Tag Archive: review


Review: Heavy Rain (PS3)

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

The first Uncharted game Drake’s Fortune was one of the flagship games around the Playstation 3’s release; it was one of the first console exclusive games and served not only as a product with an engrossing narrative and tried and true gameplay mechanics, but it was a graphical benchmark with visuals that even by today’s standards are still stunning to look at.

When Naughty Dog announced they were to release Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, they claimed they were going to improve every aspect of the game, including graphics, and after playing it all the way through, I can happily say that they have indeed stood by their words.

It could be said that Uncharted 2 is a rip-off of a big budget Hollywood blockbuster; cheesy foreign villain, sassy sidekick and wise-cracking protagonist included. To be honest, you wouldn’t be far off the mark; but whilst I usually take a distaste toward such movies, interacting with one is a completely different matter. Apart from the aforementioned trademark characters, you also get your standard set pieces; explosions, helicopter chases, double crossing allies, explosions, gunfights on a train, the last ditch attempt, explosions, an aging partner who’s ‘getting too old for this shit’ and more explosions. But even if you’re a movie snob like me, you won’t care because Uncharted 2 is just unbridled and at times, brainless fun.

The game takes place a couple of years after the first game where the main protagonist Nathan Drake meets up with his old suspiciously British and treasure hunting friend Harry Flynn, who’s teamed up with Drake’s partially suspiciously British and glassy-eyed ex-beau, Chloe Frazer, who tell him of a client who’s asked them to steal a Mongolian Oil lamp which may hold the secret to Marco Polo’s lost fleet, and the treasures which were lost with them. With this, Drake and friends embark on an adventure of epic proportions and takes them to exotic locales and discover dangerous truths along the way. Pretty standard, right?

EXPLOSIONS!!!1!1!! YEAH!!!1!11!

EXPLOSIONS!!!1!1!! YEAH!!!1!11!

As I said before, the gameplay is pretty much your usual action adventure formula; Drake has to navigate through treacherous and often dazzling landscapes, and clues to your progression often aren’t too obvious, making the player put themselves in Drake’s shoes and consider how they would progress. There are no fancy gameplay gimmicks at work here; no bullet time or speed boosts, Drake is very human (apart from his uncanny ability to heal almost instantaneously from bullet wounds).

When it comes to combat, it’s largely gun-based with a dash of fisticuffs thrown in for good measure, and I’ll say this now – you will get into a LOT of gunfights, far more than the first game. Following the standard of modern games with gunplay, your health is regenerative, which to be honest if you’re looking for something truly challenging it can be a helping hand you didn’t ask for, but staying in good health can be a task in itself when you’re flanked by dozens of henchmen and all you have for cover is a wooden box that’s being torn to pieces. Hand to hand combat can be very cool, and now players can use proper stealth attacks which reward them with double ammo. There isn’t a giant arsenal of weapons available in Uncharted 2, but there are significant differences between the ones found to suit all situations, including old favourites like AK-47’s and Desert Eagles, along with heavy hitters like RPG’s and grenade launchers.

Whilst Uncharted 2 is at times driven by its cut-scenes, what really makes it stand out is that a lot of the action throughout the game doesn’t deny the player of participation; the world can be falling apart around you, and it’s up to you to get Drake out safely. It puts you straight in the deep end with a bullet-wounded Drake (which is apparently the only bullet which has ever harmed him) stuck an old train precariously hanging off the edge of a cliff in the middle of the Himalayas. From the get-go you have to navigate your way out of the cabin, as it falls apart and rocks from the cliffs fall down upon you. It’s moments like these that have you truly gripped and leave your heart racing, and because of your role in them they feel much more than simple set-pieces, and it’s not like this is the only one, these happen all the way throughout the game, each one as exciting as the next (the fight on the moving train is particularly spectacular).

I end up doing stuff like every day in my personal life. It gets a bit annoying to be honest...

I end up doing stuff like every day in my personal life. It gets a bit annoying to be honest...

The main standout new feature of Uncharted 2 is its multiplayer mode. With a lot of actions games the multiplayer feels very tacked on and become weak counterparts of the single player campaign, especially with modes like deathmatch, but Uncharted 2 offers a wide range of modes from classics like base capture, team deathmatch, and Uncharted’s take on capture the flag called ‘Plunder’, where you have to bring a treasure back to your home base, but you can only use your sidearm in the process. Along with these competitive modes you have co-op missions, in which you can team up with 2-4 others online, and either make your way through maps and fight waves of enemies to find a treasure, or in ‘Gold Rush’ much like ‘Plunder’, you have to drag the treasure back while your teammates defend you. All modes are a lot of fun and very addictive; much like a lot of multiplayer FPS games there’s also a ranking system which rewards you as you play. It would’ve been nice to play single-player levels in co-op, which wouldn’t have been too hard seeing as a lot of the time you’re accompanied with someone else, but the maps available while few in number are still a lot of fun to play.

Nate joins Sony's anti-piracy campaign...

Nate joins Sony's anti-piracy campaign...

Overall Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a tremendous achievement, it’s by far the best looking game available on any console right now, the voice acting is top notch with (the now almost famous) Nolan North regaling his role as Nathan Drake, the musical score perfectly accompanies the action, and it’s one of the most engrossing experiences I’ve ever had in an action game. The multiplayer is a welcome addition which will bring players back long after finishing the 13 hour+ campaign but could stand to have a few tweaks like speeding up matchmaking times and more (FREE!) maps.

It’s an experience no Playstation 3 should go without, now if you don’t mind I’m off for a lie-down; I’m gettin’ too old for this shit…

– 94/100