Quantic Dream has been in the game development business for over a decade and is a game developer with an uncanny fixation for serial killers. All three games that the studio has produced so far have been about investigations into serial killings, and in a sense these games can be considered as parts of a trilogy. While the three games have maintained a common theme, the game mechanics have been radically different each time. With Heavy Rain, the end result is far more drastic and to consider this product a game in the conventional sense would be a stretch.
Heavy Rain follows the investigation of multiple homicides in which the victims — all of them children — are found drowned in rain water and the killer leaves an origami figure as a calling card. The story unfolds through the eyes and experiences of the game’s four main characters. Heavy Rain delivers this story through interactive cut-scenes where the player’s interaction with the game is almost exclusively through QTE (Quick Time Events). There are a few instances in the game where the player has full-control over a game’s character. Even during such set-pieces however, the player’s options are quite limited — both in terms of navigable area and interaction with world objects.
For a title that places such a burden on QTE's; the use of the same as the game’s central interaction medium is lacking and there are several issues with the system. For instance, there are times when the game will have you playing Twister with the controller. To give you an example, there is a sequence where the game expects the player to hold R1 L1 X and then pound on the 0 button. Pulling off something like this is virtually impossible while holding the controller as one normally does.
Now, while most games let the players retry a failed QTE at crucial points, Heavy Rain is a lot less forgiving. Failing to successfully complete a QTE can have results varying from your character getting a few bruises to something as drastic and the character dying permanently.The game saves progress at fixed checkpoints and the only way to avoid the more drastic results of a failed QTE is to force-quit the game. To make matters worse, there are instances where it’s hard to figure out exactly what the game is prompting the player to do. Another issue is the use of awful Six-Axis motion sensing, which is the last nail in the coffin for this game's control scheme.
Visually, the game is a case of hit-and-miss : while the cut-scenes are both impressive and immersive, the game’s visual quality drops during normal game-play. The cut-scenes have been crafted well enough to bring forth an over-bearing sense of dank desperation that is often associated with incessant rainfall— something that is central to the mood of the game. What the story lacks is adequate character development and a sense of tension that is expected in a thriller such as this game. The game’s script and voice-acting is just adequate and mostly fails at capturing one’s imagination.
During normal game-play, the world textures lack detail and the character models are choppy from the neck-down. Even though the developers have reportedly made extensive use of motion capture, the character animations appear chunky and dated in places where the animation is not predetermined. Heavy Rain also suffers from several technical glitches. In spite of a 4GB installation of the game files on the PlayStation 3 hard drive, there are regular frame-drops and the game’s audio-video tends to go out of sync. The load-times are fairly high and the game occasionally locks-up during these loading screens.
Studio: Quantic Dreams
Publishers: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 3