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Heavy Rain PS3 Review

09/01/2011 Thinking Considered Gamer Review
Guest author: Gary McCombe
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Heavy Rain PS3

Heavy Rain



Further reading:
Gary McCombe
Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
Modern Warfare (PS3)
Resistance 2 (PS3)

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Other GamePeople columnists have reviewed this from their perspective - huh?:
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Reporting Gamer (PS3)
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Novel Gamer (PS3)
Soundtrack Gamer (OST)

Heavy Rain is a beautifully emotional experience punctuated with tension and nerve shredding suspense. Although its lofty ambitions of gaming nirvana slip ultimately through its fingers, it still moved me to my core.

Ever since Quantic Dream started to put flesh on the bones of Heavy Rain I was excited about playing this game. It promised a genuinely unique experience, worlds apart from other games where the player controls every possible event.

In that sense Heavy Rain doesn't disappoint, it feels very different. You control your characters via button pushes and stick movement. In times of danger these are more pressured and time limited. This slightly removed control scheme lends the characters more will of their own. It felt like I was influencing, rather controlling how events turned out.

The story follows four main characters each linked in their own way to the mysterious Origami Killer. The name arising from the fact that he leaves origami animals on the bodies of his victims.

The gameplay alternates between the four characters who are either searching for or being tormented by this shadowy figure. The cut between stories is well thought out and each instalment of a story adds to the growing pace toward the final scenes.

Although the controls denied me exacting control over individual scenes, how the stories play out at large was entirely down to the choices that I made. I could even make decisions that resulted in a character dying.

Even the tutorial levels at the start caused the hair on my arms to stand up with sheer excitement.

The way the game let me decide how the action moved on made me feel like a film director - albeit one who was able to change the film on the fly whenever an important scene came around. It was a great way of playing but is also where it came undone a little.

The idea of an ever changing story arc that is different each time you play is an attractive proposition on paper, but the sheer amount of choice on offer makes Heavy Rain a bit slow at times. Sometimes there are too many potential decisions and taking the time to consider them all can slow the action to a crawl.

What cannot be faulted however, is the attention to the game's storyline, visual appeal, general atmosphere and emotion. Even the tutorial levels caused the hair on my arms to stand up with sheer excitement.

It is one of the saddest that I have witnessed in any form of entertainment.

I revelled in the emotions this game managed to create in me. Those who have played Shadow of the Colossus (PS2) all the way to the end will know the scene that occurs as you travel to the last boss. It is one of the saddest that I have witnessed in any form of entertainment; game, film, TV, theatre or book. It made the game even better for it.

I still jump during Modern Warfare (PS3) - in the opening film where a gun is pointed straight at you and the trigger pulled. The moment when you emerge from your base in Resistance 2 (PS3) and see the multitude of Chimera ships attacking San Francisco is amazing with its sheer scale and must bring an exclamation from everyone who plays that game. These are all examples of moments in games that make you go "Wow".

Heavy Rain trumps all this though. Trying to find your lost son in the shopping mall was almost unbearably moving. Being a new father, I could feel my heart rate rise and the tension grow as I frantically chased the tell tale balloon that he is carrying.

The sudden influx of extra people in the mall meant that I was fighting my way through a crowd. Frustration and tension rose in me as I barged people out of my way. The outcome was as shocking as it was heartbreaking. I could picture myself in that situation searching for my daughter and it struck a nerve.

Other things added human touches as I moved through the game. Dealing with my other son as a father, cooking him food or changing a baby's nappy in another scene, all rooted the experience in an uneasy reality for me.

They added to the humanity of the game and reaffirmed that making decisions in Heavy Rain is completely different to any other game.

There are subtle touches in the animation that combine with the masterly soundtrack to draw out emotions usually reserved for film. In another memorable moment I was playing on a seesaw with my son and there was a hint of a rainbow in the sky behind the characters. The laughter of my, previously very downhearted, son coupled with the music gently drifting through only added to the poignancy of the father-son moment that your character has been yearning for ever since the opening scenes of the game.

While these things don't sound particularly exciting, they added to the humanity of the game and reaffirmed that making decisions in Heavy Rain is completely different to any other game.

Heavy Rain aims for the stars with its vision, visuals and beauty, It may only reach the moon but in terms of emotion this is still the greatest game I've played on the PlayStation 3. A roller coaster ride the like of which you will have never experienced before.

Guest review by Gary McCombe

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Gary McCombe wrote this Considered Gamer article under the watchful eye of Jen Rawles.

"For as long as I can remember I've been fascinated by games that can provoke an emotional reaction. I enjoy a game that can tell me a strong, emotive story even if sometimes the game mechanics behind it are weak."

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