Where to begin... Heavy Rain is an interactive drama, faux-film noir, point and click adventure video game exclusively on the PlayStation 3. The game was developed by Quantic Dream and was directed by David Cage (Who is also the founder and CEO of QD), whom you may or may not know as the writer/director of another game called Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy, Stateside).

Heavy Rain puts you in the shoes of 4 different characters who start the game as strangers. They become intertwined in the search for the Origami Killer, a serial killer who uses rain water to drown his young male victims whilst sending their fathers on a Saw inspired goose chase to prove their love for their sons. While the game sets you on strict rails you maintain full control of the plot and how it progresses. It is possible to have all your characters die and end the game without finding the identity of the killer. So I ask you, how far would you go to save someone you loved?

WARNING: While I promise not to spoil the killer's identity or the best possible ending to the game, I will go as far as to possibly spoil certain set pieces and events that lead up to the climax. I usually try to avoid spoilers all together, but in the case of Heavy Rain there's little else to talk about besides the plot. You've been warned.

You begin the game as Ethan Mars, a seemingly normal (jobless?) father waking up around noon on a weekday. After flicking the right analog stick to get his lazy ass out of bed you take what feels like your first steps. The game requires you to press the marsh-mellowly R2 button to move while tilting the left analog stick in the direction you want your character to move. I stress want, because even after getting accustomed to these awkward controls your character will often walk in circles or stumble like a drunk in the opposite direction you intended. This is especially annoying when trying to accurately stop on a dime to interact with the scenery. One scene involving finding a headstone in a graveyard is particularly broken. For all intents and purposes this style of movement does work as it's reminiscent of a PC point and click adventure. Though without the mouse the developers should have had the smarts to adapt.

At any time while in direct control of a character you can also hold L2 to hear what they're thinking. This usually provides backstory or hints regarding your next move. If you're not walking around performing pointless interactions, you're in a cutscene on the edge of your seat. The games story is told very cinematically, with changing camera angles and split screens intact all while you have full control of what your character says and how they act. What Heavy Rain boils down to (pun intended) is Quick Time Events the movie: the video game. You push buttons to ask questions, intervene, dodge punches, bullets, knives, power tools, have sex, pee, dance etc. Though the buttons needed to perform actions sometimes mimic the real motion irl, at times it's just push circle to live, now push X repeatedly to live. The game also employs the oft forgotten SIXAXIS capabilities of the PS3 controllers allowing for some light waggle at times.


How long you have to input commands is governed by the games difficulty setting. The most difficult scenes in the game involve you playing a sort of finger twister in which you are required to hold buttons down in a certain sequence without letting go. I had to employ "the claw" and my chin more than a few times during these. While there is a slight difference when it comes to how complex certain scenes become or how hard and fast you need to hammer on a button, there is little reason to actually play the game on "hard mode" as it doesn't effect the plot in any way other than changing how often you potentially fuck up... and you will fuck up.

Missing one or two QTEs isn't the end of the world, the name of the game here is consistency. While, yes, it is possible to have a character die, keep a level head and you'll make it just fine. On my first play through I actually DID have a character die, thankfully this didn't affect my ending so much as he was the least important to the overall story but had I lost a SECOND character things would have gone much differently. Your ending is not only determined by who is left alive, but who chose to do what. While I don't know the exact number of endings it must be in the double digits. Having finished the game I can now see the potential for many bittersweet endings in which many ends are left untied. In my opinion play your first time through without redoing scenes you may have messed up on. While the game gives you this option to go back this will lead to small inconsistencies with the plot that can sour your experience.

After Ethan figures out how his legs work again we are lead through a tutorial prologue. After a shower scene, that was necessary so that we could see Ethan's ass, he, rather you, dress him and set him about his day. Ethan's day according to me consists of: Taking a leak, eating some grapes (no hand washing mind you), playing with a sword in the backyard, and staring at a pet bird for a solid 10 minutes. His wife and two kids, Jason and Shaun, come home for lunch. After setting the table and playing a Dad sim for a few minutes it's off to the mall of tragedy. While both children are still present let's go over one of my biggest beefs with the game.

Voice Acting! While the graphics, music, sound effects, motion capture etc. are all top notch (for the most part, I'm looking at you crowd scenes), the voice acting is scattered, going from genuine performances to amateur hour. Quantic Dream is located in Paris, France, and as such have a skewed perception of certain aspects of North American culture. Nevermind little things like wash closets and apartment aesthetics, what I'm speaking of directly here are stereotypes and accents. Over half of the voice talent employed for Heavy Rain have natural European accents (be it French, Belgium whatever), and unlike Hugh Jackman and Cristian Bale, who are neither, don't hide it well. This is excruciatingly obvious with any child characters who sound like they were plucked out of a school production of Oliver Twist. This is a game where someone is always speaking to you and to have certain performances pull you out of the experience is disappointing.

While Shaun and his Mother shop for shoes, Ethan and Jason decide to grab a balloon. It becomes very apparent that Jason has mild downs, or at least some sort of autism as you have trouble engaging him on any level. Even when you scream his name at him while he's within collar grabbing distance he refuses to turn around, thus leading to his death. Yes, the prologue ends with Ethan and Jason being struck by a slow moving car, killing the latter and brain fucking the other.

While this is the emotional jumping point of the game it fails so hard at achieving its intended peak that it accomplishes the opposite. Both Trevyn and I openly mocked Jason's death.

It's now a few months on and a serial killer surfaces dubbed the origami killer. He earns this title by leaving origami figures on his victims. He also leaves orchids on their chests and drowns them in rain water... so he could have easily been called something cooler like the Blood Orchid Killer, or Torrential Madman, but I digress. You now take turns playing as four different characters: deadbeat Dad Ethan, the enigmatic Madison, I ate the bowl private eye Scott Shelby, and "is he twelve?" FBI agent Norman Jayden.

Through a bizarre turn of events Ethan's remaining son, Shaun, is kidnapped and the search begins. The story of course has twists and turns, and legitimately keeps you guessing to the end. The games pacing picks up, you'll want to see what happens next. Moral choices run abound, be prepared to go to some dark places in your own mind when faced with some of the heavier decisions. I'm going to stop the story spoilers here aside from one moment I must touch upon. If you've encountered any other Heavy Rain reviews you may have heard of what some have described as a HUGE PLOT HOLE. Specifically, Scott learns a "secret" in a scene which is immediately followed by Madison also knowing this secret inexplicably. While an extra 10 second scene of Madison placing a phone call could fill this hole the game presents it as a literal mistake in the story. In the end, not a big deal whatsoever.

If you can't tell already I surprisingly really enjoyed my time with Heavy Rain. Enough that this is the longest review I've written on a game I thought I'd have the least to say about. I recognize a good who-done-it when I see one and this game delivers. If you own a PS3 at very least rent it, the game is no longer then 5 hours but is made for multiple plays.

I would like to close with a hall of fame of sorts for Heavy Rain moments I will never forget. Awkwardly watching Madison pee for 15 seconds, watching Jayden get crushed by a bulldozer, and serving a plate of raw eggs to a guest.

I have a son too,

Written February 23, 2010

(Played and completed two playthroughs of the game without replaying chapters midway through. Had one character die on my first run but still managed to get a good ending. Played on what the game considers "hard mode".)