When the last generation of console wars waged, I sided with Microsoft. The allure of exclusive games on the Xbox 360 was strong enough that I had to leave my tried and true Playstation behind. However, it wasn’t until a few months later that I realised how many PS3 exclusive titles I was giving up. Of all of them, Quantic Dreams titles Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls stood out as sore losses. I had remembered playing Indigo Prophecy way back when and enjoyed it right up until its infamous plot derailment at the end. So for all intents and purposes, and specifically as someone who enjoys narrative driven games, I would have delighted in playing more Quantic Dream games on PS3. This is exactly why I was delighted to see both Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls receive a HD update for the PS4. We’ll be looking at both titles here on The Arcade, but first off, let’s look at how Heavy Rain cleans up with the new technology.
For the uninitiated, Heavy Rain is presented as an ‘Interactive Drama’. What this means is that the player takes on a role similar to that of a director in a movie; you decide where the characters walk, what they interact with and how the rest of the story will play out by either failing or succeeding at certain intervals. You control four separate characters throughout the game, each one with their own personalities, back stories and motives to try and catch the infamous Origami Killer who has been terrorising their city. Children have been disappearing only to appear a few days later drowned with an orchid placed on their chest and an origami figure placed in their hand.
Depending on the character you play, be it the father looking for redemption, the FBI agent hell bent on catching the killer, the private detective investigating on behalf of the victims’ families or the plucky reporter chasing her story, you can change the outcome of the tale and affect the ending. Maybe you missed a clue at a crime scene, or you failed a puzzle set by the killer, but your chances of catching the killer before he strikes again entirely depend on how much effort you’re willing to put into each section.
However, that said, one can be forgiven for missing clues or sequences unintentionally as there are a couple of instances where innocently chatting to someone or viewing an object will advance the story without warning. Sadly, when I played Heavy Rain this seemed to be a massive factor. While I was able to get a full ending, I felt that a lot of my choices had been somewhat luck of the draw as there’s never a strong sense of clarity in what action you’ll be performing. The only indicators you have on choices are little white dots hovering over objects and if you’re, for example, in a car with someone else and you assume the white dot hovering over them means ‘interact with them’, you might be shocked to learn you were actually opening their car door. There were just so many moments when I myself had a clear idea what I wanted to happen next, but because of the indicators I had no idea if I was actually going to do it.
Furthermore, on the control scheme; while I understand what Quantic Dream wanted to achieve with the PS3’s new shiny motion control system, the way it was implemented fell somewhat on its face and aged rather poorly. Having to shake the controller to struggle out of a fight is a nice idea, but when you wind up just madly waving your arms every other scene, the controls become not only tiresome but they lose their novelty, something that happened quite quickly given that the game is almost entirely quick-time-events. In particular, there’s a sequence where you have to steer a car in the game and twist the controller to match the wheel, but the game seemed to have trouble realising I had moved a lot of the time and as such I ended up doing that exaggerated dive that everyone tries whilst playing Mario Kart. As such I ended up frantically hoping that by moving my entire body, the game would get the message and turn harder.
Honestly, more often than not I just wished they had given me the standard ‘press left, press right’ cues rather than relying on the technology just because it was new at the time. Not to mention the dialogue choices, which boil down to a choice between X, O, Triangle and Square, are at all times swirling around your character, making them difficult to read as if you’d done three shots of tequila before looking at them. I realise this is meant to add to the panic of certain situations but how Quantic expected people to make weighted story decisions half blind I do not know.
I went in to Heavy Rain almost completely blind. Aside from the hilarious “SHAUN!” bug, I had managed to avoid every spoiler thrown at me as to the game’s storyline, so the mystery of ‘Who is the killer?’ and what might be waiting around the next corner was still very present for me. For this, I’m actually quite grateful as I have a horrible habit of meta-gaming and trying to exact certain endings and I honestly feel like a lot of this game would be spoiled by having prior knowledge. Because I didn’t know how the characters would play out, I got an unbiased opinion of them, however I must say they still have their flaws.
There’s a lot to be said about characters who have a back story and a life beyond the story they’re in, but I’m afraid in Heavy Rain they took things a step too far. Each character has led a life up until this point but with the exception of two out of the four characters, we really don’t find out anything about that. There’s a character with a drug problem that leads to several QTEs in their story, but we never find out why they take drugs, or what the drugs do. Really, the addiction is only there as a speed bump to your progress and it’s something that will never be explained because the DLC of that story was cancelled. I would have loved to know more about the two characters who were sidelined, but sadly Quantic Dream didn’t deem their habits worthy of explanation, making me wonder why they were there at all.
All in all, I did enjoy Heavy Rain. It has a lot of replayability and the story is interesting, but if anyone were to ask me to recommend a fun story-driven game, this wouldn’t be it. There are just too many flaws that frustrate me in the controls for me to be immersed in the story as I should be. In short, I would say that you can pick it up if you want to, but honestly, you could probably watch a let’s play and have just as much, if not more, fun.