To tell a story like this, you also need believable characters and Heavy Rain has them. Heavy Rain is an intense, mature interactive noir that portrays emotion at every turn. Emotion comes through in voice acting and the soundtrack, the atmosphere is detailed just so and characters display what they’re feeling in their facial animations and body animations. Some animations can look a little off at times — there are a few moments where a character moves and it doesn’t look just right or a facial expression seems unnatural, but these moments are incredibly brief and rare. In regards to voice acting, Heavy Rain’s for the most part is top notch with a few exceptions, but it never falls below solid and never does anything to hurt the overall experience.
On atmosphere, Heavy Rain really succeeds. Heavy Rain’s graphics engine is gorgeous and portrays tons of details at every turn. Sitting inside cars, interiors are detailed and rain pours down onto the windshield in a convincing manner. Old apartments look appropriately aged and dirty. When Ethan Mars looks outside his apartment, he sees dead-looking grass. There also are appropriate sound effects of cars and traffic driving by that just sound realistic and help flesh out the unnamed city Heavy Rain takes place in.
In my demo impressions, I spoke about the great synergy between controls and actions in Heavy Rain — that the button presses / analog stick inputs felt correct for the action being performed. That continues in the final retail product. For example, the analog stick motion for lighting a burner on a stove feels like the game equivalent of how you should actually do it. Pushing or shoving requires a dramatic movement of the Sixaxis controller in the appropriate direction. Trying to “hold it together,” concentrate or perform a difficult action requires that multiple buttons be held at the same time — which feels like a “concentrating”-type action. Players also have full control over animations and can undo many actions that they’ve performed (i.e. stand up if you sit down, open and close doors).
Heavy Rain’s controls are very responsive and reliable — the much-discussed analog stick plus R2 method of walking held up incredibly well through the experience. Even the Sixaxis motion control prompts worked well throughout and were generally easy to execute. There were a few moments when turning didn’t feel as easy it could’ve been, but these moments were very rare.
Heavy Rain took me roughly twelve hours to complete, but players determined to get through the game will be able to finish it much quicker. When players reach the end of the game, they’ll want to go back and replay the game to see how many different ways scenes can end and how differently the game can end. Heavy Rain has a number of different endings to see and a number of different scene outcomes — I witnessed an ending that I didn’t know existed to a scene that has been discussed.
Heavy Rain is an unforgettable game fueled by a well-written story, memorable characters and intense situations at every turn. Every moment the player spends playing Heavy Rain is time well spent, as the game is always moving forward and there are never moments that feel like there are any lulls in the action. Heavy Rain isn’t for everyone, though, as not everyone will enjoy its unique gameplay style. However, for those who do enjoy it, Heavy Rain will prove to be a memorable, must-play experience that is a significant step forward for storytelling for video games as a whole.
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