Each console generation brings with it a plethora of games, but only a fraction end up being memorable and continue to be talked about years later. Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain – which made its much anticipated PlayStation 3 debut just over six years ago – happens to be one such game, and its impact continues to be felt through titles like Until Dawn.
The third effort from David Cage’s Parisian studio, Heavy Rain became a most wanted release as soon as its tech demo hit the Internet. That’s because, not only did the video hint at something intriguing, but it also featured some of the best-looking facial animations to date.
Although the wait was a long one, Cage and his team delivered, presenting a very good and rather unique experience. One that ended up being quite successful, too, as the game has sold over two million copies. On top of that, it was apparently completed by 3 times as many people as most games, which apparently carry a disappointing 25% average completion rate.
Now that we’re well into another console generation, which just so happens to be in love with remastered classics, Sony has seen fit to re-release this gem as an updated PlayStation 4 title. Available in combination with the same studio’s previously released Beyond: Two Souls remaster, or by itself through digital means, it marks the return of one of gaming’s more important efforts.
For those who’ve yet to play it, Heavy Rain is an interactive drama/action game, which covers themes of love, loss, tragedy and the human spirit. It’s dark, it’s mature, and it’s got some nudity. All of this centres around a storyline that has gamers controlling several different characters in an attempt to figure out the identity of and stop the monikered Origami Killer before he ends the life of his latest kidnapped victim.
The ten or so hour long game begins during happy times, as a young and happily married architect awakens on a beautiful spring or summer day. Home alone, he gets ready for a day of light working, before all Hell breaks loose and his son’s friends come over for his tenth birthday party. This is pretty much the only cheery sunlight that you’ll see.
That architect is just one of our controllable protagonists, although he’s technically the main one. We see his life when it was happy, and watch as it unravels due to the loss of a beloved family member. Then things somehow get worse.
I know that I’m dancing around the plot a bit, but Heavy Rain is such a narrative driven experience that it’s easier to spoil than most games. Sure, it has different endings depending on how you play and the choices that you make, but the story (and its choices) are emphasized over gameplay here.
All of the above plays out over a long list of chapters, which vary in length but generally aren’t too long. Control switches between characters throughout, and you get to discover how their lives (and secrets) intersect. Generally speaking, it’s not the greatest storyline ever made, or the best written, but it’s quite solid overall and keeps you guessing.
As mentioned, this is an interactive drama, in the same vein as last year’s fantastic Until Dawn and Quantic Dream’s follow-up, Beyond: Two Souls. Things are a bit different here, though, as the controls are very structured and rather unique. Walking requires holding the R2 button and pushing the left joystick in a specific direction, and it’s a bit stilted like Tomb Raider‘s used to be. It’s not perfect, but it does the job.
Two different difficulties are available, and what they relate to are the controls. If you’re familiar with the PS3 and PS4 controllers, and don’t mind dealing with fast-paced quicktime events, then you’ll want to go with the main one, which is for seasoned gamers. Others, including those who just want to focus on the story, should select the one for people who are generally unfamiliar with the controller.
Quicktime events, button combos (holding three buttons at once to do something) and rotating the joystick in different directions are button-based inputs here. They’re joined by some occasionally frustrating Sixaxis controls. That’s a mechanic that many forgot about, it seems, because while Sixaxis motion controls were a big part of the original PlayStation 3 SKU, the Sixaxis controller was replaced with the DualShock 3 later on. Of course, both the DualShock 3 and DualShock 4 still contain this technology, and it’s used from time to time. Until Dawn utilized it pretty well, but it was a bit unforgiving and slightly dodgy even then.
I could honestly do without the Sixaxis stuff, because it doesn’t always like to work, or registers the wrong input. It’s there, though, and thankfully works relatively well.
Heavy Rain has always been a really good looking and visually impressive game, especially in terms of its facial animations. With the jump to PlayStation 4 comes 1080p resolution and improved visuals, but not in the knock your socks off kind of way. The game still looks really solid, and stands the test of time both visually and mechanically, but it’s not a night and day remaster, nor did it need to be. This is still very much the same game we played several years ago, and that may turn some people off.
The improvements are most noticeable in the lighting department, and the characters’ faces have also seen some slight upgrades. Sure, it shows its age, but this is a game that was a looker to begin with, and it continues to be quite nice-looking. The voice acting, on the other hand, still leaves a lot to be desired.
If you’ve yet to play through Heavy Rain, you owe it to yourself to give its PS4 update a shot. This is a very well made and important game, and one that all fans of the genre should experience. However, if you’re someone who’s already completed this gem one to five times, there’s no rush to upgrade.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
Six years may have passed since Heavy Rain was first released, but it still holds up very well and is a nice addition to the PS4's library.