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Directed by:david Cage
Starring: Pascal Langdale, Jaqui Ainsley, Judi Beecher, Leon Ockenden

This game has been in the works for the Playstation 3 virtually since the console launched. It’s billed as an interactive novel or movie rather than a traditional game. So, is Heavy Rain just a gussied up videogame version of a Zork or Find Your Fate book?

The Game

This game feels like a true evolution of classic button masher games like Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace. The game isn’t all just push this button and watch what happens though because you do actually get to move your character around in the world. When the button mashing, or in this case button mashing and controller giggling happens it’s called a quick-time event (having nothing to do with the Apple product).

The story of Heavy Rain involves a serial killer that kidnaps and murders children. Your job is to solve the mystery of the killer and you attempt to do that through the eyes of several different characters. There’s a divorced father, a reporter, a prostitute, a private investigator, and a Federal Agent all in the game and playable at various points. You get to play these characters as the story progresses. Once you reach the end of a chapter usually the next chapter will switch you to another character to continue the story. All of the characters get reasonable character development and real drama in this dark and melancholy story through the use of subtle music, good graphics, and riveting game play. Not only do you utilize the characters to investigate the mystery but you also have to protect them. Your decisions change the story as it progresses and if you fail a quick-time event and get a character killed the story continues without that character. I did manage to get a character killed and I found myself actually affected by the loss as I continued the story. There are tons of endings to the story and scenes that you open by making different decisions throughout the story. I’m going to play the game at least one more time to see another ending because I need to know more about these characters.

The biggest challenge to the game is getting through the first hour or so of the game. That first hour is focused on some very simple character development and teaching you how the interface works. You interact with the environment using combinations of buttons, movement of the analog stick in a given pattern, or movement of the entire controller through gestures or shaking. You’ll have to walk a character through some fairly mundane activities in order to learn how the controller works. One character has asthma for example and you’ll have to move the analog stick in the correct pattern to get him to pull his inhaler from his jacket and then you’ll have to rapidly shake the controller up and down to get him to shake it up. It felt a little pedestrian at first but as I moved through the first hour of the game I found myself not only getting good with the controls but also getting connected to the characters.

The other big problem in the game is the voice acting. It really bothered many gamers, me not so much because I’m accustomed to to bad dubbing of foreign films. The company behind Heavy Rain is French and so are all of the actors but they choose to set the game in the United States and the actors attempt American accents with varying degrees of success. The acting can be bad at times but for me it’s still better than that in most games.

Heavy Rain is not a game for children. It’s dark, violent; it features both male and female nudity, and a fairly layered and complex story. Many games feature brutality but the violence is more powerful and meaningful because these characters are given more life than most characters in videogames. Also if these characters are hurt or killed their loss is truly felt in this world.  The gameplay is innovative and riveting and the story with its acting flaws is still one of the best in the history of videogames. Heavy Rain takes what was great about early adventure games such as Myst and a lesser known Steven Spielberg game called The Dig and the game mechanics from Dragon’s Lair and brings us something that we’ve truly never seen before. If you’re a fan of thriller or horror films and you like videogames too you should rush out and buy this one now.

9/10

The Video

The graphics in this game are a real mixed bag. Some scenes, especially exterior ones, are completely gorgeous, but then some character animations are still and stick figure looking in movement. There’s even variation in characters faces with some looking photorealistic and some not looking quite as good. You can tell that this game has been in a long development cycle with some of the elements created in the early part of the cycle not looking as good as the newer elements. Heavy rain isn’t the best looking game out there but it’s definetly in the top tier of cool looking games.

7.5/10

The Audio

The surround mix of this game was fantastic with excellent effective music and overall nice ambient and environmental sounds. The audio presentation does a really good job of helping immerse the player in the world of Heavy Rain. As previously mentioned the voice acting can be quite bad and the dialogue can feel a little heavy in the overall mix at times. With that said heavy mixed dialogue is preferred over muddy hard to hear dialogue.

8.5/10

There’s really not much else to be said about how great, and how important to the evolution of gaming, Heavy Rain is other than that there is a good amount of replay value because you will want to learn more about these characters. Plus there’s already an additional chapter to the story available on PSN for download.

Overall (Not an Average) 9/10

The Review
The Game 9/10
The Video 7.5/10
The Audio 8.5/10
Overall (Not an average) 9/10

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