Discussion always seems to happen about what is art and what isn’t, more specifically, discussion is always rampant about whether video-games can be considered as art or not. This is a discussion that I don’t really care to debate about, mostly because I don’t really care, but some of the many video-games brought up are Shadow of the Colossus, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, BioShock, Half-Life 2, and many others, some of them bring a lot of reasoning to them. Some cite the music, imagery, or storytelling devices, but Heavy Rain attempts to do something completely different from most other video-games.
It attempts to seamlessly blend together a cinematic experience with the interactivity and allotted depth and exploration of a video-game, and the general consensus is that it succeeds. For those that aren’t aware, Heavy Rain is an interactive drama action-adventure video-game developed by Quantic Dream and published by Sony Computer Entertainment as an exclusive for the PlayStation 3 in 2010.
This isn’t the first attempt Quantic Dream made at an interactive video-game, Fahrenheit (other-wise known as Indigo Prophecy) was their first attempt for the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox. Fahrenheit also did well and received a positive reception, but didn’t manage to capture exactly the same reaction as Heavy Rain has. What exactly does it mean to say something is an interactive film?
Well, for Heavy Rain, it means that the controls are extremely awkward and weird to use, but also that it focuses more toward the storyline and less on conventional gaming elements. You can’t necessarily lose but you can significantly alter what happens through how you do with some of the button combinations. I should elaborate on the controls and the game-play as a whole. I want to look at this first because it’s one of the rare times during a review where these aspects ultimately take a backseat to some of the other elements. I found for the controls to be very uncomfortably and extremely weird to use. So much I didn’t even finish it the first time around and I had to do it all over again.
The movements and interacting with objects don’t always mesh extremely well, and sometimes I feel like it prolongs the experience or makes it come off more tedious than anything else. In other-words, the controls are a little difficult and although they would have taken a backseat by design, they also become a rather displeasurable aspect about it. This isn’t always the case though, and I think that my second playthrough was much more progressive and enjoyable than the first playthrough where I played for about two or three hours. I won’t completely down the game-play because while it obviously wasn’t conventional and may not have been supported with the best mechanics, I enjoyed a lot of it and found it to be instrumental in furthering the development of some of the characters.
If we can focus on the story now, I think everybody will completely agree that it’s what makes Heavy Rain worthwhile and enjoyable. The game is a sort-of film noir thriller that features four different protagonists involved with trying to solve the case of the Origami Killer, a serial killer that kills his victims with the use of extended periods of rainfall thereby drowning his victims. This actually comes off as pretty badass, which is, by the way, the strangest way to describe a child murderer, but, uh, there it is. I won’t go in-depth with all of the characters, but I will tell you a select amount of information about the main-protagonist.
Ethan Mars is an architect with a wife and two sons, the character is something of an every man, he loves his kids and the entire story works to support that fact. Everything is a little slow-paced with the development at first, and that’s something that might be discouraging to some that first start playing, but you eventually establish the basics. These moments are important because early on everything completely changes when his son Jason is hit by a car and killed, regardless of the fact that Ethan tried his best to alleviate the impact of the speeding vehicle. Ethan is left in a coma for six months, and now, he is stricken with grief and depression, estranged from his wife and distant from his youngest son. But, when his son is kidnapped by the Origami Killer, he will do anything and everything to attempt saving his son.
Most of the storyline is done extremely well. I think that moviegoers will definitely be able to find some inspiration from popular thrillers in this one, I kept drifting back to Seven myself. The themes and scenes are all really well-done. At first I thought that I was gawking about the novelty of it all. I wondered whether or not it was just a generic crime movie that just so happens to be an interactive, but I think that it definitely has the ability to stand on its own. I think the graphics and the composition added a lot. The full-motion and facial capturing is well appreciated, and even though I haven’t played Indigo Prophecy to verify, I assume that it likely couldn’t have been as emotionally gripping and realistic with the limited graphical ability of the PlayStation 2 and Original Xbox.
The atmosphere carries a gritty tone that feels oddly familiar, in that it legitimately feels like a David Fincher film, but just because something is familiar, it doesn’t have to mean that it’s generic. Heavy Rain is an example of a crime-noir film done correctly, … albeit as a video-game.
Some of the voice-acting isn’t always the best, but it mostly holds. Specifically, I remember when Ethan is looking for Jason, the emotion in his voice isn’t exactly the best, and just little things like that stood out to me. Overall, I’d call the voice-acting a success.
I didn’t know how I felt about a certain “happening” toward the end of Heavy Rain with one of the primary characters at first, like I was thinking that it might have been a little over-the-top or forced. After a little bit of dwelling, I think overall from a storyline standpoint there isn’t anything that I would’ve changed.
Heavy Rain is one of the most unique and different video-game experiences offered and I think that it showed a lot of possibilities for what can eventually be accomplished with them. While I don’t think everything is completely perfect with the controls or mechanics, I do think that, as an experimental experience, Heavy Rain is an extremely worthwhile experience that I can’t recommend enough. I also believe that it’s one of the best exclusives for the PlayStation 3.
I know that they are making a live-action installment for Heavy Rain in a full-length film, and while most of me wonders what the point is, I can’t say that I am not at least moderately interested…
Thanks for reading…