Note: This Review Will Contain Minor Plot Spoilers From Heavy Rain, But Nothing From Later In The Game
Quantic Dream released Indigo Prophecy back in 2005, and while the game was very unique and fresh, it still had many flaws. Luckily, Quantic Dream has fixed most of the issues present in Indigo Prophecy with their brand new title, Heavy Rain, which is built on the same general concept and design as their last game. This concept being, of course, the idea that story is the most important aspect of the game, and that anything you do in the game can alter what happens, when it happens, or even if it happens. That covers some of the pros (assuming you have nothing against a well presented video game story) of the "cinematic gameplay" or "interactive cutscene" notion the game tackles.
Heavy Rain, like it or not, is less of a game and more of a movie. The main plot involves a serial killer, whom has been named "The Origami Killer", who captures young children, places an origami figure in their hand, and four to five days after their abduction, places them, dead, in a wasteland. The game has four main characters, Ethan Mars, a recently divorced single-dad and father of the latest suspected victim; Scott Shelby, a private investigator checking out the case of The Origami Killer; Norman Jayden, an FBI agent also investigating the case alongside the local Police, who is constantly fighting the urge to do drugs; and Madison Paige, a insomniac and eventual friend of Ethan's, are all connected, in one way or another, to The Origami Killer.
The choices you make will effect the story greatly. While the general idea will still be the same to all, some major events may not even be seen in one playthrough of the game, but will be playable in a different one. This mean you could play Heavy Rain through many, many times and see a drastically different storyline each time, which definitely adds to the replayablity, especially because the game throws in the ability to start at any chapter and either start and save, or start and not save.
The choices and prompts you will be required to respond to, whether they be verbal like a simple conversation, moral like the option to shoot or not shoot some one, or just completely insane such as driving on the wrong side of the road or escaping from a vehicle that's inside of a car crusher, are made with quick time events. In these QTE's you'll either have to use directional inputs on the analog, different face and shoulder buttons, or the Playstation 3's Sixaxis motion. Now, the Sixaxis isn't the most accurate thing in the world, but it is still quite fun to use. It will occasionally fail to recognize you're input, which can be extremely frustrating, because it could make something happen that you did not want to, and that, if the game recognized the movement correctly, shouldn't have happened.
Unlike Indigo Prophecy, when you fail one of these quick-time events, you won't have to restart the whole sequence. It'll keep going no matter what you do. There's never a game over screen, never a continue option, and never a chance to restart at the last checkpoint, simply because there aren't any. Yes, this means your characters can die. If they do die, you obviously won't be able to play as them again, so any segments that feature that character will now be unplayable, and you'll be left out of them, changing the game's outcome a lot. Just because you fail an important quick-time event doesn't mean you'll die, even if it appears this way. You may stumble, barely dodge an attack rather than brutally countering it, or simply just take a beating because of it. When you do die, it will usually be because you failed multiple quick time events. The game's length greatly depends on the fate of your characters and what you decide to as them. If they all die early, you may beat it within six hours. If none of them die and you manage to play every scene, Heavy Rain may be a nine to ten hour game for you.
Other than the action-packed, intense, quick-time event based sequences, you'll encounter plenty of slow, less exciting segments in Heavy Rain. These could include taking a shower, making a glass of orange juice, shaving, or going to the bathroom. Most of these are optional, and unnecessary to advance the story, except with Heavy Rain's intro, which is definitely the slowest part of the game (which is perhaps the exact opposite of Indigo Prophecy), but it's also completely necessary. If you find yourself bored during the first hour to hour and a half, bear with it, and the game will pick up soon enough. You may also experience some exciting but not so action packed sequences, such as, say, having sex? The ability to listen to any of your character's thoughts at the moment is also a great addition that can give you hints as to what to do next.
As Jayden, you'll do some interesting investigative gameplay sequences, like walking around a crime scene picking up clues. Jayden is equipped with futuristic glasses that allow him to look at a piece of evidence and determine everything about it. You'll get to go back to your office and look through all these clues and make connections, deciding what's important and what's not, in your quest to find the Origami Killer. As Shelby, you'll also be investigating the case of The Origami Killer, interviewing the parents of the supposed victims of the serial killer trying to find any lead you can to follow up on. You will work alongside your partner, Lauren Winter, the mother of one of the young boys murdered by The Origami Killer. As Ethan, you'll experience everyday life. Early in the game, you have a wife and two sons. Going to the mall, working at home, and making your kid's lunch are the type of actions you will do. Later in the game, things won't be so relaxing. When your son is taken by The Origami Killer, you'll have to follow his every command if you have any hope of getting your son back. As Madison, you befriend Ethan early on. Eventually, you'll end up also trying to catch the killer, when you find out about what Ethan is going through. Note: Anything else I say could potentially spoil a lot. I'll leave that at at.
I mentioned some of the pros you get from the concept Heavy Rain is built on, and there are plenty of them. Sadly, there are plenty of cons as well. The game seems to skip small chunks of info in between segments. You'll play as one character, and then pick up another, and you'll have no clue why you're doing what you're doing. Eventually you'll use common sense and figure out what's going on, but this happens far too often. The plot, while from a distance is great, when you really follow it closely you can ask many questions that the game just simply doesn't answer. I'm not sure if you want to call them "plot holes", but the storyline is far from complete or perfect, with a few things left unexplained. Even though the core story is mostly plausible, and could really happen unlike Indigo Prophecy's plot, there are some things that will leave you saying "What?", because they could never actually happen in real life. When you are faced with dialogue options, the choices will spin around the screen rapidly. Most of the time it's really hard to read these, especially if you're playing on a smaller television. It's inevitable that you'll press the wrong button because you thought it said something else. Then there's the Resident Evil-feeling walking controls, which can really be tedious, as you can expect to find yourself stuck on geometry constantly.
Heavy Rain sets out and does what Quantic Dream wanted to do with Indigo Prophecy. It takes Indigo Prophecy's mistakes, fixes them (for the most part), and executes it well. The great quick time event packed action sequences are accompanied by great music, animations, lip syncing, and some of the best graphics you'll see on a console. If you thought Indigo Prophecy was a good start, but didn't exactly live up to it's full potential, well, here's something that comes a lot closer to living up to it's full potential.