GSY REVIEW | PS3 Friday, February 26, 2010 | 7:20 AM

Gamersyde Review: Heavy Rain

Gamersyde Review: Heavy Rain

It’s finally here. After more than three years of development, Heavy Rain is offering itself to us in this review version and we threw ourselves into the adventure, not without fear. Despite a quite promising preview if one accepts the style of the game, numerous questions were left unresolved. Would the story keep us in suspense till the end? Would it be interesting enough for us to discover the real story behind this ambitious title? Time has come to provide you the essential answers so you know what to expect before taking the step and embarking yourself in the vision of video games made in David Cage.

Heavy Rain, first of all the story revolves around several different characters that will not necessarily come out unscathed from this race against death. Broken destiny, despair and loneliness, we might think that the game from David Cage focuses essentially on death but it is quite the opposite. From Ethan Mars the unfortunate father, Shelby detective and his big heart, Madison the insomniac journalist or Jayden, the FBI agent addicted to narcotic substances, all have only one idea in mind: do everything they can to battle against a flood of irreversible events. Decidedly adult themed, Heavy Rain plays on the feelings and the reactions of the player, the player goes from playing as an actor to playing a director when the choices are presented to the player.

The first of these choices will be to accept this type of game and what it implies. Yes, Heavy Rain is more of an interactive movie than a real game. Yes, Heavy Rain will use (too?) many QTE and other contextual actions. Does this mean that it reduces the interest? No, or rather, it depends. If Fahrenheit had kept you interested despite its preposterous story, not to say, poorly inspired, you should find in Heavy Rain the rare pearl you hoped for. The scenario is classic, with most of the scenes that we expect to see in a polar, without neglecting some surprises, hopefully never of the third encounter kind. And then you can take a deep breath, no extravaganza à la Matrix in Heavy Rain, the story stays anchored in the darkest possible reality from the beginning to the end. And if, as I said, the scenario does not shine with its originality, at least it remains consistent until the end, with an unexpected conclusion and a breathless finale.

Heavy Rain allows the player to accomplish the very basic tasks of every day’s life: taking a shower, going to the bathroom (small bladders can rest assured, we can go to the bathroom quite often if necessary), setting the table, playing with children, making dinner, changing diapers and even putting on make-up. Some of these activities will of course be mandatory but you will not necessarily be asked to perform these tasks in order to progress. These scenes offer limited video game fun - after all, moving a joystick in one direction or pressing a button isn't overly exciting, yet less rewarding for the average gamer, the interest of heavy Rain is elsewhere. At least for those who have not decided to dislike these sequences of everyday life, the purpose of which is to put you, the player, in a certain mood.

Besides that, the player will of course be able to interact with the other characters, whether to discuss with his child or interrogating a witness. The proposed system is quite simple as words appear on the screen, all associated to a button on the controller. The "difficulty" is that they are not static and the readability is therefore affected, and some dialogs ask to quickly choose your question/answer or the game will decide for you - and not necessarily to your advantage as you can imagine, and finally you will not always be able to address every subject. Globally, these scenes work well and some of them actually put a little pressure on the player who could then slip-up or not.

No surprise, all known action sequences will use the famous QTE as described. Whether juggling, fighting with your bare hands, driving a vehicle, using a weapon, escaping a perilous situation or to dance, your reflexes will be severely tested throughout the adventure. While most of the time, you will be granted some errors without fatal result, careful not to get too distracted because some of the chapters can really end badly. Already present in Fahrenheit, the QTE were strongly criticized because of their extreme length and, especially, the difficulty for the player to follow what was happening on the screen if they wanted to enter correctly the combination of keys that were displayed on the screen. Fortunately, this is no more of a problem in Heavy Rain, thanks to an intelligent integration of the commands within the actions. The QTE can be exasperating when prolonged, but never frustrating nor annoying. They appear at the right time and the player does not lose any of the action, they become very addictive and is reminiscent of Shenmue, the inventor of the genre.

In a game that is set in a police investigation, it would have been a shame not to be offered some kind of investigation inquiries. Equipped with highly sophisticated glasses, agent Jayden will for example survey the crime scene while scanning the area looking for possible evidence. These sequences are once again quite simple as the crime scenes are always a bit limited and because the system simply consists in pressing R1 to scan a circular area around the character. Any evidence – having a connection with the investigation or not – appears on the screen and all you have to do is to approach it and push the right joystick down to run the analysis. Again, despite the simplicity of the process, it really puts the player into the atmosphere. Once all the clues are collected, you will have to review them at the office to get information that will help the player make their way through the story. Apart from these very high-tech passages, the player will be also prompted to search a house or apartment in a more conventional way.

