The Origami Killer is on the loose and somehow tied to four characters: a hardboiled private investigator, FBI profiler with futuristic sunglasses, motorcycle driving insomniac, and a father. Will you foil the murderer or not? That’s up to you.
Heavy Rain begins with Ethan Mars waking up while his family is out. Pressing up on the right analog stick makes Ethan get out of bed. Unless played through Indigo Prophecy, the way Heavy Rain has players interacts with the world should feel fresh and at times brilliant. When you help Ethan’s wife with the groceries you hold L1 and R1 to grab them. Sensitive movements like quietly opening a door and rocking a baby to sleep have players to gently move the right analog stick. During stressful events commands spin wildly and actions shake, symbolizing the state of mind your character is in. In Heavy Rain’s most difficult moments players have wrap their hands around the controller in abstract ways to hit and hold all of the required buttons. Moving is equally unconventional. You hold R2 move forward and press the left stick to change direction. Characters walk in a jerky way reminiscent of the first Resident Evil.
Quantic Dream calls Heavy Rain an “interactive drama”, but the game also has action packed fights. There are times where you have to hammer out quick time events to dodge punches and wrestle with an attacker. Make too many mistakes and that character can die, but Heavy Rain doesn’t end. The story continues with that particular character’s chapters out of the plot. The thought of losing someone forever adds tension to the many life or death situations the four lead characters end up in.
When controlling Norman you also play the role of a detective. Equipped with ARI, dark sunglasses and a glove that identifies DNA among other environmental abnormalities, Jayden searches for clues. You can scan an area by pressing L1, then follow context sensitive commands to record clues in a virtual file. Heavy Rain expects players to pay attention and remember seemingly insignificant details so it is possible to miss clues, even if you do the game moves on.
That brings us to Heavy Rain’s most impressive feature, how flexible the story is. The central theme of Heavy Rain is “how far would you go to save someone you love?”, a question loaded with moral choices. Some events are clearly branching points while other decisions have subtle effects on the plot. For the first run it’s entertaining to project yourself into the characters, but you’re always left with a hanging “what if I did or said the other thing” feeling. Quantic Dream made it easy to find out. You can revisit any completed chapter, replay it, and continue the game from that point forward on a different path. This is any easy way to collect trophies too, if you’re into digital trinkets. While you don’t have to start a new game over to see the other side of a binary choice, there are routes you won’t be able to take when you’re deep in the story.
The character models and detailed environments in Heavy Rain are amazing. However, I noticed a few graphical glitches in my first playthrough. Background characters in crowded scenes clip into each other and when one main character cooks eggs, which are scrambled in the pan, sunnyside up eggs float in mid-air. While funny to see, these errors aren’t problematic. Freezing is a more pressing and that happened during an intense scene near the end of the game. Fortunately, Heavy Rain auto saves so I didn’t lose much and the freeze didn’t occur in my second time around. All of these issues were present in a US retail build.
One run takes around ten hours, but you won’t be able to see everything the game has to offer if you only play Heavy Rain once. The open ended nature makes Heavy Rain a better experience when you see more sides of it and that’s why I’m interested to read other player’s experiences with Heavy Rain to see what I missed.