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This review was submitted by Dana Koch. If you’ve played Heavy Rain, or just want to ask Dana more about it, leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Heavy Rain (PS3)
Heavy Rain is David Cage's most recent implementation of the "interactive movie", but I imagine that this will be the first exposure to the Quantic Dream treatment of the genre for most. Billed as an exploration of the question, "How far will you go to save someone you love?", the game does not veer too far off that mark. It's all about Ethan Mars, a devoted father who gets thrust into a life change for the worst, and is set on an excruciatingly difficult journey to - possible, depending on how you make your choices - redemption. Warning: spoilers.
Storytelling: The storytelling and pace has been mentioned in some other reviews as a downpoint, but it's actually quite strong; for example, nothing quite matches the emotional impact of seeing Ethan's life change so dramatically from the life he has had before: happy, stable, productive, to seeing him on the other side of the opening credits sullen, depressed, and late to pick up his son in the driving rain. While some of the story developments are a bit awkward, and a knowledge of thriller cliché can help you nut out some of the expectations of the characters, there are still some interesting and genuinely revelatory moments through the game. Some of the trials Ethan is faced with are excruciating to even think about when the player is presented with them, and having to play literally in a character's shoes like this makes the decisions Ethan makes for the trial seem that much more difficult.
Soundtrack: The soundtrack is well written, lush, and cinematic. Every character has a theme, but Ethan's leitmotif stands out, and is used in some other incidental music throughout the game - really, while you play some extra characters in the game, their stories are really supporting acts for Ethan, and the soundtrack to some extent reflects this.
QTEs: The much-maligned quick-time events feel rather goofy. It feels silly sometimes, and thankfully, this subsides after getting drawn into the action and story, but it feels rather unnecessary in retrospect. Having the notion of choice and free will is key to most modern storytelling games, but having quick-time events as a means to execute this doesn't feel like the right choice to make.
Voice Acting: Yes, the voice acting isn't perfect. Lauren's voice for example gives her French heritage away in the second chapter (such as, when she says "50 bucks"), and Norman introducing himself with his first name sounds very strange. It isn't such a big deal, but it's noticeable, and breaks immersion at times.
Overall, what's important in a game like this is good storytelling, and if that is present, then the rest almost feel like nitpicks. Luckily, Heavy Rain tells a good story with exceptional characterisation that will most likely keep you engaged, and that's always a win.
Reviewed by: Dana Koch
You can have your Reader Review published on Kotaku. Send your review to us at the usual address. Make sure it’s written in the same format as above and in under 500 words - yes, we’ve upped the word limit. We’ll publish the best ones we get and the best of the month will win a Madman DVD prize pack.