Upon it’s release originally, I completely missed this game. I was well aware of the massive hype, acclaim and groundbreaking style of gameplay mixed with story and how it set the gaming world abuzz with the overwhelming positivity surrounding the game, as well as the other side of this love, with many criticising the gameplay based around quick time events and sometimes odd graphical glitches on the characters. I found myself constantly putting it off as one of those, “I’ll get around to it sometime,” games, never rushing to play it but never writing it off completely, ensuring its story was never spoiled for me, knowing that the story is integral to your enjoyment of the game. Now, with the release of the Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls collection, I’ve finally had time to sit down and acquaint myself with it and if the Sub-Heading is any indication, this game won me over tenfold.
The appeal within the game is a blend of a very cleverly crafted story that puts your input into the forefront of your engagement with Heavy Rain, which incidentally makes it difficult to talk about. Going in with as fresh a mind as possible, with little to nothing being ruined is easily the best way to enjoy the story, hence, I’ll keep details sparse. In its barest sense the plot is a, “film noir,” thriller and murder mystery surrounding a serial killer known as the, “Origami Killer,” whose trademark involves leaving slips of Origami paper in the victim’s hand and follows several protagonist’s journey as their lives become intertwined with the killer and each other.
I was not expecting to become so enveloped with Heavy Rain, but the story is so incredibly engaging. Starting off slow at first, I questioned where the huge mass appeal for this title came from, feeling somewhat bored and confused with it’s control scheme. However, as you progress and really being to delve into the true nature of the narrative, its true colours really show and shine exceptionally well in the most intense moments and latter half of the title. More than once I found myself genuinely shocked, intrigued and often times touched by some of the heart felt and warming sections, particularly in the case of Ethan Mars, the protagonist the game opens up on. The beats of the tale really began to affect me when it introduced pivotal decisions and actions that move the narrative forward and have consequences for the way the story progresses, going so far as to allow you control over the fate of some characters.
Adding to the absolutely sublime atmosphere is the gorgeously orchestrated soundtrack. This is where the game excels at crafting the darkly ominous tone of the story and accentuates the bleak moments of sadness and loneliness each protagonist feels. While soft piano keys echo somberly in the background, we feel the depression of each situation surrounding the Origami Killer’s victims as they lament their tales of sorrow. In moments of intense action, characters racing to try and save a life, the music will arrive with this booming energy, string sections furiously playing along to the horn section, it all comes together to create a superb and magnificent musical asset that leads the way to much of the more sincere and emotional areas of Heavy Rain’s narrative.
There really wasn’t much with this game that I ever found a problem with. It plays out so marvelously well as an interactive, movie like experience that very little ever pulled me out of the experience, but there was a few blemishes on an otherwise gleaming game. While graphically the presentation looks excellent in its new HD re-coating for the PS4, backgrounds in particular taking advantage of this, there several times the character models themselves looked particularly odd. For the most part, the animation is solid and performed fantastically, especially in fight scenes where the action would felt like there was real weight to it.
However, there were several times through where the facial animation just looked downright weird and unnatural, breaking the immersion somewhat with this being a very heavily story driven game that focuses on people. Along with that, almost more importantly was the performance of the actors themselves. As with the graphics, for the majority of the title they do an astounding job of creating believable characters who behave and act as real people and made the plot all the more enthralling. But there were plenty of times where the acting just fell flat, usually only when it was describing what they were thinking although some dramatic lines were all but flopped out during key story moments.
Honestly, these are very nuanced nitpicks, though they are certainly worth mentioning as I feel so strongly about this game. Beyond them, I truly see Heavy Rain in a positive light. For example, in an early story sequence the player is offered the choice to act calmly or brashly when dealing with a potential threat while holding a minor character at gun point. Choosing to shoot them for risk of him attacking your partner, the game then throws a small twist in. I was honestly taken aback and shocked at what I had done, which was reflected with the character I was controlling, instantly regretting my move and giving a wonderfully real and emotional weight to my choice. It simply felt human.
And it’s moments like these I cannot recommend this game enough. The brutally honest, human quality and empathy that weaves gracefully throughout Heavy Rain is an emotionally captivating and powerful experience. While yes, I can easily see where many find faults and flaws with the gameplay and sometimes odd vocal performances, I found them few and far between and more often than not I would be far to enthralled in the narrative and want to push forward to the conclusion. If you have not yet experienced this wonderful gem, I implore you to jump headfirst and play the original or newly updated PS4 version.