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Critical Reception: Sony/Quantic Dream's  Heavy Rain

Critical Reception: Sony/Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain

February 24, 2010 | By Danny Cowan

February 24, 2010 | By Danny Cowan
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This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Quantic Dream's cinematic adventure title Heavy Rain, which reviews describe as "an engrossing and well-paced mystery." Heavy Rain currently earns a score of 88 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

Game Informer's Joe Juba scores Heavy Rain at 9.5 out of 10, describing it as an experience that surpasses what players many would expect from a video game.

"Concepts like shooting the bad guys, leveling up your character, and acquiring new items are so pervasive that they have been inextricably woven into most players' definition of what it means to be a video game," Juba writes. "Heavy Rain forces you to reconsider that definition. It is barely a game in the popular sense of the word, but Quantic Dream's masterpiece makes groundbreaking strides in storytelling and character development, demonstrating that interactive entertainment still has a deep well of untapped potential."

Juba finds Heavy Rain's branching narrative to be its greatest asset. "Heavy Rain is a game about choice " but not the kind of black-and-white moral decisions upon which games typically rely," he says. "How the plot and characters develop is up to you. Fight or flee? Surrender or suffer? Kill or be killed? Your decisions aren't just brief forks in the road before the paths re-converge. Two players could follow unique arcs through the story, see different characters live and die, and come away with an entirely different idea of what happened and why."

Juba assures that the game's quick time event-driven control scheme works well in the context of Heavy Rain's gameplay. "Simply pressing a button may not sound compelling at first," he admits, "but when your character's finger in on the trigger, or when a child's life rests in your hands, that single motion is just as intense as any boss fight. When you can read the conflict and pain right on the characters' expressions (thanks to the game's amazing facial models), the choices are even more powerful."

"Taking the right lessons away from its previous title, Indigo Prophecy, developer Quantic Dream has shorn away most traditional video game trappings from Heavy Rain," Juba notes in conclusion. "What remains is an innovative journey through an engrossing and well-paced mystery."

David Ellis at 1UP.com gives Heavy Rain an A-. "Heavy Rain will most likely not make you cry," he says. "It does, however, provide one of the most emotional experiences I've ever had playing a videogame."

"Heavy Rain focuses on four protagonists as they fight to track down and capture a serial murderer known as the Origami Killer," Ellis explains. "But what stands out from this simple premise is the unapologetically adult story. I don't mean adult in the sense of gratuitous sex and violence or even in the game's mature rating. Rather, it's adult in the way that it doesn't talk down to its audience. Heavy Rain encourages you to empathize with its characters, and in so doing allows you to experience a more satisfying and genuine role-playing game than what we typically consider an RPG."

Heavy Rain's control scheme has its weaknesses, however. "You interact with the world through a non-traditional control scheme: Holding down R2 lets you walk around the environments and the left analog stick changes directions," Ellis writes. "At best, this process is cumbersome and by far the weakest part of the experience. It's never out and out bad, but I was never completely comfortable doing it either."

"The other part of the control scheme lies in your interaction with the environment," Ellis continues. "This is accomplished by following on-screen prompts to press face buttons, performing motions with the Right analog stick, and sometimes using Sixaxis control movements. Again, it might seem clunky on paper, but it's elegant in execution."

"At the end of my first playthrough I was left utterly satisfied with the conclusion of the story and wanting more titles of this caliber," Ellis writes. "Heavy Rain may not appeal to every twitch-shooter fan out there, but if you believe games can evolve beyond Pac-Man and Mario then I suggest supporting the amazing work Quantic Dream has done."

Edge Online rates Heavy Rain at 7 out of 10. "Scene to scene, few games match Heavy Rain's compulsive pull," the review praises. "A boy is abducted; his father must pass fiendishly engineered trials to save him. Being propelled through these challenges taps into the same gruesome curiosity that has powered six Saw films to date. What will be asked of him next? Will he ever catch up with his tormentor? Is he really going to do that with those pliers?"

"As a thriller, Heavy Rain thrives on jarring uncertainty. Context-sensitive controls tap into similarly playful unknowns," Edge explains. "Bar one trigger, the controls are free to be what they want. They can toss a boomerang, rock a baby or stove in heads with a wide selection of electrical appliances. Heavy Rain is a point-and-click adventure with a massive verb sheet; new actions are as much a twist as the narrative reveals they prompt."

The gesture-based controls aren't perfect, however. "The controls don't always make sense," Edge notes. "Vigorously flailing the Sixaxis to bully an onscreen figure into brushing his teeth is far from simulation. And why, on a control pad with perfectly squishy triggers, are gunshots meted out with a prod of a stunted shoulder button?"

The lack of consequence for player failure also hurts the experience. "It appears that the Grim Reaper is in a lenient mood," Edge remarks. "Deliberately tempt fate, refuse to follow the cues, and the QTEs often play out to non-fatal conclusions. The general skeleton of the story cannot truly be changed, cheapening every event in the process. Whether or not the Origami Killer is apprehended, his fiendishness is neutered from the outset " Cage is unwilling to force the consequences of failure on to the player."

"Scene by scene, Heavy Rain proves itself a worthy advocate, ripe with potential and mystery," Edge concludes. "The decisions are not easy, and the consequences often unsatisfying. But watching them unfold? Quite unlike anything else."


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