous though due to the high variety of things to do in the game and Quantic Dream's attention to detail. They put emotion in all the little things, like the smile on Scott Shelby's face when he rocks a baby… I mean… I rocked a baby and I loved it. It made me more attached to the character.
What isn't so good about the controls is the very much talked about R2+Left Stick to walk. These are the same controls that are used in racing games to drive a car. For David Cage, it was a way to free the character of the movement of the camera. It doesn't work very well. Most of the time it's frustrating and when the camera changes angles, the directional controls fail and you don't know where to go anymore. It takes away from the immersion of the game. The low tension actions would have benefited from a GTA-like control, the quick time event sequences don't require directional control anyway. Bad design choice, but the only one in this game where gameplay is light and easy to approach in order to get the player more absorbed in the story.
Just to be nitpicky, I had a panic attack eight times in a row with Ethan before figuring out the QTE… there are very few moments where the game breaks its immersion due to forced passages and confusing controls (a white R1 far, over a pant leg can look like a controller or an arrow). But it doesn't happen often, maybe three or four times.
The graphics, oh my god, the graphics!
Graphics are a hit or miss in Heavy Rain due to amazing motion capture and sub-par texture. Some of the characters models in scripted sequences look out-of-this-world realistic, but some objects look flat and boring. Madison's apartment has a nice and complex bathroom, but if you walk around the living room, you feel like you're playing Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. Nothing is textured, it's flat, it's lifeless…but crazy action sequences always come to the rescue. Things look amazing during low tension, but if you can keep your cool in high tension moments, you will find some unpolished parts of the game that might make the purists wince.
It has been brought to public attention that Heavy Rain suffers from many bugs and crashes. Maybe I've been lucky, but mine has been stable so far. There are a lot of technical issue, mainly clipping and weird-choppy animation though. There are a lot of bugs in Heavy Rain, most of the non-lethal ones won't get fixed either. It's up to the gamer to decide if he wants the story and the involvement badly enough to disregard some technical stuff that is not there in games like Uncharted 2.
Amazing sucker-punching narrative mechanics made to draw you in
Small, but numerous technical issues breach immersion sometimes