A serial killer who preys on young boys in public spaces is still at large. The police have made no progress in their investigation and now another child has gone missing. Can anyone uncover the infamous Origami Killer and save the child from a watery grave?Despite being released almost two years ago, Heavy Rain is still one of the definitive titles for the PS3. It has been re-released twice, first as a Director’s Cut and then as a PS3 Greatest Hits title. There is a great reason for its unique position in video game culture: it’s just that good.
Heavy Rain is an interactive noir-styled thriller with four different playable characters. You play as Ethan Mars (the father of the missing boy), Scott Shelby (a private detective investigating the Origami Killer), Norman Jader (a high tech FBI agent), and Madison Paige (a woman pulled into the case by chance). Each character is faced with a different set of circumstances that offer new challenges with each perspective shift.
The controls are what make Heavy Rain so strong. This is not the first reactive video game ever made. This “respond to onscreen commands” style has been used in other games. However, I cannot think of another game where–walking aside–that is the entirety of the control scheme. To do anything–even drink a glass of orange juice or open a door–you have to follow a series of command prompts on the screen.
The result is a game that feels wholly interactive. You become the characters and struggle as they struggle. Sure, spending two minutes of in game time to make scrambled eggs might seem absurd on paper, but you really do become obsessed with getting everything right. If you don’t, the more challenging tasks involving six or more buttons pressed in perfect sequence with motion controls might not go so well later on.
Heavy Rain’s story is the perfect venue for this control system. What better place to require precision than the high stakes search for a precision serial killer? Much like the Origami Killer cannot afford to slip up in his morbid game of drowning children in rain water, the four would-be investigators cannot afford to bumble their way through a wide investigation. What you do early in the game with these characters can have dire consequences for later stages.Let’s look at Agent Norman Jader as an example. Jader is addicted to a drug called triptocaine. The first time he mentions needing the drug, it looks like he will pass out and die without it. He has the choice of stumbling into the bathroom to regain his composure or taking a tiny dose of it. In a cruel twist, you do not know this is an illicit substance when the game begins. How you handle this first encounter with triptocaine will impact Jader’s behavior and ability to function throughout the game. Do you give in just this once to take the edge off or stand strong and let him go into withdrawals in the hope of getting it out of his system?
Heavy Rain is filled with these seemingly minor decisions. What difference could it make if Ethan Mars doesn’t work at home on the day of his older son’s birthday? Who cares if Detective Shelby intervenes in a domestic dispute? How could calling a hospital to send help for a stranger alter the course of Madison Paige’s life? Some of these choices make minor differences in the gameplay, while others change the timeline of the game so you can’t possibly win.
Heavy Rain is not about winning or losing. It’s about the experience. Chances are you will not get four out of four ideal endings your first time through. There are just so many variables that can make or break the case that don’t seem all that important.The draw of Heavy Rain is the style of gameplay. You can always do better. You can always choose another way to handle a conversation or another series of actions to take. Once you know the gist of the story, the variations become the draw. You can choose to speed through characters you don’t like in favor of fully exhausting the more engaging interactions. You can play around with purposely failing key objectives to see if you can still resolve the story or not. The replay value is high because of the level of depth in the gameplay. I doubt that you could play the game the same way twice even if you tried.
Heavy Rain is a must have title for the PS3. The violence and mature content are secondary to the engaging gameplay and taut thriller storyline. Once you get going on a run-through, it’s hard to pull yourself away. It’s simply an engaging experience that clicks as soon as the controller is in your hands.
Thoughts? Love to hear them.