“…a master class in playing out your very own thriller movie, with high-quality voice acting and visuals supporting novelistic prowess by the writers.”
Heavy Rain is a deep, emotional and intense interactive action-drama game, following four individual protagonists connected by the actions of a serial killer. Developed by interactive storytelling veterans Quantic Dream, Heavy Rain was first released as a PlayStation exclusive title in 2010. Now, nine years later, the game has been spruced up and re-released exclusively on the Epic Games Store; one of a flurry of games which started out as a console-only title now landing on the platform. For me and many others, this has offered the very first opportunity to experience the once highly popular and critically acclaimed title.
The game’s story begins in the bright and idyllic setting of an American family home. You inherit the cognition of Ethan; a husband and father of two boys who are preparing to host his son’s tenth birthday party. A pseudo-tutorial prologue level for the game, Heavy Rain’s pleasant opening chapter helps you to learn the ropes of decision making and interactive actions before the major plot of the story begins. Simple tasks like taking a shower, moving objects and responding to conversational cues allow you to understand how to control your various roles to come in the world. These usually involve simple button presses, but more delicate tasks require careful, controlled and well-times analogue movements. As such, a controller is the recommended input for the game, which is well suited to Heavy Rain’s “sit back and experience it” style.
The first, short chapter of Heavy Rain is a delight to play. As you master the very basic system of control and begin to understand how this story will work, you become quickly immersed in the story and feel great ownership over the actions which Ethan performs. Unfortunately, Heavy Rain lures you into a false sense of positivity during these early minutes of gameplay. A short time hop sees the next chapter begin in a busy shopping mall a short time after the birthday. Ethan is watching his son, Jason, but loses track of his son leading panic to ensue. You are forced to try and track Jason down, calling his name as you bustle through busy crowds of shoppers. It is the first sense of real intensity in the game, and it is masterfully conveyed. The sudden switch of emotion from calm joy to sudden dread takes away your trust in the game but prepares you for the dark mix of feelings to come… Rest assured, though; there will be no story spoilers here!
A few months pass and Ethan’s life spirals downhill. Through a series of events, he then comes into contact with the Origami Killer; the game’s main antagonist with a sadistic method of drowning his victims in rainwater. Ethan is challenged to complete a series of disturbing and dangerous tasks by the killer. In the process, his experiences cause him to cross paths with the other varied and challenged protagonists of Heavy Rain; an FBI operative who is on the trail of the killer, an investigative journalist suffering from insomnia, and a PI working with the families of the victims.
The game expertly crafts these stories to interweave and impact on one another, whilst not making the success or survival of any given individual necessity for the story’s completion. Things could go dramatically wrong for one protagonist in your game, for example, while the others proceed and persist towards one of a number of alternate endings. Three of the main characters you play as, in fact, have the opportunity to ultimately save the day. Alternatively, it could just as easily be none of them.
For fans of interactive storytelling in games such as those of the former Telltale Games studio or indeed Quantic Dreams’ other titles recent titles like Detroit: Become Human, Heavy Rain stands as an outstanding example in its genre. The story is deep, dark, emotional and intense, whilst playing through it is an easy experience for any level of gamer to embark upon. It is a master class in playing out your very own thriller movie, with high-quality voice acting and visuals supporting novelistic prowess by the writers. Less an inherent video game, perhaps, than an outstanding video story, Heavy Rain remains well worth your time and attention; both of which will be well-spent on this title.
Heavy Rain is available on PC through the Epic Games Stores and PS4
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