As video games have matured, our attention spans have unfortunately shortened; it’s no secret that most people crave the instant gratification of a first person shooter over an RPG, and with games becoming fully fuelled by gameplay, an asset can sometimes go amiss which is found in almost all modern games; story. This often leads to the story becoming either very diluted, convoluted, or just recycled from past iterations, but with a new coating of paint.

When Heavy Rain was announced by Quantic Dream (who previously made Fahrenheit or as some know it, Indigo Prophecy), they said it was a game where you would be immersed in the role of the protagonists, and every action you take can affect the lives of those around you. You will perform anything from arbitrary tasks like brushing your teeth, to exhilarating hand to hand fights where one false move could cost you dearly.

Heavy Rain is indeed ALL story, and that is not a bad thing. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m also a lover of the cinema, and firmly believe that one day video games will be respected as a medium as much as cinema or literature, and at times I thought maybe Heavy Rain was one of these few baby steps towards that day, but it could also be taking steps back as some could say it’s trying to imitate a more successful medium. Eitherway, I feel Heavy Rain was made for someone like me.

Heavy Rain revolves around the lives of four people, and how their lives are affected by a serial killer known as the Origami Killer. These include Ethan Mars, a man left emotionally damaged after the loss of his son, Madison Paige, a photo-journalist looking into the investigation, Norman Jayden, a FBI agent called in by the local police and haunted by his drug addiction, and Scott Shelby, a retired policeman turned private investigator who’s looking into the case to sate his own interest.

This WILL happen to you if you wear a Zebra print jacket.

Now because Heavy Rain is so focussed on story, and that story happens to be a mystery, I have to try to avoid any spoilers, which is harder than it seems; as I said, the game is technically the story, so I’m limited to the elements I can discuss.

You go through the game swapping between the roles of these characters, each scene puts you in a different scenario and that scenario may affect how the next one is played. The control of the game is heavily lead through a series of quick time events and button prompts; this was a daring move on Quantic Dreams’ behalf, as many gamers have voiced their dislike toward this method of play, saying it detaches from the experience, and that it seems like a cheap way to get players involved in cut scenes. This isn’t the case in Heavy Rain, in games like God Of War for example, when you’re presented a scenario that requires button prompts, more often than not if you fail you can repeat the procedure until you get it right; with Heavy Rain, ignorance can be punishing to your character, and there are instances in the game where your character can die, and once they do they’re gone, they no longer exist within that world, and the story acknowledges this.

The QTE approach may not have been the best choice for Heavy Rain, given its unpopularity, and I for one am not a huge fan of it either, but it is well implemented; prompts are very clear even in the most frenzied of scenarios, and despite the limitations of the SixAxis controller, you do get a good interpretation of the actions taking place on-screen via the controller (it’s also nice to see the motion controls well implemented for once). There are situations in the game which can leave your heart racing at the thought of impending doom, and the actions available put you in the mindset of your character, and you can’t help but feel a sense of elation knowing you’ve survived. To me, this was one of Heavy Rain’s greatest successes; it’s that empathy that you rarely feel with a game character, and to have that in both their actions and emotions is something to behold.

So where does Heavy Rain go wrong? Well here’s the problem; Heavy Rain is much like a relationship that ended unexpectedly, at first you’re viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses, only noticing tiny imperfections, but when it’s over you’re suddenly able to see the bigger picture, and those imperfections become flaws; flaws which can allay the postpartum effect.

Firstly, the voice acting. Whilst it’s not all bad, there are times when it is god-awful; some instances made me laugh out loud at the hammy delivery of the actors. I got a little confused here though, and asked myself “why are some of these voices so bad?”. Common sense would say that if you want to make a story-driven game where dialogue is an absolute necessity, why would you skimp on voice talent? Even watching the behind the scenes videos and footage of the actual actors auditioning made me cringe a little, especially Leon Ockden as Norman Jayden.

Even more confusing was why they chose to cast all British actors for the lead roles. A Brit pulling off an American accent can be a hard task, and is rarely done well without some form of coaching beforehand, but it seems with these most of them were told they were playing as an American just before they entered the recording booth; so why not just hire Americans? It’s also clear with many characters that English is not their native tongue and this sticks out like a sore thumb, and whilst they could’ve explained this with some back story (like how the character Lauren could be half French/Canadian or something).

Heavy Rain can be very emotional at times.

In all honesty, the plot and calibre of acting could be ripped directly from a low-budget, late night movie. I know it sounds harsh, but story-wise, there honestly isn’t anything here that hasn’t been done before. One personal problem I have with the story of Heavy Rain, is something that I can’t really discuss in-depth, without offering spoilers; and that problem is plot-holes. Heavy Rain is littered with them, three of which are huge, and whilst this isn’t something that spoils the game, it’s something I noticed, and looking around online, I found others did too. May be I’m being a little too sensitive on this, and some of the greatest stories ever told have some plot holes; but recently I just finished writing my first book, and throughout the entire time I was writing it there was one thing that irked me more than spelling, grammar or anything else, and that was plot-holes, simply because I thought it would harm my reputation as a story-teller; but with Heavy Rain, since you have all that time for exploration and explanation and the convenience of time that movies don’t always have, couldn’t they have been covered up?

So, an uninspired story, sub-par voice acting, and more holes in the plot than the victim of a firing squad. Despite all this, I loved Heavy Rain. Why? Because it’s one of the very few games that managed to immerse me into the story. The first time I played it I honestly couldn’t turn it off, I wanted to see where things were going, and what would happen to my characters. I wanted to get out of the game as much as I could, by putting as much as myself into it. I felt my actions truly did have consequence. I wanted Ethan to find his son, Madison to keep her pride, Norman to get clean, and Scott to put his years of skills to the test. Making a player empathize with one character in a game is a tremendous accomplishment, but four is truly a miracle. Even the most hardened of gamers will enjoy Heavy Rain, if not only for its unique approach to playing a game, but for making an overused narrative feel engrossing for once in their life.

The difference between Heavy Rain and the aforementioned crappy late-night, low-budget movie is simple; you’re taking part in Heavy Rain, and that makes a world of difference.

Rating: 90/100

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