Review: Heavy Rain

heavy-rain-cover

Title: Heavy Rain

Developer: Quantic Dream

Genre: Interactive drama

My playtime: 10 hours

My rating: 8/10

I have to admit, I was very uncertain going into this game. I’d never played an interactive drama before, and I’m not a fan of games that force you to watch hours and hours of cutscenes that interrupt play. I’ve very recently signed up for PS Plus while the subscription was on offer, as I wanted to at least try it out for a year and see what I was missing (not to mention get into that bloody Dark Zone in The Division at last! That was a total waste of time, as I just died within minutes every time I stepped in there). Every month, PS Plus has free games to download, and Heavy Rain was a free game in July. I’d heard a lot about it, and it’s a predecessor of Detroit: Become Human, which I’d heard even more about, so with a little encouragement from my friends, I went ahead and clogged up my internet connection with it.

And colour my mind changed! I think I’m an interactive drama convert!

It’s only a short game – you could probably complete it in a day if you were dedicated – but it packs one hell of a punch into those few hours. The premise is you are essentially in something akin to a film, taking on the roles of the characters and exploring scenes and guiding interactions with other characters. The ultimate goal is to solve the mystery of the Origami Killer.

I think this is possibly one of the most challenging games I’ve ever played for two reasons:

  1. You have to make certain decisions very quickly, and I am a notorious overthinker who can take days to make up my mind over even the most trivial matters.
  2. I have this amazing ability to totally forget the anatomy of a PS controller under even the slightest whiff of pressure.

So you can imagine how stressful this experience was for me! And herein lies the reason for my conversion: the adrenaline was real, the fear was real. I spent a lot of time poised on the edge of my seat with my controller trembling in my hands as I pushed myself to make snap decisions and hit the right button at the right moment. And that stuff really counts. There are innumerable permutations in Heavy Rain, depending on the choices you make and the buttons you (fail to) hit, so your story won’t unfold exactly like the next person’s story. And this is real insight-into-your-soul stuff. This game confronts your personality with snap decisions about harrowing situations, and you’ll soon learn what kind of person you are if you weren’t sure already. I feel genuinely fretful after playing this game, and those scenes are playing on my mind, almost haunting me. Did I make the right call?

The good thing about this game is that, because it’s relatively short, you can easily go back and play it through on a whim, making different choices or succeeding where before you failed. It also allows you to restart from a certain chapter if you aren’t happy with the outcome of your first attempt. That was a real relief for someone who suffers from button paralysis and Indecisiveness Maximus.

But the thing is, I don’t think I would have enjoyed this game so much if it hadn’t been for the stress and the adrenaline and the edge of my seat. It is a genuinely thrilling experience. And I really appreciated the filmic atmosphere of the whole thing. Perhaps being a pluviophile has something to do with it, but there’s a real sense of looming threat and psychosis throughout. Just exploring scenes is actually a really satisfying experience in a game, and Heavy Rain really plays on that gaming preference (if, like me, you’re an explorer type!). The only thing that irked me was the movement mechanics. I actually found it really hard to just walk in one direction. Unlike most games that use the left joystick, Heavy Rain uses the R2 button for walking, and then you can change direction with the joystick. I really struggled at times to get my character to just stand in the right place to trigger an exploration button, but really, that’s my only gripe.

Heavy Rain is a fantastic mystery thriller to fully immerse yourself in. It’s challenging both physically and mentally, and it has certainly inspired me to play more interactive dramas.

The only question that remains is why does nobody in this rain-washed town own a single piece of Gore-Tex?

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