Saturday, July 22, 2000

Heavy Rain review 8.5

Overview (no major spoilers): You play several different characters in hopes to track down a serial killer that targets children. There are many twists and exciting plot reveals as the game goes on. Most of this takes place in rainy or dismal settings, so get used to your characters being wet all the time.

Issue seen on PS3Slim (others have seen same on original PS3, I dont have one to confirm):
Ok lets talk about the issue I have with the game so that we can get to the good stuff. The video is choppy. No two ways about it. I have the new PS3 Slim and the video jerks and stutters just enough to be annoying over time. You can tell its pushing the system pretty hard. Other times its smooth and beautiful. Most of the time the jerky video is not during anything fast or major, just when the character may be walking it looks like Monty Python sketch about silly walks. It doesn't tear, it merely is just a very slight lag when moving the character, 1 step is smooth 2nd step is slower, 3rd step is slower yet then back to smooth again maybe 2 steps and repeat the slow down. Its not overt and you might not notice it at all. Ok thats my major gripe, now onto the game.

Interface:
Fantastic and feels very immersive. At first the interface seems really clunky and weird until you get the button combinations down then it is very smooth and easy to figure out. Eventually you really dont have to think about it at all. This game is rewriting what interfaces are in video games and even though it is cutting edge it sometimes feels a bit like Dragon's Lair. If you find that you just cant keep up due to whatever reason you can change the difficulty setting by selecting how comfortable you are with the PS3 controller. They attempt to use the sixaxis controller like it was meant to be used but it feels a bit, eh, ok. Its not as intuitive as say, Flower [Online Game Code - Full Game].

Load times:
The load times do take a little longer than I would like, however they use it as a chance to show off the incredible facial modeling and motion capture. The characters look around and you can see the really fine attention to detail.

Adult themes:
One thing I like about this title is its frank dealing with adult themes. Its not overt sexuality, but there is nudity both male and female, and also psychological illness and struggle that most children would not be able to handle. I recommend this for people over the age of 18 and also with sound mental capacity. Reason being is, the story has some very dark imagery that is both disturbing and essential to the thriller. There are graphic depictions of drug use, and it is not pretty.

Fight sequences:
At times in the beginning you can practice fighting with doing other mundane things such as juggling and playing with one of the children in the game. It shows you through a very inventive way the skills you will need later on to fight. One thing that I like is that the producers offer this in a subtle way. Once you have this hit X now - Up - now Triangle, Now down sort of timing it becomes second nature. If you remember Dragon's Lair then you will find yourself right at home here.

Imagery:
The game is dark, its almost always raining, there are times though when you can escape through a virtual environment in the game to lush areas. It is always beautiful and quite breathtaking to see some of these vistas. After playing for several hours to see the sun was very refreshing and almost brought my spirits up. Then it was back to the case. The visuals are spot on. There are pieces of plastic caught in the barbed wire of the fences, cans roll around the street, there is dirt under and over a light switch on the wall. These are some of the great details to look for. So much attention to the small details help to make it more believable. In the beginning you are in a modern home with fantastic architecture and it looks just like a movie set. Textures, reflections, water all play very integral members of the cast. At times I forgot to move because I thought I was watching a movie, not playing one.

Vocals & Storytelling:
I am playing the US version and the voice acting is very good. I appreciate the vocals at times more than the graphics (which is saying alot). They are actual actors and not the textures guy doing a voice for the game. What you get is a compelling story told through many peoples viewpoints. Think Steven King or Dean Koontz with regard to many characters telling the whole story. This is not a hero quest layout and often I had trouble finding who to root for. That in itself makes it a very powerful story. I never felt that the story was out of hand or too deep to grasp. I really felt as I was integral in many ways to what was going on the screen.

Replayability:

There are so many different ways to go in this story that it could mean infinite replayability, although I doubt its that much. Even so it could be like 200+ different ways to play it meaning it is a very good value. Just do what you think the characters would do and live with the decisions, or go back and try again.

Synopsis breakdown:
Pros:
>> Motion capture is some of the best I have seen, only sometimes seems too stiff (like going up stairs)
>> Interface is easy to use once you get the basics down
>> You can change the difficulty based on how fast you think you can pull off the moves, so it doesn't penalize older players with slower reaction times.
>> A true adult game (mild sex), but with real life issues and themes.
>> Gritty and holds no punches

Cons:
<< PS3 Slim with plenty of HD space had jerky motion and felt a bit pushed
<< Harkens back to old school movie games with the controls based on timing and buttons (its ok not much of a con but thought I would mention it)

Overall this game will touch you in many ways. It is both wonderful to look at, yet you will find yourself wanting to look away when the bad stuff happens. You become very attached to each character and the smallest decisions you make may change the whole conclusion of the game. Matter of fact there is no guarantee that anyone will solve the case, so, be wise with your choices.

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