Saturday, March 20, 2010

Heavy Rain Review

When it comes to electronic entertainment, Heavy Rain is the culmination of technology intertwined with story-telling to form the epitome of a modern adventure video game. Quantic Dream's title will keep players enthralled until its twisted end. It has an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure movie experience. This game is the title to choose when attempting to show anyone how far video gaming has come since the 1980's blocky pixels and 'bleep-bloop' sound effects. Heavy Rain has players take on the role of four seemingly disconnected characters trying to trace the steps of a serial killer who has recently kidnapped a young child. The "Origami Killer" kidnaps children, drowns them, and leaves a piece of origami and an orchid on their bodies. The visuals, voice acting, and clever story all mesh together to deliver a memorable and unique experience.

The entire game is essentially a quick time event (QTE) game akin to the classic game, Dragon's Lair, a rudimentary cartoon game with similar game mechanics. A quick time event is a moment when the game shows buttons presses and joystick movements for the player to respond to. If done properly, the characters onscreen succeeds at connecting a punch or dodging an oncoming vehicle depending on what the scene is. The beauty of Heavy Rain's twist is that rather than failing and having to restart the game at a previous checkpoint, the storylines and scenes deviate into different paths. The real-time actions and you're ability to keep up with the QTEs dictate the story. The fumbles that do happen can range from a missed opportunity to land a kick on an enemy in a fight scene, which prolongs the fight, to even killing off a character in the game that could have proved useful later on in the story.

It’s possible for a number of players to progress through the story and leave with completely dissimilar and unique experiences stemming from their decisions and their hand-eye coordination. Some of the decisions that players are subjected to can also be quite intense and even border on tough moral choices. The gameplay also throws curve balls to players when it comes to reaction and decision making within the game. There are moments where the player's immediate button presses dictate how successfully their onscreen character will fare. In other situations, waiting before acting or not reacting at all would have been the better decision.

There are instances in the game that create immense tension and anxiety for players which sucks players in and makes them feel they are actually in the shoes of the character that is onscreen. Some situations in the story get quite hairy. A main character was in a situation where he was crawling through a tight claustrophobic tunnel that was littered with broken glass. He was forced to clamber through the dark confined space with only the light of a match to guide him and the eerie soft howls of wind swirling around him. It made me sit on the edge of my seat wondering what was lurking around the next corner.

Each of the four playable characters is well developed, interesting, and play integral roles to the intricate story. They are all fully modeled from their real life actors voicing the parts. The semblance between the digital characters and their real life counterparts are stunning. The lighting effects in Heavy Rain create photo realistic scenes. The motion capturing and physics behind the game's engine add to the visuals and make the characters and scenes look natural. There is meticulous detail to the facial modeling of the characters. The dialogue is synced seamlessly with the character's mouth and facial expressions. It's incredible how the polygons spring to life from the intricate art style and programming.

Lightning crackling and the pitter-patter of rain sets the mood for this title. There is a dark and dreary ambiance to the entire game which helps to supplement the atmosphere of this title. The voice acting is well done, but it is not perfect. The entire cast of the game is voiced by British actors who are imitating an American accent. For the most part of their dialogues, it works, although they do occasionally fumble a few lines and let their British accents slip out and cause awkward sounding sections. There are no famous actors performing in this particular title, but their voice work is convincing and moving nonetheless.

For the price of $60 dollars the game delivers enough content to justify a purchase. There is strong replay value with Heavy Rain due to the multiple branching storylines. Also included is bonus content, similar to the special features on a DVD or a Blu-ray movie, such as behind-the-scenes videos, trailers, and concept art that gets unlocked with multiple playthroughs. It adds incentive to sink more time into the game. The first couple hours of Heavy Rain are slow before the game begins to climb in story and action. Once the game gets going, it holds on to players and sends them on a roller coaster ride. Players won't want to put down the controller until they reach the very end of the 8-10 hour show.

Heavy Rain is a title that is great title to showcase the Playstation 3's prowess on a monstrous 52-inch television display. It keeps players alert and on their toes throughout the entire adventure. The story progresses through a variety of clever plotlines and goose-bump inducing moments that fall under the same category of many blockbuster movies. Heavy Rain is a simple enough game to play and doesn't require the extreme hand-eye coordination that most video games are known for. It's poignant and cleverly written story will satisfy players until the credits roll.

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