A Look Back At Heavy Rain
In 2010 Quantic Dreams unleashed a new vision… a title that split the gaming community down the middle. It was a massive gamble for the developer, one that showcased new technology and pushed gaming narrative onto a higher plateau. It was also the first AAA title I had the privilege of being asked to review. A challenge that I relished – the game known as Heavy Rain.
It was billed as the first interactive drama, aiming to focus on story and characters. It wanted to merge the blur that exists between movies and gaming; for me Quantic Dreams achieved this and so much more! Heavy Rain follows four characters, all on the hunt for a serial killer – one that abducts children and pushes the parents to their emotional limits, known as the Origami Killer.
The main character throughout is one Ethan Mars; a father who has already lost a son, and fallen into despair; never really getting over the loss. He’s lost his job, wife and now thanks to the Origami Killer his other son looks set to be the next victim. Ethan is joined on his quest to unmask the killer by three other very different characters.
Madison Paige is the plucky investigative reporter wanting to find the killer to give her career the boost it so desperately needs. Then we have the ageing Private Detective Scott Shelby who has become obsessed with the killers identity – imagine a cross between Poirot and Columbo. Making up the quartet of heroes is FBI profiler Norman Jayden, a fresh pair of eyes sent over from Washington to help with the case. Throughout the game you get to control all four characters, allowing you to become familiar with each and every one. Each has their part to play but not all of them survive… or do they…?
Then we have the ageing Private Detective Scott Shelby who has become obsessed with the killers identity – imagine a cross between Poirot and Columbo.
One of the great merits of this game is the decisions you make when faced with particular challenges. Your choices can make the story leap down another path, a path that could effect any of the characters in a host of different ways. It’s one of the reasons that Heavy Rain became my game of the year, one that affected my emotions and senses – attacking everything that I thought a game could, twisting my normal expectations of a game and setting a new bench mark. Oh, and the game just looks so beautiful to behold; the facial expressions alone are a breath-taking affair, with the voice acting being some of the most realistic I have ever witnessed in a game.
I remember the first time, becoming attached to Ethan especially – perhaps due to being a parent myself. Heavy Rain gets you to interact with his family before the accident; allowing you to play with Ethan’s children, doing normal chores such as setting the table, making you interact with them. It simply sucked me into the world. Then you lose Jason, and all you can do is run after him, shouting by tapping the X button. My emotions at this point were running high, it had tapped into a fear that all parents have. A normal every day situation that could occur to any one of us… I felt Ethan’s terror, his anguish as the events unfolded – a true testament to how gaming can invoke an emotional journey!
The story kept me on the edge of my seat, pushing me to go further – to unmask the killer as quickly as possible. I remember vividly the moment the killer was unmasked, staring at the screen dumb-founded. At no point did I ever imagine it to be the person it turned out to be. The story weaved it’s magic web around me, pulling me this way and that, making the whole thriller pop like a big-screen movie. It also made me revaluate quick time events; in most games I’ve played the quick time events, and they’ve never really worked. They were nothing more than a nuisance, a necessary evil in some games to get past.
Heavy Rain though made them work! I was so engrossed that I remember not even thinking twice about their inclusion. They seemed to fit just like a jig saw puzzle, making the game complete.
Heavy Rain will always remain with me; it’s unique story-telling pushes the boundaries of what we’ve come to expect from any game. The amazing motion capture techniques make every scene seem that much more real. The game world is just breath taking, allowing you to become emotionally attached, making you push through to the end! However, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, a little like marmite – you either love it or hate it! So tell me, which side of the fence do you sit on?