Five Inches and Rising

Heavy Rain is a watershed moment for adventure games, combining familiar experiences into something that becomes remarkably fresh. And yes, "watershed" is a terrible pun.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: February 10, 2010
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There are still some underlying issues that probably could have been cleaned up; some of the aforementioned polish issues are there, but some stuff is just the result of not yet being a part of Sony's Worldwide Studios (yeah, that's a hint, Shu; buy these guys already). Had they been given access to perhaps a more advanced motion capture studio and crew, some of the jittery or robotic feeling to some of the actions would have been cleaned up. There are times when the camera will hold a bit too long on a character, no doubt to try to show the player that there's something going on behind those startlingly glassy eyes. Instead, it tends to look like a mannequin with overly-teary peepers is trying to strike a pose; the subtlety to the expressions just isn't quite there yet, and it can make for weird, pregnant pauses in an otherwise wonderfully cinematic set of camera moves.


Likewise, there are blemishes on the audio -- perhaps even moreso than the visuals. The accents on the kids really stood out, and though at first it felt a little annoying that there were obviously quite a few people that were trying their hand at an American accent, one particular actor's ability to hide their accent showed it could absolutely be done well. But it's not just the delivery; the effects work is absolutely fantastic and for the most part the somber, melancholy tone of the soundtrack is phenomenal.

There's one moment, however, where someone actually defaulted to a stock music clip that's been used everywhere from Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes to the install music for the PC game Noctune. It's weirdly lazy for a soundtrack that is otherwise pitch-perfect and downright moving by the time all the themes have really sunken in over the course of the game.

Again, though, these are small things that should drag things down but somehow don't. Perhaps it's the power of Heavy Rain's storytelling, though I don't think that's entirely it. Maybe it's how compelling all the action sequences are, though again, that's just a small part. The soundtrack? The camera work? The performances of the main cast? The way everything can be so different from one person to the next? Again, all important, but not the sole reason for while Heavy Rain resonated so well with me. The only proper analogy I can think of is the movie Avatar in that, aside from the absolutely stunning CG and 3D effects, the movie itself isn't really doing anything new or even all that unfamiliar. What it does, however, it does so damn well that it ends up being pure entertainment.

That's effectively how I processed Heavy Rain. Mind-blowingly new? No, certainly not. But do all the disparate parts come together in a way that feels like pure entertainment? Absolutely. This is easily Quantic Dream's most accomplished effort. They finally set the bar to an achievable level and, for the most part, delivered on that concept with a kind of quiet confidence that should hopefully set them on the path to becoming the truly groundbreaking developers I've always known they could be. Now they just have to get Bowie back for Heavy Rain 2: The Ziggy Stardust Murders.
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The Verdict
9.0

Flawed, yes, but far closer to perfection than I ever would have thought given earlier peeks at the game, Heavy Rain is a monumental accomplishment. It takes familiar situations, bits of gameplay and tones, and melds them into something... unique.

8.5Graphics:

Framerate issues, tearing, textures that aren't always as sharp as the main characters. Yes, these all appear here, and yet, one look at the loading screen where you can see individual pores and hairs growing out of faces blows 'em all away.

9.0Sound:

With the exception of that weird stock music clip and the kids' performances, most of what you hear in Heavy Rain is made to suck you deeper in that world. And it works. Briliantly.

7.5Control:

Some may struggle with the walking controls the whole game, and that's unfortunate. The hold-R2-to-walk mechanic requires a bit of letting go (going up or down stairs for instance; just hold the trigger), but even when you do, it can be a bit clunky.

9.0Gameplay:

Absolutely phenomenal on nearly every level. Investigation, action sequences, the sheer level of emotion that the game can make you feel (almost all it negative in some way) is spectacular. Most importantly of all, though, it's fun to do neo-QTEs.