Monday, January 16, 2012

Heavy Rain

RATING : [4/5]

For those of you that know me, that's NOT a reference to my boyo, but reference to a point in the game where you're looking for your son, and the only thing you can do besides wander around is press 'X' which makes you yell 'JASON'. And you do it a lot.  
You had to be there.


There are a few qualms that I have with the game, but let's start with what's good about it: the story. And, rightly so. Its pretty  much what the entire game is about.  This isn't your average videogame, where the gameplay is the point. Its a different take on what a videogame should be; its more an interactive movie than anything. Its like when you were a kid, reading those choose-your-own-adventure goosebumps books. Throughout the story, there are many decisions you can make, and things you can screw up that effect things in ways you wouldn't even think of.

The story is about a serial killer : the Origami Killer. It kind of plays out like an interactive episode of Criminal Minds. The serial killer kidnaps kids and leaves them to drown in rain water. You've got 4 characters: an FBI Guy with cool Minority Report toys, A dorky and possibly crazy father whose kid has been kidnapped, a chubby but likable alcoholic of a Private Detective, and an sexy insomniac Journalist lady whose personal boundaries are questionable. You don't know who the killer is, and I honestly had no idea until the end. Most of the time, watching shows or movies of the same genre, I like to pick out who I think the killer is. I'm generally pretty good at it.  I guessed a lot in the game. And, looking back, I have that begrudging respect for the game, as I realize how obviously it led me to false conclusions. It's a great story, and if you like murder-mystery type stories with a hint of criminal psychology, you'll probably dig it.

Many games have branching storylines. Unfortunately, with most of them, you can tell exactly when they're going to branch and what will happen when you make the decision you make. Heavy Rain does so well at hiding those branching points that its nearly impossible to tell what will and won't effect the storyline. And even when you do spot them, you don't know what effect it will have in the long run. They've done such a good job, I spent the entire game convinced that every single button I pressed lead down different path. It's probably not true... probably... but the point is, I don't know. It gave me the distinct impression that there are thousands of different branches of storyline. Hell, KT spent most of the game telling me how she'd ended up doing a bunch of things different, and how there were areas I'd gone that she'd never seen, and vice versa. 

They also implemented a pretty good game feature : no game over.  No matter what happens, you can't just go back to the last save and try again. There is no save, its all autosave. Whatever happens, the story keeps on rolling. You fuck up and die, that's part of the story now. If you're quick on the draw you can restart the console, but its generally more fun to just ride it out and see what happens.

The game is one big quick time event. There isn't much gameplay to speak of, aside from that. You walk around and wait for prompts. Then you follow the prompts. Sometimes you have to be quick as hell to pull it off, sometimes its frustratingly misleading. But that's just about all there is for gameplay. While I generally like more gameplay than that, it was still pretty enjoyable. Some of those quick time events got INTENSE.

Some minor complaints:
A lot of it is fixed camera.  While it might be nostalgic to be brought back to the days where a camera-switch results in me walking in awkward circles because down just became up, its not a nostalgia I necessarily ENJOY. Walking is kind of like driving a boat, instead of pressing right to go right, you press right to FACE right, and then hold a trigger to walk. Its awkward. I understand WHY they did it (looking around triggers many event options, so they wanted the ability to look without walking) but that doesn't make it less awkward. And last but not least, there are a lot of times when you've got a bunch of options in front of you. Unfortunately, instead of these options being spelled out, they're represented by a plethora of optional buttons. Sometimes these are obvious. An arrow on a glovebox probably means that if you press that arrow, you'll check the glovebox. However, sometimes they're MUCH more ambiguous, and you end up doing exactly what you were trying to avoid doing. About the time that THAT happens is about the time you remember that awesome 'no save' feature and glare at the screen for a while.

Oh yeah, and replay value up the wazoo.

[TLDR] You like Criminal Minds? Or Bones? Also those choose-your-own-adventure Goosebumps books?  Give it a go. Doesn't take too long to beat.

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