Heavy Rain Review

It’s been a long time since we’ve done a review in this format here at GN, but with the branching plot, multiple possible outcomes, and overall variance in the player experience with Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, we felt this was the best way to represent the title in a review. Eddie Inzauto and Jason Fanelli have finished one playthrough each, and this is what they have to say about it.

Don’t worry, it’s spoiler-free.

Eddie Inzauto: Hey Jason. It looks like we’ve both managed to avoid the spoilers and uncover the mystery of Quantic Dream’s new interactive thriller, Heavy Rain. So what are the first words that come to your mind in assessing this thing?

Jason Fanelli: Un-freaking-believable story. I was so engrossed in these characters and this plot that I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. I really feel that if this game were instead a movie, the Oscar buzz would be out of this world. How about you?

Eddie Inzauto: I’m not speculating about Oscars, because who knows what those people are thinking sometimes, ha, but Heavy Rain has absolutely one of the best, most engaging stories I’ve experienced with anything on a game console. I found it to be incredibly intense for a surprisingly large percentage of the time I spent with it, and my connection to what was happening was quite different from what I normally feel while playing videogames. In fact, I’m reluctant to even call this a videogame; nothing about this experience was a game at all. They definitely nailed it with the word “HEAVY,” though.

Heavy Rain

Jason Fanelli: “Heavy” is certainly one of the best ways to describe it, for sure. I found myself particularly interested in Ethan Mars. The absolute torture that this man must endure — the kidnap of his son and the trials that the Origami Killer makes Ethan go through to save him — is almost unbearable to me as a player. When a situation in a game makes a player cringe, you know that the writers were doing something right. Case in point: broken glass. I got chills every time I moved Ethan during that scene.

Eddie Inzauto: Exactly. The attachment to characters felt by the player is unreal, and it’s very difficult to tear oneself away untitl the very end. What’s amazing is that even in assuming the roles of multiple different characters, the game still makes the player empathize with all of them and become emotionally involved in each story thread. And when Heavy Rain reveals just how intricately woven together these threads are, you feel like you’re on a fishhook. It’s crazy that I found myself actually talking urgently and nervously to the screen at times (something I never do), exclaiming aloud at particularly disturbing on-screen events.

Jason Fanelli: What I love most about Heavy Rain is how every playthrough can be completely different. You and I even talked about our different scenarios, and my game ended incredibly differently from the way yours did, The fact that the story adapts to the player, and that the outcome could be such a deviation from other players, is the perfect formula for replayability, and Quantic Dream NAILED it with this. I know I want to change my ending, because I hated it. Too sad for words. No matter what the outcome, though, everything is set up perfectly: every scene, every conversation, even every thought process weaves into the fabric of the story. Not many games pull it off quite like this one does.

Heavy Rain

Eddie Inzauto: One thing that impressed me was the attention to detail in the plot, character behaviors, and environmental elements. A couple of small examples of this are playing with your son as Ethan and the way it builds a bond between the characters and, more importantly, within the player, or subtle clues in the characters and environment that influence what should be done next or that aid in unraveling the mystery. Especially when it all comes together, the effect can be flooring. And yes, after sharing just a few words with you about the actual content of your story, I know I must go back through and make different choices and/or perform differently during certain action sequences just to experience more fully what Heavy Rain has to offer. Which reminds me, what did you think about the way it’s controlled? Were you a fan of this latest evolution of quick-time events, or would you say that there wasn’t enough direct influence on the action?

Jason Fanelli: I thought the quick-time event part was perfect for this type of game. It gave the player some control, but the story was too intricate to give the player full control. By limiting the player’s input, it gives the story that much more impact, especially during those times where you do everything you can and the outcome still sucks. What I did have a problem with was the walking action. It wasn’t holding the R2 trigger that got to me, it was the loss of movement control every once in a while. One particular camera angle change made Madison walk in a circle non-stop until I pressed the button again.

Eddie Inzauto: I agree, it definitely took a long time to feel comfortable to not try to hold the left analog stick to guide the characters, but to just trust in the R2 button and occasionally “steer” him or her in the appropriate direction, too. The movement actually feels like it has roots in the driving genre, but has been implemented in a more clumsy way. As for the on-screen commands, I found them to be everything “QTE” (and I hate that term) should be. They are high contrast and very clear, for the most part, and they appear in locations on the screen that correspond to the action and where the player’s eyes are likely to be focused. It was rare that I felt it was the game’s fault that I made a mistake. Except of course the times when the characters’ nerves got in the way, making the prompts jitter, bounce, and blur, and effectively delaying my response because of the difficulty in reading/seeing them. Again, this serves only to more intimately connect players to their characters. Overall, this type of control seems an excellent way to maximize the intensity of the story, which, unavoidably, is Heavy Rain‘s main focus. I also like the fact that there are so many different types of commands.

