Heavy Rain (PlayStation 3) 2010
Advanced motion capture (body and facial motion capture), real-time tears and wrinkles on the face, advanced skin shaders, first
advanced rendering features (spherical harmonics (used for the first time in video games), auto exposure - animations of pupil dilation, tongue, eyes, fingers, and dynamic hair with physics
(Havok engine), first photorealistic children in a video game
Motion capture and voice actors from the game
1) Jacqui Ainsley (Madison Paige (voiced by Judi Beecher and Barbara Scaff);2) Aurelie Bancilhon (Lauren Winters); Sam Douglas
Magazine preview - Games tm (2008)
"Quantic Dream's risky storytelling pays off with an experience that'll leave you begging for more.
If you're planning on skipping the bulk of this text and heading straight to the review score to decide whether or not you should play through Heavy Rain, just know this: the game starts slow. It'll take you a couple hours to get into the meat of the experience and for things to really pick up, but once it does, you'll be on the edge of your seat until the end and you won't want to put the controller down. In other words, if you stick with it, Heavy Rain will give you a ride like you rarely see in games.
Having said that, it's also worth quickly pointing out that I'm going to keep this review completely spoiler-free, so feel free to read it without fear of anything being ruined for you (and trust me, you don't want anything ruined).
Quantic Dream's last title, dubbed Indigo Prophecy in North America and Fahrenheit pretty much everywhere else, tried to bridge together intricate storytelling with gameplay by using what were essentially quick-time events (think Dragon's Lair). A button prompt appears on the screen, and if you press it in time, the game continues and you get another one. If you don't, you fail and usually wind up staring at the words "Game Over".
With Heavy Rain, the studio took this control mechanic to a completely different level by removing the win/fail result and instead turned it into what can best be described as a branching narrative. You can't ever actually fail in Heavy Rain. There is no Game Over screen, and nothing will force you to have to replay anything. No matter what you do, the game, its characters and the story move on.
This has multiple effects. If you're in an action sequence, missing one prompt might not mean much other than that the fight or chase would play out a little differently. Rather than taking out the bad guy right then, you might get knocked down but get another chance right after that. Miss too many and the bad guy might get away, but like I said, the story will continue on, no matter the result. In other instances, these options (as there is often more than one button available to you at any one time) will decide what a character says, how they react to something, what you interact with or so on and so forth.
The result is that although you're still matching button prompts, Heavy Rain feels much more like you're choosing and influencing what happens in the game, rather than simply reacting to it. This is a major and key element of the control mechanics that separates Heavy Rain from the likes of Indigo Prophecy, Dragon's Lair or even God of War's boss takedown sequences, and it's really what makes the actual gameplay work quite well.
What's really interesting is that Heavy Rain manages to always keep you on your toes, and if you don't pay attention and keep your cool, you'll pay for it. There are action sequences that happen when you least expect them, and if you're not ready, you may "fail" them. In other cases, the opposite is true: events can happen very quickly and your gut instinct may be to react to them, when the best option may have been to wait for a better opportunity (or not react at all). The first time this last bit happened to me, I had to stop playing for a minute and think about what I'd done and what the consequences would wind up being. Things can get pretty intense, to say the least.
The great thing about all of this, and the reason that Heavy Rain may not have worked with any other control scheme, is that everything in the game revolves around the story. This isn't something where Quantic Dream came up with some cool scenes and then wrapped a story around everything to tie it together; the story is the utmost focus, and everything that you do and everything that happens directly feeds into it, without exception. Without having a "defined" control scheme that only allows you to perform a set number of actions, the changing control options allow the mechanics to adapt to what makes sense for your character to do at any point to keep the storytelling as unopposed as possible.
My one complaint about the control scheme is that it's sometimes hard to tell what you're supposed to do. When your character is frazzled, the button or text options that pop up can be blurred and jittery to show that the person is tense as well as make it a little trickier to choose the right thing (you might say something wrong if you're not careful, like in real life). The problem is that button prompts will also pulse if you're supposed to tap them quickly rather than hold them down or do a single, quick tap, and distinguishing between these variants can be tricky. It's not a game-breaking problem, but I messed up in a few places where I wouldn't have had the prompts been clearer. Continues
Now, as I mentioned, the controls do a great job of allowing the story to shine through, and what a story it is. Each of the four, main playable characters is interesting, developed well and important to the story. The way that everything comes together and winds up feeding into the story progression is nothing short of fantastic. Games have come pretty far in terms of how well stories are told and the level of writing quality that some of them are able to achieve, but Heavy Rain is easily amongst the best that's ever been put onto a disc. Were this filmed as a Hollywood picture, it would perfectly fit the body of work of someone like Martin Scorsese or David Fincher.
Now, that doesn't mean that the story is told flawlessly. Like I said at the start of this review, the first couple hours are a little slow. As I've mentioned in previous coverage for Heavy Rain, this is largely due to the fact that, with a film, you're able to edit out dull bits like walking down stairs or going from the kitchen to the living room. The exposition and character development that happens in these opening chapters wind up being very important to what happens later, but the pacing is a little on the sluggish side. And, when some of the first things that you're able to do include drinking orange juice and taking a shower, it may seem like things will get lost in unimportant actions and details of everyday life. But, like I've said, after you get into the meat of the game, it picks up quickly and pulls you in.
An important element of Heavy Rain's design is that it isn't an entirely linear story (and therefore game). Depending upon how you handle situations, you can start steering the story that you experience in a different direction than others. If a main character dies, the game will continue on anyway, but you'll miss story clues and scenes that the now-dead character would have come across.
