Walk in the Rain

Originally Posted 24 June 2010

Last night, I defeated Heavy Rain. By defeated, I mean that I earned the platinum trophy and am thus completely done with the game. If you’ve been living under a rock, you might not be aware that Heavy Rain is an “interactive thriller” for the PS3 (currently an exclusive title) made by the people who made Indigo Prophecy. Because Heavy Rain is heavily story driven, you would be wise to expect unmasked possible spoilers below.

Much like its predecessor, Heavy Rain is mostly composed of quick-time events with interspersed exploration scenes and a heavy emphasis on narrative. This time, our four-man band consists of Ethan, the downtrodden father; Madison, the nightmare-addled reporter; Scott, the private dick; and Norman, FBI profiler. The story begins with a very shiny prologue with lots of bloom lighting and a virtual guarantee that something horrible is going to happen to transform the idyllic life of Ethan into the dark and gritty version seen on the game’s box art. Honestly, I was spent most of the prologue trying to figure out how many and which of his family members would die. After the inevitable death in the prologue, we pick up with Ethan two years later.

Within minutes of beginning the game proper, Ethan’s son is kidnapped by the Origami Killer and he is thrust into a series of “trials” in order to save his son. Coincidentally with this, Scott and Norm are seperately attempting to hunt down the Origami Killer. Madison is added on a bit later as a romantic foil and makeshift medic for Ethan.

As I said above, the gameplay comes in two main varieties: exploration and QTE. The exploration areas usually consist of puzzles and tend to be a bit more subdued. Unfortunately, the controls for the exploration areas are a bit klunky. The game uses a sort of “driving” paradigm where you point with the right control stick and move in that direction using R2. Unfortunately, the turns are rather lousy, so the game doesn’t quite respond as expected. This isn’t enough to cause many problems, but it can be annoying. The QTEs make up the bread and butter of the gameplay, however. Despite what might otherwise seem like a relatively restricted set of actions, the game actually manages to mix up the QTE options somewhat. In addition to using all 8 of the available buttons (X, O, Square, Triangle, R1, R2, L1, L2), they also make good use of the sixaxis controller by including rotations (especially in driving scenes) and more complex analog stick manipulations to denote fine actions. Also, unlike its predecessor, the game seems to have relatively few unwinnable QTEs. I believe there is only one QTE that I was never able to complete successfully in the entirety of the game.

I found the story to be relatively compelling if somewhat short. My first pass from beginning to end took less than a day and I was able to get the platinum trophy in under four days. Playing through the last bits of the game so many times in such a short period (one of the trophies is “Get All Endings”), did lead me to discover that the game is severely lacking on replayability. QTEs in general are fixed and don’t change from playthrough to playthrough. Puzzle layouts and hidden items also don’t change, so the second lizard will always have the key no matter how many times you play through the level. At the same time, playing through a second time does allow you to see more subtle things that show off characters’ true motivations. For instance, some animations that originally seemed just like “idle animations” gain new significance when viewed with full knowledge of the game’s plot.

I was a bit disappointed with some of the voice acting/writing. Most of the children that show up in the game have very strange or perhaps stilted dialog and the voice actors chosen have strange delivery. This occasionally happens to the adult characters as well, but is slightly less noticable. I attribute this most likely to the game’s dialog having been originally written in French and then translated into English later. This may explain their constant use of the word “wasteland” to describe certain kinds of deserted areas within an urban area–a usage which I’d not heard before.

There are also some loose ends that I felt the game didn’t properly address in any of the endings. Mostly, there is some background characterization at the beginning of the game which is supposed to muddy the waters in your search for the killer. Some of it ends up getting resolved, but some is simply dropped on the floor once the real killer is revealed. At the same time some characters (Madison and Norman especially) have internal struggles that you seem to be set up to try to help them through, but player actions seem to have little effect on the outcome.

Overall, there is a lot to like here. Indigo Prophecy is a good bellweather for whether or not you’ll like this game (surprise, surprise). Without that bit of data to provide help, I’d recommend it for general fans of mystery and old-style adventure games.

Heavy Rain: 1

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