Final verdict: B-
Final playtime: Approx. 6 hours
Well shit. This turned out to be worse than I expected. I’m pretty fucking disappointed, really. This game had all the potential in the world and wasted most of it.
Alright, I’ll start at the beginning. When I first started playing Heavy Rain, I was completely blown away. For the first few hours, you feel like you’re a real part in a real story, solving a real murder case. It’s incredibly immersive. It’s stressful, tense and intriguing. Not only do you feel like you’re solving a real murder case, you feel like you could fail to solve a murder case, and that is a very big and important feeling in a video game, because with all video games there’s only one conclusion: You will beat it. But Heavy Rain makes you feel like you could actually lose, and that’s a big deal.
Unfortunately though, the game is only good for the first half, because a few things start to dawn on you after playing it for a while. It’s one of those “big choices” games that claims that every little thing you do has some big effect on the game. Only that’s a lie, isn’t it? No matter what your choices are, nothing actually changes.
I’ll explain. The same scenes in the game play out no matter what choices you make. As an example, there’s a scene where Madison visits a shady doctor to get herself some sleeping pills without prescription. The doctor offers her an obviously-drugged drink. You know that drinking it will knock you out, so you can choose not to drink. Clever you! You listened to your parents! Now you won’t get date raped! Oh, wait. If you don’t drink, the doctor simply hits you over the head and knocks you out, resulting in the same scene afterwards.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still really cool to play it the first time around, because at least then it feels like you’re making a difference to the story and you’ll be sitting there thinking “I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t suchandsuch!” but then you talk about it with your friends who are also playing and realize they got the same results with completely different choices and it dawns on you that the game is a filthy fucking liar.
I was also expecting the game to require some logical deduction and intelligence on the part of the player. I really wanted it to be a difficult case to solve. I wanted to feel proud of myself after figuring everything out. Unfortunately, half way through it just fucking explains everything for you, leaving you with no sense of satisfaction and no reward. And then it pulls the whole “THE CRIMINAL WAS THE GUY YOU LEAST SUSPECTED ALL ALONG!” routine, only by that point you’ve probably already figured out who it was.
This effectively ruins all future playthroughs of the game, because you know who the killer is. It would have made infinitely more sense for them to have made the killer dynamic – have it change and be someone else with every play through the game. That way you’d have a reason to play again, and it would always be somewhat of a surprise. But no. Unfortunately its developers lacked either the intelligence, willpower or budget to make the game what it should have been.
There are also a significant number of major plotholes throughout the story, especially in the last half, but I can’t really discuss them here without spoiling major parts of the story, so I’ll be making a post later in the blogé about those.
I should talk a little about the controls, too. The entire game is basically one never-ending quicktime event, requiring you to hit buttons at specific times and perform certain motions with the thumbsticks. However, it has one major, infuriating flaw – the movement. To make your character move, you have to hold R2 and then use the left stick. This just wasn’t necessary. They claim that it’s required so that you can control the camera and so on using just the stick, but that’s fucking retarded. KEEP. IT. SIMPLE. If something can be done using the stick, then don’t add extra buttons into the mix for no reason. Common fucking sense says that you’ll be walking around in the game a LOT more than you’ll be moving the camera, so make the most common action the simplest one to input. Walking should require only the stick, and moving the camera should require you to hold R2. Come on. I swear they need to start teaching common sense and basic logic in schools. Seriously, do game designers even go to college? After the past few years of terrible, half-assed video games I’m 100% confident that I would be a better game designer than any of these jokers.
Anyway. Heavy Rain is impressive, if only as a tech demo and a concept. I genuinely had a really good time playing it, but was disappointed afterwards. I’d say it’s very worth playing, just don’t go in with high expectations like I did, because you’ll end up disappointed. Apart from a couple of dodgy controls, it’s a really interesting and fun experience. I hope other developers play it, learn from it, and make something better.
Final verdict: B-
Final play time: 6 hours or so