Is Heavy Rain The Game For You?

Heavy Rain. Love it. Hate it. Seemingly those are the only two emotions one will have while playing Quantic Dream’s PS3 exclusive. For the most part, critics have applauded it as a breakthrough . Metacritic compiled over 70 reviews with scores of 90 or higher, including 8 perfect 100 scores. These feeling are not universal, though, as there are multiple scores in the 40’s as well. The average critic score is an 87 while the average user score is a 6.2 out of 10.

But if you wanted that info, you would have gone to Metacritic.  No, my effort here is designed to help you decide whether or not this game is right for you.  First off, this is an M-rated game for a reason.  Sure there is plenty of language and violence, but truthfully, it will take a mature audience to appreciate, if not even enjoy, this experience.  This game is unlike anything I have ever played, and it definitely ain’t Gears of War.  Let’s start with a check list:

Are you a fan of suspense/horror films like Seven or the original Saw?
Are you more interested in the story line than the game play?
Can you overlook an occasional plot hole?
Does the fact that a game can end in one of about 50 ways appeal to you?
Are you a parent?
Are you as trophy whore?

If you answered “yes” to all of these, stop reading and go buy the game right now (I recommend glyde.com for a cheaper package than new/Gamestop).  If you answered “no” to all of these, stop reading the review and return to your copy of Bad Company 2.  If you are somewhere in between, we need to flesh this decision out a little bit more.

Are you a fan of suspense/horror films like Seven or the original Saw?

Let’s handle the questions one by one.  First off, Heavy Rain is not porn-gore like so many of the present day horror movies.  With one possible exception (your actions should prevent this from happening), the game shies away from showing you the gross stuff up close.  What HR does do well is develop a foreboding sense of dread through the music, pacing, and cinematography.  The four characters you play with all have their own theories as to who the killer is and motives for their actions.  Everyone is working to unravel the mystery before the life of another child is taken.  Most are forced to jump through some pretty interesting hoops.  This is the meat and taters of the game.  If this does not sound like your cup of tea, don’t waste your time.  If it does, read on.

Are you more interested in the story line than the game play?

This is not so much a game as it is an “interactive drama” as its makers are fond of calling it.  You are in control of your player a majority of the time, but any of the meaningful action sequences are handled by QTEs (quick time events - basically the screen shows you a button to push and you have a second or two to get it done).  The difficulty selection will change the amount of time you have to respond and how many times you can be wrong before you fail outright.  At its easiest level , someone who has never picked up a controller will be able to finish the game.  At it’s toughest, you will be playing a lot of scenes over.  You basically only control your character completely when you are investigating an area for clues or deciding where to go.

The biggest form of story control comes through your conversation choices with the other characters (a model similar to Mass Effect).  You will often be given several different options on how to handle a conversation/situation with a single button push.  Unlike most games that make this claim, many of these decisions will ABSOLUTELY effect the game.  Several times you will see the results immediately.  Others do not manifest themselves until late in the plot.  This is why I ask if you can sacrifice gameplay for story.  Heavy Rain is light on handling the controller and heavy on letting you dictate the story through choice.  To enjoy this game in the least, you have to come to terms with that.

Can you overlook an occasional plot hole?

Just as I have promised, I’m not going to get into any spoilers on here, but we need to address the issue of the plot before we go any further.  A ton has been written on video game message boards about the various holes in the plot.  To be honest, there were several things that I had questions about or didn’t fully understand upon finishing my first play through.  However, my second and third play throughs (making different choices) helped to explain away many of these.  That said, there were still a few things that didn’t make sense.  It lessened the experience for me (especially in a game where the plot is the whole selling point), but it by no means ruined it.  If you are the type of person that can’t let the little things go when watching a movie, you should probably stay away from Heavy Run.  If you are not an obsessive a-hole, you should be fine.


Does the fact that a game can end in about fifty different ways appeal to you?

The first time I played through the game, I based my decisions on what seemed to be the obvious choices given what was known about the characters.  I played it “blind” (without seeking advice or walkthroughs).  When I got to the end of the game, I recognized how a few of my earlier decisions, and even my performance in the last scenes, could have greatly changed my outcome.  I would have guessed that there were about five different possible endings.  It was not until I decided to get the platinum trophy that I realized just how many different possible endings there were.  If you are someone that has to know every possible outcome, you will easily need to double your playing time to achieve this goal.  I would tell you that it is well worth it.  The final two outcomes I saw were entirely outside of how I envisioned the game ever ending..  Along those lines, all but one of the four main characters can be killed early, some in a variety of ways.  The game won’t just keep players alive for the hell of it.  If you fail, you die, and the story moves on without you.  That’s pretty cool. 

Are you a parent?

From reading other people’s thoughts on the game, one thing has become apparent to me:  this story hits parents a little bit harder than those without kids.  It’s not quite written well enough to make you cry, but there were definitely several moments when I could see myself in Ethan’s shoes.  I could empathize with him and the emotions that he was feeling.  This seems to be completely lost on most non-parents. This is important to note because your feelings about the characters will go a long way towards your enjoyment of this type of game.

Are you a "trophy whore"?

All in all, the game takes about 8 hours to play through. If you want to go back and see every ending, you will need to budget anywhere between 8-15 more hours depending on the choices you made in your first play through. So when it is all said and done, you could be looking at roughly 16-20 hours for a platinum trophy. That’s not bad at all. Plus, your difficulty level makes absolutely no difference when trying to acquire the smaller trophies. Play through the game however you like, then shift it into easy mode to bang out all of the things you missed. If you are a trophy whore, you have no choice but to spend a little time in the Rain.

Conclusion

For what it’s worth, I greatly enjoyed my time with Heavy Rain.  I bought the first batch of over-priced DLC.  I would consider buying more when it comes out if it is more substantial or more reasonably priced.  I will definitely buy any sequel.  If you are looking for action, go away.  If you are looking for a perfect tale, head back now.  If you’re looking to spend 8-10 hours taking part in an entertaining, suspense filled drama, this is the game for you.  Thanks for your time.

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