Heavy Rain comes to us from Quantic Dream, the same studio that brought us Indigo Prophecy (reviewed here just before Christmas), and it is available on PS3 now. I got my copy on launch day, but have yet to claim my bonus content. I played the demo a month ago and already had my thoughts on it, time to see how the real McCoy stacks up.
Just a warning: As the game is so plot-centric, this review will inevitably contain spoilers.
First off, I have to mention this: Reading yesterday over at The Sixth Axis, it seems director David Cage is not impressed by the negative views of many media outlets towards the game. Well David, I’ll just say this much: some of it is somewhat justified. I’ll start with that first.
Movement is still somewhat clunky. R2 is to walk forwards, with the left analog stick used to guide your character. I was playing the game at a friend’s place the other night, and he commented that it looked somewhat akin to a Resident Evil movement style. Point in the right direction, then go forwards. I’ve admittedly not played any of the series (except a brief co-op experience in 5) so I’m no expert in the matter, but looking at it, it seems almost archaic to have such a control method in times when turning around on the fly has proper animation, and not 2D scroller one-frame change.
That’s probably my only gripe with the whole game. Now onto the positives.
First of all, the storyline. Oh my days it’s amazing. Very well written from start to finish on my first playthrough, with some scenes in particular really designed to tug at the heartstrings. There were parts of the game where I was wincing at what I was being made to do in order to progress. There were more twists than M. Night Shyamalan could possibly shake a stick at, and in a game that relies so heavy in its narrative, it’s really pulled off quite well.
Action scenes are possibly the best I’ve seen in a game this generation, even if it is pre-scripted (hey, it is styled after movies after all). Every action makes you feel like you’re actually having an effect on what’s happening, as the QTE dialog boxes are cleverly placed on body parts and items of interest, in order to further highlight them as a choice of action. It’s a system that I myself wouldn’t have put much thought into, but having seen the game through once fully, and seeing more than just the two scenes from the demo, it’s one that really works, and it’s a massive improvement on the Simon Says in Fahrenheit system.
The game looks phenomenal in high-definition. I’ve played the game in both Standard and HD and it still even looks well in standard, despite the assumed quality drop from the 720p the game is capable of running at. Facial detail, as echoed in loading screens, is magnificent, and it’s a testament to the technology used to capture the motions and appearances of the actors in the game (yes, the actors you see in the game are also the voice actors, they lended both their vocals and looks to the game).
I’m also a big fan of how the Trophy system is implemented in the game. All plot-related trophies are hidden in the menu, as to not spoil the game, with only 2 or 3 actually being shown (platinum, finish the game, finish the game with everyone still alive (I.e. The super-happy good ending that I didn’t get)). Trophies unlocked are time-delayed also until the end of the chapter involved, where it will tell you if you got any while the next chapter loads. It really helps the situations where there’s a great deal of tension involved, and the “ding!” of a trophy could really kill the mood a bit for someone engrossed in the action.
I played the second half of the game in a room with about 4 or 5 people watching me play, and it was even great for them to watch the events unfold. They were really getting into it, like a good action flick, cheering on our protagonists in fights and helping point out stuff that I might have overlooked. It almost reminds me of the common comments I hear regarding Uncharted 2 and how people enjoy others playing it too. I guess the story and presentation just lends itself well to a spectator environment. Again, I don’t know if that was an intentional move or not, but it sure worked anyway.
I’ll be appending my thoughts on Chronicle 1 to this review once I download and play it, but even just out of the box, this is a real experience. I could say it’s a good game, but really it’s not really a game in the fullest essence of the word. It’s an “interactive drama” as Quantic Dream put it themselves, and really, at least give it a chance. I can assure you, you’ll not be able to play another game quite like it for some time, and who knows if or when the opportunity for another game like this will arise again.