I am willing to give every video game genre a try, including what Wikipedia describes Heavy Rain as an “interactive drama” and “psychological thriller.” To the traditional gamer, those probably rank right up with the dating sim and train simulators of the world. Why play an interactive drama when I could just watch a movie?
But this is a valid question that can be used to juxtapose any type of media. Movies are an excellent format at telling a story in about two hours, while many games take a two hour story and stretch it across 12 hours with bits of action padding the time. Heavy Rain was created from the ground up to challenge the idea that not only can a video game tell a compelling story, but that it can deliver the same emotional punches that a movie can too.
Released in February 2010 by French developer Quantic Dream, Heavy Rain tells the story of a father, a journalist, a detective, and an FBI profiler all tracking down an elusive serial killer who targets young boys. As one of the PlayStation 3 exclusives I’ve wanted to play the most, I was very excited to get my hands on the game after two years. You can see my first hour review here, or read on for spoiler-free thoughts on Heavy Rain.
Since the PlayStation 3’s release over five years ago, I’ve been making a list of exclusives I needed to play when I finally owned the system. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was on there along with the Uncharted series, but at the top was Heavy Rain, the interactive drama from Quantic Dream. After thoroughly enjoying their previous psychological thriller, Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit), I was ready for whatever the studio had to offer.
Of course, being a system exclusive is annoying when you don’t own that system, so a full two years after its release I’m finally getting my paws on the game full-time (along with pretty much every other PS3 exclusive I was interested in). Was the wait worth it? We’re about to find out in Heavy Rain’s first hour.
If you’re interested in Quantic Dream’s previous work, I have the first hour of Indigo Prophecy available for your perusal. It was actually one of the first reviews I ever wrote, and the game really kicks off excellently. I’m definitely curious to see if Heavy Rain can replicate that energy.
Five years after its release, I finally own a PlayStation 3. This feels like a significant length of time, especially as the only console I purchased after a comparable amount of time was the Dreamcast, which had already been "dead" for years at that point. But the PlayStation 3 is far from dead, and through a combination of a down economy and systems that are still "good enough", neither Microsoft or Sony seem to be in any kind of rush to release their next console iteration. This is beneficial to consumers like me, who are greatly rewarded for waiting with lots of great, exclusive games at cheap prices.
There is definitely an embarassment of riches to be had jumping into a five year old, successful console like the PlayStation 3, emphasized by my recent Christmas extravaganza. My wife ordered me the system over Black Friday, triggering a chain reaction of purchases from siblings and in-laws, hey, I can't complain. Here's my haul:
On the first of the year, the writers here presented their predictions for 2010 in the video game industry. It was our first attempt at anything like this, and since we're primarily gamers first, writers second, and industry experts in a distant last, this was definitely more of an exercise in fun forecasting than put-your-money-down-now predictions.
Well, we can't let bad predictions go forgotten and made fun of, so here we are again. We'll quickly cover what went randomly right and what went horribly wrong, but then we'll be back again on Friday for our fourth annual Game of the Year Awards.
Quick Time Events. Ever since God of War and Resident Evil 4 exploded
onto the scene with button-prompt sequences of gore and horror, the
industry has shown its sheep-like nature and incorporated these Gotcha!
moments into games without thinking about how they make an
interactive experience better. Many gamers have adjusted to the fact
that every cutscene now has an awful series of play buttons throughout, but I
personally would like to cram all the QTEs in the world into a space
shuttle full of cobras and launch them directly into the sun if it meant
I'd never have to see another one again.
That said, it's not impossible to come across decent use of QTEs. Indeed, before Resident Evil 4 set the standard at the advent of 2005, the mechanic was most prominently-used by the Dreamcast's crown jewel, Shenmue. In fact, it was Yu Suzuki, that game's director, who coined the term "Quick Time Event." Suzuki put the gimmick to good use throughout Shenmue, allowing protagonist Ryo Hazuki to do everything from tossing drunkards around in bar brawls to saving little girls from incoming soccer balls. One of the reasons the game is so beloved today is that it allowed the player to engage in such a wide variety of scenarios, many of which were supported with smartly-designed QTEs.
Good QTEs didn't end with Shenmue, however, even though sometimes it seems that's the case. Like God of War, other Playstation heavyweights have managed to use QTEs to enhance a game experience. I think it's only fair that we look at a few of those, as well as some alternatives to these timed button-prompts for cinematic flair in games.
I recently had the chance to sit down and play some Heavy Rain while my brother-in-law (who had already beaten the game) provided some running commentary. Heavy Rain is one of a handful of games on the PlayStation 3 that makes me jealous of those who own one. In 2007, I played the first hour of Indigo Prophecy (the fourth first hour review ever!), also be developer Quantic Dream. I really enjoyed it and went on to beat the game within a few days. While the game had plenty of flaws, I thought it was still a fun experience that brought me on a slightly hilly ride of emotions (that basement level in the precinct was so creepy!).
Without knowing anything about Heavy Rain I wanted to play it. I guess that's the most any developer could ask for, Heavy Rain isn't a sequel to Indigo Prophecy (commonly known as Fahrenheit outside the U.S.), it's not even on the same set of consoles, but I still counted down the weeks until it would arrive.
Heavy Rain's arrival came and went though and it wasn't until last weekend that I finally sat down and played it. I wish I could have set aside a solid hour along with a notepad or voice recorder to do a proper first hour review, but alas, sometimes you just take an opportunity when given it.
Going to try something new this year, we're going to make some completely wild predictions that may have little base in reality. I think they're pretty self-explanatory, and hopefully at the end of the year I'll remember we did this and we can have a good laugh at how wrong we were (or be shocked at how right).
So while these are guaranteed to be wrong, they are my current feelings about the industry from hopefully a non-biased gamer's point of view. Well, non-biased until it comes to BioWare games that is.