The marketing campaign of Heavy rain has been mainly focused on the notion of free will in the game and the importance of the choices the player will have to make to alter the way the story unfolds. In the preview build, we were disappointed not to be able to witness such situations, even though it was obviously due to the fact that very few chapters were available. In the grocery story scene for example, it was just possible to do things a bit differently but it always ended in the exact same way for the player: the grocer would give him a mysterious box he had been sent by the killer after his son's abduction. For obvious reasons, we won't be able to show you videos of real dramatic changes in the narration but the video below will present you with two possible scenarios in the grocery store sequence. Rest assured though that some of your actions will definitely have real consequences on the story. you will be asked to make some tough decisions, which, depending on your choice, will clearly affect the course of the storyline. We were promised that some characters might die because of our mistakes and I can confirm it is actually the case. Sure, it would have been great to see such consequences in more sequences, some being more lenient than others in that area, but it still is more than many games can brag to offer. Be aware that Heavy rain does not come automatically with a happy ending, and everything is up to you.

On a technical standpoint, the review build shows some major improvements in terms of framerate and tearing issues - vertical synchronization is not always top notch but it's ok most of the time. Although some might disagree, I find most of the environments look good, especially when it rains and they get gloomier and more depressing. The interiors are very rich and detailed and the lighting effects give of of them a very unique atmosphere. Character models on their part are often disturbingly realistic, which does not come as a surprise given that some of them have been modeled after the actors who did the voice over work. That being said, the faces and expressions are not always lively enough and it reminds the player that it is, after all, just a video game. Also disappointing are certain close-shots on the characters' hands where you can see that they are really poorly textured and modeled. Considering how impressive the skin textures are on the faces, it is a shame that they haven't put as much effort on the hands. Aside from that, the game does look photo-realistic and it adds a lot to the immersion. I won't be so kind with the way the animations have been handled: motion capture can look OK at times, but, more than often, it feels more like watching a very awkward robot. Controls are, for that matter, not that easy to pick up and turning around can get terribly complicated, especially when the camera angles get in the way. Again, it shows that motion capture has its limits and that even the player's skills cannot always compensate for them.


Your should expect 8 to 10 hours to complete the game, which, to me, seems pretty reasonable for the genre. Add to that the replay value of the game with the possibility to replay all the 50 chapters of the game - either to unlock new content and trophies or to simply try to discover new scenes by playing differently - and you will get an idea of how much time you will spend in the world of Heavy Rain. As far as I'm concerned, I definitely enjoyed my time playing the game, but then again, I had had my fun with Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy. It may not be the revolutionary game some expected, it may also be very different from all the others, but it still is a good experience overall. It obviously has flaws, like the fact that some choices could have been made even tougher and more punishing for the player, or the fact that too much time is usually given to react. It is also a shame that some answers are left unsaid at the end - should we expect them in the upcoming downloadable contents? - but, in spite of some awkward moments, the game will keep you interested until the ending credits show up. Some will probably argue that the gameplay has been too simplified to be worth a try, but after more than 8 hours, I can say I feel lucky not to have stopped at such prejudices.

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Daily chores
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Quick Time Events
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Things can change
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All comments

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Commented on 2010-02-01 09:01:15
english text? great videos BTW. :)
Commented on 2010-02-01 09:31:31
Yeah sorry it wasn't supposed to be put online on the English version of the site until the translation was done. Go to the French version of the site to watch the videos until then ;)
Commented on 2010-02-02 18:38:28
We are late but I have only had three days to complete the game, review it, write the article and edit all the videos. Hence the delay with the translation. I had to ask Miguel for help and of course DjMizuhara, so most of the translation is really their (very good) work, not mine. If you find some mistakes in the last 3 paragraphs, then it's my fault, I just finished it and did not take the time to give it a second reading so you guys wouldn't have to wait some more. Hope you enjoy it though!
Commented on 2010-02-02 18:45:38
Looking forward to this, thanks for the vids, not guna spoil it by watching them tho.
Commented on 2010-02-02 18:50:27 In reply to Jollipop
There are no story related spoilers per se. I was very careful. But of course if you want to discover everything by yourself, it's best not to watch. Most of the sequences shown have already been seen, there are just a few exclusive extracts but they are all very short and never show the complete sequence.
Commented on 2010-02-02 18:58:06
think it was always going to be a game you love or's definately interesting enough to want to try it.
Commented on 2010-02-02 19:34:50
can't wait for it. got the special edition on pre-order just a matter of waiting for it to be released.
Commented on 2010-02-02 20:48:57
I rather expect this is one of those rare games people should experience at least the once.I don't intend to get a PS3 at the moment but this is certainly one of the games i would get.Despite how i didn't very much enjoy Shemue, i do suggest to people that they play it on the basis there aren't many games like this type and i'm saying that now of HR

I personally doubt HR will move systems as a whole but it is something fresh and what with the flood of predictable stale offerings these days, don't people with a PS3 owe it to themselves to try it.I'll be very interested in seeing how this sells as my faith in gamers choice is quite low after so many great games get ignored- Bayonetta is a great example
Commented on 2010-02-02 20:50:07
Day one buy!
Commented on 2010-02-02 21:00:18
Loved Indigo Prophecy, can't wait to get my hands on this one. Not too keen on the whole multi-perspective progression as I like to be emotionally invested in just one (or two) character per game :P But we'll see.
Commented on 2010-02-02 21:03:40
Just watched some of the vids and i can see how this is appealing

At the same time i can also see how it's easy to percieve it as nothing more than what it appears ie a series of QTE.My guess would be that once you screw up one of these, it then proceeds with this consequence?.That would be what i would hope anyway because re-playing the section would surely be trial and error like so many games- and the nature of HR would mean you wouldn't want the experience to be anything like you were playing a game
Commented on 2010-02-02 21:10:31 In reply to Adropacrich2
You never have to replay any sequence because missing a button or even failing a combat sequence does not mean game over. Either the chapter ends a bit differently or you need to play another sequence to get out of trouble. I have never been stuck either, progression is smooth, and although it's an adventure game and may share some similarities with point and click games, there are no puzzles nor moments where you need to figure what to do for like an hour. Well, there is that one sequence where you need some kind of sense of direction but that's about it, and it's certainly not difficult.

