by Ben Lelievre
reviewed on PS3
Complex, adult and subtle
Charles Darwin would probably have liked Heavy Rain if he had lived long enough to appreciate the medium of videogames. Why? It is a game that has, from its inception, taken a lot of responsibilities for its kind on its shoulders. David Cage and his minions at Quantic Dream took an extremely risky bet with Heavy Rain. They asked out loud a very important question: "Will video games be able to evolve into a more mature, subtle form of art?" As gamers have started feeling trapped in the dead end that strict genre classification has created, Heavy Rain arrives at a very opportune moment. With the risks it has taken, it could be a potential corner stone in videogame history, but is the game living up to the pressure it has created for itself?
Quantic Dream's bet was to make more complex, adult and subtle subject in videogames marketable. Can gameplay support the story but not the other way round? In the land of the space marine and World of Warcraft, it is no easy task to break up the paradigms that gamers have created for themselves. Fortunately, a well thought plot with game mechanics that support it make Heavy Rain a unique, gut-wrenching experience that video games in the future will have to live up to.
It is hard to explain the plot without spoiling anything, but it goes something like this. Ethan Mars, a loving father and an architect loses his son Jason in a terrible accident. Two years later, broken up and alienated, Ethan loses his other son Shaun, who gets kidnapped by the Origami Killer, a black hearted serial killer that haunts a U.S East Coast city (which I believe to be Washington D.C judging by the maps inside the booklet). Ethan and three other people: Madison Paige, Norman Jayden and Scott Shelby, will see their paths cross and their lives changed forever in an effort to take down the terrible child killer.
It's all about the story, right?
Now, is that believable? Is it the engrossing, involving story that David Cage made it to be? The answer is yes, but Heavy Rain has a unique way of getting to you. There are plot holes and badly drawn support characters (ahem…Carter Blake…ahem), but the game uses the power of videogames to sucker you into the story. With subtle decision making and great acting, particularly from Pascal Langdale & Jacqui Ainsley – Ethan & Madison, Heavy Rain makes you accountable for the characters. You will share intimate moments with them and see their vulnerability so when danger and tension arise, you won't let them down.
Heavy Rain makes your decisions weigh in the balance. They are unlikely to be major event changers (unless you kill a character) but you will feel the weight of your decisions on the character's shoulders. Due to great acting, you will feel extremely bad if you impose a Sims-like torture-your-character moment to any of the characters. That is the main thing about Heavy Rain's amazing absorption capability. Through realistic (not melodramatic) emotion display and vulnerability, you will want to help them, to be the secret invisible character that manipulates the elements in their favor. You will feel very bad if you fail at this too. The game is in real time, so there are no triggers for antagonist intervention, and definitely no time to go take a leak. The pressure is all on you.
Amazing sucker-punching narrative mechanics made to draw you in
Small, but numerous technical issues breach immersion sometimes