Heavy Rain Week: The Review
Much as we’d anticipated, Heavy Rain stands apart from almost anything we’ve played before. We say almost anything because it’s very much a spiritual successor to Quantic Dream’s Fahrenheit, which attempted to break the typical conventions of videogames to present a more immersive experience. But while the starting point may have been similar, the end results are vastly different as Heavy Rain outstrips Fahrenheit in every conceivable way and establishes itself as one of the most engrossing and important games we’ve ever played.
Which leaves us with Madison Paige, who is really the enigma of the cast. Her motivations are unclear, seemingly drawn in by pure coincidence, but later finding herself right in the middle of the investigation. It may seem like a cliché to say that the female of the main cast is the most vulnerable, but ultimately she gets into as many scrapes as the others, it’s just that her confrontations tend to be on the darker side. Like the other characters, whether she’ll survive the challenges she faces is ultimately in your hands, but by showing her at her most unprotected on a couple of occasions her victories seem all the more extraordinary.
But these characters are only as good as their actors and in turn only as good as the script, which is fortunate on both counts. The acting at times is quite superb. Once again we come to Ethan Mars, played by Pascal Langdale, who has to carry the weight of some of the most emotionally fraught moments in the game and carries them supremely well. Through him we see just how finely tuned and honed the script is. Every emotional shift or decision feels justifiable regardless of past actions and rather than resulting in shades of grey in behaviour, Langdale and the other actors have managed to be incredibly expressive. Ultimately you know you’re witnessing great acting and a great script when you have to sit back and just admire the performance, which we did a lot.
Moreover Heavy Rain doesn’t feel the need to explain or reveal too much of the plot. The first reveal of the Origami Killer’s identity is hidden from you so that you must remain in doubt for a few moments longer (assuming you get there). The motivations of certain characters you meet in the game are disguised, leading you down paths of thought that may or may not prove fruitful. It’s a murder mystery that had us guessing until the very end, but thanks to the split narrative and the compelling nature of every thread we never felt overly strung along and always felt that some resolution was within the grasp of all four of them.
What you eventually discover, whether you save Ethan’s son or indeed if any of the main characters survive is all down to your actions in the game and as such your experience of Heavy Rain could be significantly different to that of your friends or us. There are multiple endings for all the four main characters depending on what happens in your story and it does very much belong to you. We were able to see fairly quickly the decisions we made or opportunities we missed that made our ending what it was, but yours could and probably will be very different. It’s only a shame that these epilogue scenes aren’t also interactive. It is odd given everything else that you don’t get one last chance to play with these characters as they recover from the events of the game.
Usually the themes that a videogame attempts to cover are really just a light sugar coating that helps to justify events in a very loose sense, but for Heavy Rain they are the core of the experience. Guilt, grief, paranoia, personal identity and trust are all placed under the microscope, but ultimately this question of the lengths a father will go for his son is paramount. Through its story, characterisation, pacing, control mechanics and acting, Heavy Rain is clearly a success and one that you owe to yourself to experience.
Heavy Rain is a game that will undoubtedly split opinion, but to our minds it is one of the most immersive, mature and refreshing games in years. If you’ve been waiting for something new from your PS3 then this is essential. 94%