Again, some might see that as a flaw, but it prevents the game from being frustrating, thus giving the experience much more pace and continuity. And it also makes death even more surprising and punishing as dying means you keep going without the character you failed.
Commented on 2010-02-02 21:26:28
Sounds like an evolution of the tired game over that has been with us for so long.Some games need a particular type of save system of course but it was my hope that such a system wouldn't feature here so that's good

Will the average and not overly clever gamer be impressed by such techniques or will they just want to shoot people in the face? Sadly i think we all know the answer
Commented on 2010-02-02 21:43:31
Mind you if it's the right game then so do i
Commented on 2010-02-02 21:57:17
Excellent review and I am eagerly anticipating this. Fahrenheit was a game that I enjoyed in spite of the Matrix like twist in the end. That this game doesn't have said twist makes me all the more excited.
Commented on 2010-02-02 22:51:34
Is this game in any way related to Fahrenheit? I finished it twice but sure as hell cannot remember anything from it :)

I will probably pick this up when I happen to find it in a store.
Commented on 2010-02-02 22:52:43 In reply to Qronicle
Posted by Qronicle
Is this game in any way related to Fahrenheit? I finished it twice but sure as hell cannot remember anything from it :)

I will probably pick this up when I happen to find it in a store.
same developer, similar gameplay (non of that weird simon says analogue stick action scenes), and thats about as far as it goes.
Commented on 2010-02-02 23:12:48 In reply to KORNdog
Posted by KORNdog
same developer, similar gameplay (non of that weird simon says analogue stick action scenes), and thats about as far as it goes.
Yeah, I meant storywise-related, thanks.

And great review btw!
Commented on 2010-02-02 23:15:20
Hi Driftwood. Great reading and spoilers free. I have a question are the controls like indigo? i played indigo yesterday but i dislike so much the controls, specially turn around.

Commented on 2010-02-03 00:13:49
Am I safe to read the review text (and watch the videos maybe) if I want to avoid spoilers? I've seen all the scenes officially released (mall, taxidermist fight, junk yard, corner shop robbery, shower), but don't want to know too much.

Edit - Just noticed the post above mine. Scrap that. I'll get reading :)
Commented on 2010-02-03 00:18:21 In reply to Driftwood
You move forward by pressing the R2 button and the analog stick controls your head. basically, your character heads when you're looking. I must say I don't quite remember how Indigo Prophecy worked (it's been a while since I played the game). It's far from perfect in Heavy Rain, a bit awkward at times, but it's not that big a deal. You should be just fine.

Posted by Driftwood
There are no story related spoilers per se. I was very careful. But of course if you want to discover everything by yourself, it's best not to watch. Most of the sequences shown have already been seen, there are just a few exclusive extracts but they are all very short and never show the complete sequence.
It's up to you to decide. You won't find out anything about the story in the article or the videos. But the videos will show you some of the environments and some dialogs (never the entire thing though) among other minor things. Basically, the videos show what each paragraph mentions, or close to it.
Commented on 2010-02-03 00:28:43
So, it's basically a great game to rent once, isn't it? I mean, since it's so short and simple.

Where i live, you can't rent videogames and i don't have a PS3, i was going to ask my best friend (who is getting a PS3 next month) to buy this game and get the Indigo Prophecy feeling again, but i don't think he will want to buy a game so short (also considering the IP fan is me and not him). And of course, i won't buy it either...
Commented on 2010-02-03 00:33:52
Seems like an iffy investment for me too.

I really want to support the developer but considering I have hardly any spare money at the moment, there's no way I can justify buying a short game. Especially when the developers recommend only playing the game once. It just screams 'RENT ME'. Maybe I'll rent then buy if I really love it.
Commented on 2010-02-03 00:35:47
Great review guys. Gamersyde has become so polished and competent, i don't even feel the need to go to other gaming sites anymore. Thanks!
Commented on 2010-02-03 01:10:37 In reply to Burglarize
Posted by Burglarize
Seems like an iffy investment for me too.

I really want to support the developer but considering I have hardly any spare money at the moment, there's no way I can justify buying a short game. Especially when the developers recommend only playing the game once. It just screams 'RENT ME'. Maybe I'll rent then buy if I really love it.
I haven't heard the developers recommend that. What I have heard them say is to not restart the game to an earlier checkpoint if you character dies and to instead go with the flow. That way, each playthrough would be unique.
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