28 September 2012
A Look at Heavy Rain
Gaming has been taking a big chunk of time from me recently, especially with most of my stuff packed away for imminent home renovation.
What have I been playing recently? Not a new game at all, but an interesting title for the PS3 released in 2010 with a rather unique genre on its own - Heavy Rain.
Heavy Rain's story takes place in an unnamed city on the east coast of USA, where a number of kidnaps and murders have taken place over 3 years (whom the killer is dubbed the "Origami Killer"), with all victims being boys and that they were drowned in rainwater, with origami figure and an orchid on their bodies upon discovery. There are 4 main playable characters: a father whose son is now the latest son missing and may become the next victim of the serial killing, an FBI profiler sent to assist the local police and investigate the killings, a private detective investigating the Origami Killer, and a journalist who got herself wound up in the affair as well.
Gameplay-wise, most of the commands are done by a prompt icon depicting what input is needed in order for an action to take place. There are also quick time events (QTE) of which player must input the correct buttons promptly or else the character involved may become roughened up or in a less favourable situation during a fight or other intense scenes. Apart from the usual button inputs, some commands require the entire movement of the PS3 SIXAXIS controller, such as tilting left or right, or thrusting the controller upwards or downwards. Navigation is a little unusual in the way how one moves with R2 and change direction with the left analogue stick, rather than having just the latter to do both tasks at once. While it does its job okay in most occasions, in narrow spaces it can be a bit of problem.
What makes Heavy Rain special is how the game is played out. While the story is linear and that you can't roam around a city, but restricted in fixed locations in each chapter before it moves on to a new one, each level, or chapter often lets you interact with the environment there, which may or may not have an impact in the story. Sometimes, instead of performing an action, you would have to make decisions based on questions asked, or the situation you're in where morality may be questioned. The heavy use of cutscenes during interactions makes it seem more like you are interacting in a movie or drama rather than playing a game, hence the studio's preference of categorising Heavy Rain as an "interactive movie". What's also interesting is how you can aim to reach or goal (or fail to do so). In many games you often have one objective (e.g. enter a guarded hostile building) to achieve and there is usually just one way to do it (e.g. storm the building). There are a few exceptions such as Deus Ex, where while you still have the same one objective to achieve, you can do it in different ways (e.g. storm the front door, enter via back door with help from an insider, or even infiltrate from rooftop etc). In Heavy Rain, sometimes you even get the option of not doing the objective, which may change the impact of the storyline. What's more, a character's death does not mean "game over, please restart from checkpoint", but rather the story goes on acknowledging the character's death and adjusts itself for the ending.
The game isn't without flaws though. There are several aspects in the game where it is never explained in the game, and apparently the game director also has no intentions of explaining, so it's up to the player to decide why or how such thing take place. The climax near the end also feels a little odd and unfitting to me.
Overall, Heavy Rain is a nice change of gaming experience from the other usual ones; there is no "canon" ending or the "right way" to do it, and I personally do recommend giving this game a try and play it your own way to see what you'll get out of it.
It's funny seeing myself reviewing anime and games, as they can be much more subjective than, say, reviewing a toy or figure etc. Hope you do like the review and that it's not too boring to read; I admit that I don't write such texts very often!