Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Heavy Rain Review

Heavy RainOne of the most ambitious undertakings in the realm of video games as of late, Heavy Rain promised a mature story, driven by well-developed characters; a game in which attempting to quantify the number of possible endings would be entirely futile.. Each choice in Heavy Rain has its own repercussions and its own influence over the ending, sometimes in astounding, baffling ways. I myself found only one of the many endings, but the real question is whether or not this game found its way into my heart, nestled firmly between my Model T and a stout brandy.


Good:
The creators of Heavy Rain certainly took video games to a very non-traditional place. The game strove to create tense moments in which the player knows that for any mistake, it would be the characters paying for his inadequacy, sometimes with their lives.
A driving novelty behind this game is that the main characters can not only fail their objectives, but be can also be completely removed from the story with the ending of their lives. Heavy Rain adds a refreshing element of urgency and permanence to the gameplay in that the player’s failure can result in the death of a character, but without the option to “respawn” or start anew.  I found this particular feature to be not only entertaining, but also somewhat rewarding for me in that I felt quite good about myself when I was able to successfully maneuver the characters out of a bind.  Allowing for the possibility of such radical changes to the story based entirely on the players choices and skill also allows for overwhelming replay value.
The story of Heavy Rain is deeply seeded in Hollywood thrillers. From the charming, gruff private eye to the uptight FBI agent, the usual cadre of characters is all in place.

 
Normally, I would find this feature bothersome as I bore easily of typical stories, but the developers were able to avoid such pitfalls by use of clever changes in the pacing and perspective. I wasn’t aware until much later, but the story was such that I could have simply been viewing a 20-hour picture at a nickelodeon. My sincere praises to the staff for turning what could have been a frustrating game into one that was not only fun, but fascinating as well.


Bad:
Though the story is engaging, I was taken out of the moment more than a few times by the dreadful voice acting. My initial discomfiture arose during a mall scene in the beginning of the game. There was something quite off about the way the father shouted for his lost son “Jason!”; it was a decidedly cringeworthy performance.


I have partaken in a few of the animated cartoons from the East in my time and am somewhat of an expert in bad voice acting and unfortunately, Heavy Rain’s cast qualifies as such. In addition to the father, all of the children sounded entirely disinterested, the FBI agent had an troublesome lisp that made his vocal emotions difficult to discern, and the “lady of the evening’s” voice actress sounded as if she had some sort of brass bit permanently wedged in her mouth. I believe a few additional weeks of voice casting could have done this game wonders. Perhaps the FBI agent should have been played by a more aristocratic gentleman?

I can think of no way the controls for the game could have been improved, but I oft found myself quite frustrated with them. As the player watches during tense moments, buttons or movements flash on the screen. If one is not as adept with his DualShock 3 as he should be, he may very well find himself on the wrong side of a gun. Small failures in dexterity can have catastrophic results in the game and, because of the autosaving mechanism, you cannot simply quit and retry.  Even if you could, you may not even be sure that your intended path was the “correct” one. The uncertainty in one’s choices and hurried button pressing certainly add tension to the gameplay, but they also add very real frustration, sucking me out of the dreary world and back to my cozy study and admittedly impressive menagerie of muskets.

Verdict:

Heavy Rain is a game that stands on its own as a wonderful experience and one that can easily be played again and again. The subpar voice acting could have been improved by more diligent casting, a relatively paltry and simple fix.  I am wholly disappointed that the game is not as engrossing as it could have been, due not to a deficiency on behalf of the story, but because of the auditory characteristics of the people telling it. The controls are unfortunate for a perfectionist, but I believe they could not be improved in any way. This game is highly recommended for players as well as people who simply enjoy watching the gameplay. Not only did I thoroughly delight in playing this game, I look forward to repeating the experience with a slight variation in my chosen actions.
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