Fandel Mulkey On March 19, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Back in 2005, Quantic Dream released Indigo Prophecy. It was their attempt to do what few developers have tried to do since the full motion video era of the mid-90s’ — an interactive drama. While there were some problems with Indigo Prophecy (mainly a plot that sort of went off rails mid-way through the game), Quantic Dreams succeeded where most other FMV games failed in making an ‘interactive drama’ actually entertaining to play. Five years later, Quantic Dream has decided to take another stab at making an interactive drama with the release of the PlayStation 3 exclusive, Heavy Rain, and outside of a few annoying glitches and issues with uncanny valley, the game shines.

Heavy Rain’s plot centers around four individuals involved with the mystery of the Origami Killer, a serial killer who uses the weather to drown his young male victims. His chief calling card is an Origami that he leaves in the hand of each of his victims. Central to this story is Ethan Mars, a Father whose son becomes the Origami Killer’s latest’s kidnap victim. Soon afterwards, he receives a box from the killer with orders to do certain quests in order to find clues to his son’s whereabouts. You’ll also control  a private investigator who partners with one of the mothers who son was killed; a woman who’s role in the game seems titillate the player with gratuitous shower and striper scenes, and an FBI agent who’s tasked with capturing the killer. Of these three supporting characters, the most interesting if the FBI agent, at least in the gameplay sense in that seems to have access to virtual reality technology from the future that the player can use to break up the typical quick time event gameplay on occasion.

In fact, the game’s second-biggest problem isn’t the plot itself (which is pretty good); it’s that the characters driving the plot other than Ethan are completely forgettable. When controlling the Private Investigator Scott Shelby, you’ll often be more interested in the characters around him than the one you’re controlling. Madison Paige seems to be used in an exploitive way in too many scenes. Throughout the game, you can tell that the developers want to use adult themes in an adult way (as opposed to using adult themes in a juvenile way, as in most games), so it’s disappointing to see an early scene with Madison coming out of the shower fighting two burglars, only to find out that the scene was completely unnecessary to the games plot. Overall, the game probably would have been better served if they had cut the four playable characters down to two and focused on Ethan and the FBI agent, Norman.

In terms of gameplay, Heavy Rain does as good of a job as can be done with this type of game. You control the characters like any typical game, but at certain points, you will be prompted to input motions into the controller at certain intervals. For example: in order to get in a car, you have to turn the left stick quarter-clockwise to open the door; once inside you turn the stick clockwise to turn the key while pressing down on the stick to shift into drive. People looking for a lot of action will obviously be turned off by the games quick-time-event style gameplay, but overall, some smart decisions were made in terms of the control scheme. Sometimes, not following the on-screen command prompts may be beneficial; while certain actions can lead to different permanent outcomes in the games story which encourages the player to replay the game. Overall, the control aspect was done very well; at no point did I feel like throwing my controller against the wall due to a missed button press.

While the games graphics are incredible on a technical level — the backgrounds are gorgeous; as with the partacal evets like rain and running water — there’s a serious uncanny-valley problem when it comes to the characters themselves, particularly their faces. While it’s obvious that the Quantic Dream strived to showcase realistic facial expressions in their characters, the technology still just isn’t there to quite pull it off. It doesn’t help there seems to be an unnatural obsession to show awkward close-ups of the characters faces between every scene; a move which actually hurts the overall atmosphere or the game. Another thing that hurts the atmosphere is the shaky voice acting among the characters. While far from being horrible, the voices are often carried out in a wooden manner, the worst offenders being Lauren Winter (The mother of one of the victims) and the FBI agent Norman Jayden.

On a technical level, a seriously annoying aspect has been the game-ending glitches. In one five-hour session, I’ve experienced four sudden freezes which hard-locked my PlayStation 3 console. It’s annoying to be immersed into the story only to have the game lock-up on you, when waiting a few minutes to reboot the game and replay the last few minutes again. It’s not a showstopper, but it’s easily the games most aggravating problem on a technical level.


Done surprisingly well. The QTE prompts correspond seamlessly with the on-screen actions; while there are many times where certain actions (or inactions) can lead to different outcomes in the games story.


While technically incredible, the game has a serious case of uncanny-valley syndrome, where the faces don’t quite look ‘real anough’ to the point of being a little creepy. It doesn’t help that the game shows close-ups of the faces in a constant effort to showcase the technical achievements (at the expense of the game itself).


Sound effects are top-notch, and the music perfectly fits the mood of the game. Many of the characters voice acting work are a bit uneven though.


Outside of a few small issues (the uncanny-valley character faces and voice acting) and a couple medium ones (two uninteresting central characters and game-ending glitches), the games strong plot; beautiful background graphics and surprising replay value make this game a must-play. While there may be a few too many nagging issues that keep it from being an AAA title, it’s a game that’s well worth your time nonetheless.

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