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Review: The Heavy Rain Experience (No Spoilers)

Platform: PS3
Developer:Quantic Dream
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

As reviews go for games this is going to be a short one. It's not that I don't want to tell you everything that is amazing about Heavy Rain, it's that I don't want to ruin the story by revealing any clues to you. It's best played with a clean slate of mind. If you've gone ahead and read some other reviews or sneaked a peak, you're really only hurting yourself. I'm going to lay it out on the table for you all right now. I'm recommending everyone go out and play Heavy Rain. Even if you don't have a PS3, borrow one or steal one.

Origami. It will give you deadly paper cuts.

Well I can't say with a 100% certainty that Heavy Rain is the best game ever made and that it's perfect by any means, but what I can say that Heavy Rain is different, entertaining, and is setting the ground work for potentially new genre of games. Heavy Rain is a game that is blurring the line between movies, video games, and art. You know we've all thought about it before. The idea of games reaching the same heights and respect as cinema has been an underlying dream for many including myself. From the music, camera work, presentation and the narrative. Heavy Rain from it's concept is designed to act and feel like a full cinematic experience. Who hasn't ever thought about being the one in control a movie before? I most certainly have and Heavy Rain is the closet thing I've seen so far that matches this idea. For the most part the game succeeds in this regard. First lets get the basics of the story out of the way and dive into what's working in this game.

The basic set up for the story is that you play as four different characters who each are trying to catch a serial killer labeled the "Origami killer". Ethan's (one of the main characters) son Jason has recently been suspected of being abducted and everyone is looking for clues in order to catch the killer in time before his next victim is murdered. The story is set up as scenes and depending on who's in the scene will determine which of the characters you will be controlling. It's almost as if your more like a guide or puppet master to these characters. So you not going around giant levels deciding where to go or spending lots of time jumping around collecting items then beating people with baseball bats.

You often walk the fine line of the Uncanny Valley.

How does it play?

Heavy Rain doesn't play like how I imagined it would when I first heard about it. This isn't so much a game as it is and interactive experience (That's the best I can describe it as). On the surface all your really doing is moving your character around the game environment using the analog stick, the six axis for gestures, and button presses with the dual shock controller. These simple presses always directly relate to an on screen prompt with either a directional arrow or a series of button choices. For example if your next to an object your character can interact with, the arrow will appear above the object pointing up. Just press up on the analog stick and your character will pick it up.

As the game progresses you will be asked to partake in quick time events and using the face buttons for dialogue choices. At first your really going to wonder what the hell is going on and maybe be thinking why in the world is this game even fun at all. Honestly, in the beginning of the game I was even wondering that myself. Your often just doing things as simple as flipping on a light switch. But your going to have to trust me here and stick with it. Once the game starts really digging into the story and getting a sense of the characters, it's hard to put it down. You may even find yourself starting to liking those pain in the ass, aggravating quick-time events you find in a lot games. And yes, I'm talking about you Resident Evil 5.

So what makes quick-time events and mundane actions with accompanied button presses fun? From what I've describe Heavy Rain might sound like a snore fest when it comes down to the mechanics the gameplay, but where the game overwhelmingly succeeds is creating tension through the art of story telling and pacing. Like any good story, creating suspense, tension, and a emotional connection to the audience is vital to sell a convincing story. When you can get an audience more vested in whats happening on screen and feel for the characters, you know your doing something right. This gets even more compounded when you become an active participant in the decision making process as you do in Heavy Rain. This fact alone is what makes the game extremely entertaining to play. The game constantly places you in situations that require to think fast and make decisions quickly or your character could die. If they die, they're dead. No continues or extra lives here. The game saves constantly, so there is no going back unless your quick on hitting that reset button.

In the end it ends up creating some very memorable moments and often I found myself struggling to decided what I would do in a situation or what's would be in the characters best interest. This game is mature rated and I think people will find themselves surprised by some of the tasks you will be asked to do and luckily for the most part the game takes its mature content seriously. It never goes to the level of some games where maturity equals the over sexualization of woman, hyper violence, and gratuitous gore.

Watching TV in a Video Game FTW!

Some people may complain that by being in control of characters choices in the story ruins the narrative and that your personal choices may go against what a character might actually do in a situation. I leave that up to debate. I feel like it's not that much of an issue. How many times have you watched a movie and thought to yourself, if I was that character I would have done this or that instead of what they just did. We often project ourselves and thoughts onto characters and some of the best characters in film and literature are the ones we see some of ourselves in. Granted you could have a game with just one main character, but I think it takes away from what they were shooting for in Heavy Rain.

I personally found myself getting really sucked into the overall experience and went through the whole game in three sittings. The music in the game is superb and does an excellent job of setting the mood for the game and plays a vital part in creating the tension I spoke of earlier. Overall the story is pretty decent and the most of the character voice acting is convincing. At time the graphics are stunning and other times they are a little lacking in the character animation department. The PS3 is powerful but it's not going going to be able to produce Pixar CG quality graphics in real time. Sorry Sony fanboys.

Final Verdict: Buttered Toast with Jam
A must play. Even if you end up hating the game, you have to give it props for making an effort to elevate the level of interactive story telling in games. Maybe someday soon games will be on the same level of respect as movies. But with mouth breathing yahoos like Den and I around, I doubt it.

Amazing fully orchestrated soundtrack
Suspenseful gameplay
Good cohesive story
Movie like visuals and presentation
M rated game that isn't over the top

Some voice acting isn't the best
Some characters facial models fall into the uncanny valley
Controls are a little clunky when moving your character around their environment
Easy for Advance Players

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