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Heavy Rain thrills despite shortcomings

Mar 28, 2016

By Alexander Cattani - G4 Canada

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Heavy RainReleased in 2010 and met with a polarizing response, Quantic Dream’s crime thriller Heavy Rain aimed to blur the lines between interactive and passive entertainment. While some narrative picky gamers, especially those with a refined palate for film, would go on to dissect the title’s writing imperfections and plot inconsistencies, Heavy Rain still provided a gripping narrative chock full of gut-wrenching ultimatums, startling twists and enough on-screen prompts to make a DDR veteran gasp in awe. Now almost seven years after its initial release, the title is once again made available for PS4 owners.

The story follows four soon to be interwoven characters as each of their lives get affected by the Origami Killer, a serial murderer whose victims are children. A do-gooder journalist, a father down on his luck, a studious FBI agent and a weathered private investigator round out the main cast. The big city backdrop and constant downpour of rain the city seems to be cursed with evoke sensibilities of neo-noir. Furthermore, the twisted subject matter, specifically the Origami Killer’s preferred tactics inject a healthy amount of moroseness into the already gloomy atmosphere. Simply categorizing Heavy Rain’s story as a ”Whodunit?” wouldn’t be fair. Heavy Rain’s story explores humanity’s depravity, how once solid kinships can unravel and how far one is willing to suffer to save a loved one. Heavy Rain’s PS4 release also benefits from a 1080p facelift that makes the environments and characters look sharper than ever.

Heavy RainWhile an exciting story, the performances range from mediocre to poor. Lines of dialog sound stiff and on occasion, finding a discernable difference between lines of sadness and anger can prove difficult. Character development is also underwhelming, with the exception of Ethan, the crestfallen father. Even though Heavy Rain so desperately strives to be placed in the same echelon as film, comparing it to certain movies simply isn’t fair. Instead of automatically regarding Heavy Rain as an inferior effort, think of it as trade, the contents of the barter being a top tier script and interactivity.

While Quantic Dream’s approach to story development was touted as avant-garde in 2010, interactive storytelling has since then seen significant strides thanks to the likes of Telltale and Supermassive Games. This made playing through Heavy Rain in 2016 not only a refresher on Quantic Dream’s ambitious efforts during the PS3’s heyday but also as a stark reminder of how much the genre has evolved. Throughout my time with the re-release, I often had to mentally place myself into a pre-Telltale world and enjoy the title as a product of its time rather than comparing it to more contemporary titles that benefitted from years of innovation. But doing so proved difficult, as the narrative structure in adventure games is so fundamental to the experience.

Heavy RainOne of the more outdated inclusions that kept cropping up in the title was its reliance on filler, both in the form of objects within scenes and whole scenes themselves. Entering a new room and immediately being inundated with a myriad of on-screen prompts was jarring and interacting with all of the highlighted junk in an area often felt like busy work. This fault is only made even more irksome when you realize that the items you’re interacting with serve as nothing more than set dressing and bear no significance to the overall plot.

I understand the importance of world building in games but stuffing environments with intractable items to create a false sense of depth quickly grows tiresome especially when you want to further the narrative but instead feel pressured to scrutinize each area in fears of missing something.

Heavy RainScenes aren’t as guilty when it comes to this though there is a handful that could use significant edits or in some cases, omissions. From an awkward out of place sex scene to a laughably gratuitous shower scene, it’s once again clear that director David Cage aimed to position Heavy Rain as an enlightened man’s narrative. Unfortunately, these scenes only serve to disturb the pacing, rather than elevate the game to silver screen status. Though if you can look past some out-of-place scenes and some poor performances, a gripping crime drama lies in wait.

 

Heavy Rain Heavy Rain
Format: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Quantic Dream
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Official Site: http://www.quanticdream.com/en/#!/en/category/heavy-rain

Rating: 7 / 10

 
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About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.