Heavy Rain

Jason Fanelli: The variety of commands adds a lot of the overall experience. Pressing R1 to move the right leg, then L1 for the left, was a great effect. The command I found most difficult was holding multiple buttons at once. There’s one scene in particular as Norman where you have to hold seven (!) buttons at once to succeed. I had to do it four times before I got it right. I also like that every scene has multiple outcomes, but I wish I had more control over where I could stop to take a breather. The three times I screwed up the Norman scene, I had to restart the whole scene just to get back to the one little part I missed. I’m glad I did, because as I found out later, screwing up that scene can lead to someone’s death. Which brings me to one of the best things about Heavy Rain: no Game Over screen. The game doesn’t end until the credits roll, no matter who lives or dies during the adventure. Wouldn’t you agree, Eddie, that it’s this idea that makes every moment in Heavy Rain so intense?

Eddie Inzauto: That’s true. I hadn’t even considered a Game Over screen, because so little about Heavy Rain reminds you that you’re supposedly “playing a videogame.” It’s just one cohesive experience, and whatever happens, happens. It’s each player’s individual story. I didn’t try to restart any scenes, myself, but I did wonder how imperative success with the controller was to the outcome of a few of them. I get the feeling, though, that it’s far less a “funneling” system than we talked about on a couple of VS Node episodes regarding dialogue in other games, as evidenced by the many differences between different players’ playthroughs. Either way, not having a Game Over screen really keeps the player immersed in the experience, as does the quality of its audio and visual presentaton, which was very solid.

Jason Fanelli: The music was expertly written, perfectly setting the mood of every scene. This feat is made even more impressive by the fact that there were maybe five or six different tracks, total. I would have liked to have heard some more variety in the music, but what I did hear was wonderful. The score reminded me of Michael Giacchino’s score for LOST: minimalist, yet beautiful at times; heavy and intense at others. The voice acting left a little bit to be desired, though. For a game that relies so much on story and plot, it would have been that much more effective if the voices didn’t sometimes clash with the scenes themselves.

Heavy Rain

Eddie Inzauto: Agreed. That assessment is spot-on. Visually, though, I found the game to be beautifully crafted, especially in the way the environmental atmosphere always seemed to elicit the proper emotional response from the player. Again, though, it was the characters that left something to be desired, at times looking funny or awkward while delivering a line or making an odd movement. The uncanny valley is in full force at those moments.

Jason Fanelli: That damn uncanny valley…. Despite that, it was definitely one of the prettiest games I’ve ever played. Anyone who walked by while I was playing would stop and watch for a minute or two, amazed that a game could look so good.

I think that covers most of what the game has to offer without giving away any major plot points (which, loyal readers, is SO HARD TO DO you have no idea) What’s your final word, Eddie?

Eddie Inzauto: I have to say that Heavy Rain is something of a revolution for gaming, and it tells one of the best stories I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. From a “games” perspective, it’s true that the movement controls are a little wonky, and there are a few small issues with its presentation, but this is a piece of work that must be viewed wholistically, for what is aims to achieve and what it absolutely succeeds at. If you’re the type of gamer who’s only interested in feeling comfortable with what’s familiar, I would normally say this isn’t the game for you. Instead, however, I’m going to say that you should try it out and expand your horizons a little. More likely than not, I truly believe you will enjoy it, and it will open up new ways for you to play games and new ways to think about what is possible via this medium. It is a masterpiece.

Jason Fanelli: I don’t think I could have worded that any better. The shooter/blood-and-guts crowd isn’t going to like this game, but for the gamers who are looking to branch out and try something new, this is game to do it with. You will not be disappointed.

Heavy Rain

Eddie Inzauto: And the moment of truth… your score?

Jason Fanelli: If the voice actors were on point and the walking was better, this would be a 10, but because of that, 9.5 is my score.

Eddie Inzauto: 9.5 here, too.

We are in agreement, Heavy Rain reigns supreme. PS3 owners, do yourself a favor and play this game.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.