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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Darkmatters Review: Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain (PS3 exclusive)

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

Developed by Quantic Dream

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Just How Far Will You Go To Save Someone You Love?
Prepare for a ‘game’ like none before – Heavy Rain is better described as an ‘experience’ – a mind trip directly into the plot of a gripping psychological thriller… You are the main characters, your actions shape the how the plot develops, you will get to choose how to react to the innumerable twists and turns, where your choices and actions result in dramatic consequences.
Imagine David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and David Fincher’s Seven merged and mingled with CSI trappings, all wrapped up in a dark noir coating spanning four days of mystery and suspense… Thanks to David Cage at Quantic Dream you don’t have to imagine this… you can be the lead part(s) of it.
The central premise is the massive manhunt for a murderer known only as the ‘Origami Killer’ - named after his macabre calling card of leaving behind folded paper shapes at crime scenes (very nice Blade Runner reference). The killer has a penchant for killing boys aged 9 – 13, drowning them in rainwater after holding them for a few days… You come in playing four characters, each following their own leads and with their own motives, must take part in a desperate attempt to prevent the killer from claiming a new victim.
Norman Jayden is an FBI agent, who looks like Fox Mulder from the X-Files and packs a very tasty future CSI tech pair of virtual glasses and a glove – ARI (Added Reality Interface) - these allow him / you to identify blood traces, scents and other clues. They also allow for a virtual office redesign or game of catch that nobody else can see… It is very very cool and gives the game a slight sci-fi edge – there’s nothing quite like sitting going over your clues whilst in a virtual seabed!?
Then there’s gruff but decent private investigator Scott Shelby who gets some of the more exciting early encounters such as fist fights whilst he searches for clues about the Origami Killer.
"Madison Page - Heavy Rain's pin up girl"
Sex object of the plot is Madison Paige, a reporter who isn’t adverse to stripping off (highly integral to the plot!?) but it isn’t immediately clear how she is involved in this story. From her opening scene where ‘you’ sleep in you underwear as the camera slowly pans over your body – it’s clear that Paige is a mesmerising, miraculous graphical depiction of the female form. The nudity can ramp up too but rather than schoolboy titillation, playing Paige’s character actually gives you an empowering insight into what it might be like to be a hot babe, faced with an intruder whilst just wearing you skimpies… It actually makes you feel vulnerable and is very effective – especially if you manage to land a virtual kick in the balls to your attacker.
The ‘main’ character though is Ethan Mars, a guy push over the edge when he loses one of his two sons to a car accident – whilst he was looking after him. Broken by the guilt of his son's death and prone to having dreams where he has origami in his hands, Ethan is thrust centre stage when his other son Shaun becomes the killers latest abductee. The clock is ticking as with the other murders the boys have died 4 days after being taken… Can you take Ethan on a journey of redemption?
Can you find and stop the killer in time?
"Dark and mysterious... just like the game"
As a father of two boys (aged 9 and 12) the plot of Heavy Rain hit me hard – what would I do to save my son? How far would I go? Never before have I been so emotionally caught up in a game, the plotting of which is an awesome rollercoaster of emotional highs (playing with you sons) and soul crushing lows (I won’t spoil these!!)…
In fact I’m not going to go into the plot any further as a lot of the joy of Heavy Rain is being surprised as event overtake you – but be assured that it is a bold a exciting story that deserves to be witnessed by any thriller fan. It would make a superb film too and there are rumours that it might just happen.
Graphically Heavy Rain is amazing, setting new standards of blurring film and game worlds. The dialogue is top stuff too such as agents sporting lines to each other such as “a gun isn’t always the answer… but it often helps!” I have to mention the powerful and emotive music too, which really adds to the scenes as they play out. On all levels Heavy Rain delivers over and above pretty much any other game out there and it sets the PS3 apart from competitor consoles and even the PC which have nothing to compete with this…
"Twin Peaks 3??"
Developer Quantic Dream made the excellent Fahrenheit a few years ago – and they have built on that solid foundation to create a bona fide masterpiece.  Releasing Heavy Rain is undoubtedly risky in a world dominated by play it safe sequels and million first person shooters but this is a game that changes everything and hopefully the opening weeks sales of over half a million copies will inspire others to engage in making grown up games for gamers who want to be challenged.
Finally a quick word on the controls – context sensitive and quick time responses make up the most part and they are very nicely designed. You can choose how adept you are with a dualshock and the game will simply or make the controls more complex accordingly. It works better than I expected with the right stick your ‘interact’ mechanic and the R2 + left stick to move and look around. The way the controls adapt from opening doors, embracing your kids, shooting guns and beating the crap out of people flow seamlessly, it’s very impressive stuff.
If you manage to find a collector’s edition of Heavy Rain you’ll also get ‘The Taxidermist’ – a preface to the main game which gives you some extra Madison Paige action as she investigates the Origami Killer’s trail. This is nice bonus and will hopefully be available to download from the Playstation Store before too long. Here’s hoping for more DLC!!
Darkmatters rating: öööööööööö (10 delicious dark thrillers out of 10)

The hour is nigh – everything depends on you and your actions. Heavy Rain is a ‘must buy’ game. 

Until you’ve experienced this – you’ll not have experienced true gaming nirvana. Highly Recommended!!

Read more here: www.heavyrain.com

Read about the cool short film inspried by Heavy Rain: here

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