Unexpectedly, I’ve come to the end of Heavy Rain. I couldn’t find my total time, but my estimate is somewhere between 10 to 12 hours. This may seem like a short game to many, but Heavy Rain is played in a variety of ways, and from what I’ve seen there are multiple outcomes. The first ending I saw was tragic, and loading the last few chapters to see a different outcome was a lot like rewinding the clock. In essence, I’d become Marty McFly, desperately trying to get his (future) parents to kiss at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. Don’t take that reference too literally. I promise, no spoilers here.
My reaction is based on only one run through, but Heavy Rain is a fairly simple thriller in its core. There are a number of things involving some of the characters that go unexplained and some segments are baffling in terms of cohesion. Either you find out what those things are in other runs, or the game just dismisses it all in a happy ending that your choices brought. I liked the characters for the most part, and I like the big reveal. Despite this reveal, I expected something bigger from a game where I’m controlling four characters all after the same goal. By the end I was neither disappointed nor particularly placated, either.
Heavy Rain is fun in the same way you find watching Memento, Seven, or Zodiac fun. The shame of its multiple outcomes is that in your second runs and beyond, the mystery is already solved for you and everything you felt when it was revealed has vanished into the air. One of the more outstanding features is the soundtrack. The only time I ever remember the soundtrack bringing any comfort was in the beginning of Heavy Rain. Most, if not all of it, has a Clint Mansell type of intensity. The music does an astronomically better job with the drama than a few of the actors do.
This leads to my biggest gripe with Heavy Rain: the performances. There are a number of characters in Heavy Rain. After the prologue, there are very rare comforting moments in the story. Everything else is either intense, tragic, or angry. Despite this atmosphere, the characters always tell themselves to focus and remain calm. The actors have to be able to reach inside themselves and bring out their characters at their worst. Some don’t live up to that. There are scenes where the characters should be angry, or should display fear, but instead of that, we get awkward line deliveries that can’t even be excused as the characters keeping focused or remaining confident. The character most guilty of this is Ethan. Ethan is searching for his son, and yet hearing him mention that his son might die or something similar so casually makes me cringe. I wanted an angry, scared, but determined Ethan. Instead, he says “Shaun might die” like he’d say “The bank is closing at one o’clock!”
Most people will tell you they aren’t fans of quick-timer events. I believe they just aren’t fans of seeing the same scene over and over and over. The detractors have nothing to fear from Heavy Rain. If you do something you believe to be screwing up, the story will continue unless you say otherwise. The button combinations are usually simple. Sometimes you’ll be putting your fingers in awkward positions, but there are never impossible moments. Sometimes the button symbols look the same. Usually the symbol for pressing up on the right stick is an up arrow, but sometimes I’ll see a PS3 controller symbol with an arrow pointing up or down and I’ll still hit the stick in that direction rather than do the proper action of shaking the controller. The symbols also shake frantically to represent the fear of the characters, but sometimes they shake so much I can’t tell whether to repeatedly tap the button or just press it. On top of that, there are moments where the symbols are all over the place so you’ll really have to train your eye.
This is a story worth checking out at least once, despite its inconsistencies. Heavy Rain does a fairly good job establishing relationships and connections between the characters and between the player and the characters. It’s not the psychologically stirring game I was expecting, and good lord some characters are horrible clichés, but like the final season of Lost, you want to see what happens next.
Next up: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent (original Xbox version)