From my experience, your choices don't result in major changes throughout the game, instead sending slight ripples through the dialog and character interactions for the bulk of it but resulting in vastly different endings. After finishing the story with one of the best possible endings, I went back and played it a second time as poorly as I could; that is, killing off characters, intentionally skipping over clues and that sort of thing. I wasn't able to kill off (or generally lose) any of the main characters until about three-fourths of the way through, and up until that point, the only differences that I noticed were largely related to dialog changes. There's a lot of subtlety there, where people will talk to each other differently or reference earlier actions (quite well, I might add), but you'll still play the same sequences.
However, as I mentioned, the ending can change extensively depending upon what you've learned, who's still around, things you've done earlier and so forth. Obviously I'm not going to spoil anything here, but just know that if you're going through a second, different playthrough, you won't see a ton of changes until the conclusion, but it'll be worth it. And, fortunately, all of the endings that I either saw myself or heard about from others (it would take you forever to earn them all yourself) are great.
Given the weight of the story and the fact that it's the absolute crux of Heavy Rain, the game's various presentation aspects weigh in just as heavily on the experience as its controls do. Generally speaking, the presentation is handled quite well, but none of it is perfect.
The graphics, for instance, are great with regards to characters' faces, but clothes, hands and especially some objects in the environment aren't as detailed as you would hope. Lip syncing is actually not bad, but the mouths on some characters (not all) don't have a ton of detail so the speech animation winds up looking off at times. And, while the character animation is top-notch in terms of the little details that Quantic Dream has tossed in (feet taps from a bored character, jaw movements while someone thinks, etc.), you can tell that the motion capture data isn't as detailed as what you'll see in, say, Uncharted 2. Hands will sometimes twitch a tiny bit, or fingers won't quite bend right on occasion.
The voice work is similar. Some characters are great, while others are only so-so. One standout flaw is that while most characters are supposed to be American, some of the actors clearly aren't and their accents tend to slip through, making their line deliveries sound weird at times.
On the flip side, however, is the fact that the dialog is generally spectacular. Most every line is natural and written in an unforced manner, lending a great deal more realism to the characters. While I'm not talking about elongated monologues that would give Shakespeare a run for his money, the little things that people say are damn near perfect. Again, the delivery isn't always spot-on, but the content certainly is.
Really, when compared to most games, Heavy Rain has what would be considered very good voice acting. It's just that when so much of the experience is focused on it, you tend to notice the flaws a good deal more.
One last nice bit to the presentation that I want to point out (because people will certainly ask) is that you can indeed skip back to already-played chapters. You'll be asked whether you wish to save or not, which means you can try out individual scenes without impacting your "main" save, which is nice.
Heavy Rain is a hell of an experience. Its controversial control scheme actually works really well in allowing the fantastic story to dictate how events play out, and many of the game's scenes will keep you on the edge of your seat. It starts slow and the presentation isn't perfect, but the character development, dialog and story twists will hook you like few games can. Heavy Rain is not to be missed.
9 Presentation Fantastic story that's one of the best in gaming. Stellar dialog as well. Some of the line delivery sounds a little odd, however.
8.5 Graphics The characters look great, but some low-res items in the environment make some scenes look a little disjointed. Animation is good overall, but a little spotty at times.
8.5 Sound Some voice actors let their native tongue slip through so line delivery isn't perfect, but it's quite good overall. The soundtrack is great.
9 Gameplay For a game that's so heavily focused on presentation, the gameplay does a great job of giving you control while not getting in the way. Some great action scenes and intense moments top it off.
8 Lasting Appeal One playthrough won't take you all that long (eight hours maybe), but you have lots of reasons to go back and try new stuff. Experimentation is rewarded well."
1) Demo version of the game has alternate intro.
2) Game from creators of "Fahrenheit" (Indigo Prophecy) (2005).
3) A film adaptation of the game is still in development (as of 2021).
4) Japanese version is censored.
5) The characters were voiced, motion captured and modeled after several actors; the three males are modeled after their voice actors, while the female is modeled after a professional model. (watch photos above)
6) Heavy Rain was announced at E3 2006, where a tech demo entitled The Casting (with motion captured Aurelie Bancilhon who played later Lauren Winters in the game) was presented to the media and general public.
7) During the BAFTA Annual Games Lecture 2013, Cage revealed that game could have been released as Xbox 360 exclusive by Microsoft, but Microsoft turned it down due to its child
kidnapping theme, fearing that it may lead to a scandal.
8) Facial motion capture was recorded using Vicon MX40 cameras and system, and was enhanced with a muscle system.
9) Winda Benedetti wrote about the maturity of Heavy Rain, praising game for being "emotionally powerful" as well as having "said goodbye to the tired alien invasions and over-the-top fantasy stories so often found in video games. Instead, they peer into the dark reaches of the very real human heart to deliver stories that are thrilling, chilling and utterly absorbing".
10) Blackouts: Ever wondered what the source of Ethan's blackouts was? In the original script for the game these blackouts were a result of the trauma Ethan sustained from his first son's death in the game's intro. Instead of just blacking out Ethan would find himself hallucinating a submerged house which he would explore until finding the drowned body of one of the Origami Killer's victims. In these hallucinations Ethan would actually have unknowingly been psychically connected to the mind of the killer. Due to the backlash against the strong paranormal elements of the team's previous game, Indigo Prophecy, they decided to axe these segments only months before the game's release, leaving them as just unexplained blackouts. There is still a reference in the final version of the game by Ethan's psychologist, that he was suffering from nightmares of drowning.
11) When first announced at E3 2006 the game was intended to be multi-platform (PC, PS3 and Xbox 360). However the initial tech demo at E3 was done on Sony's PS3 development kits. The E3 crowd was so impressed by the real-time cinematic on Sony's hardware, it won best of show by some critics and generated a lot of buzz for the PS3. Sony eventually got exclusive rights to publishing the game.
12) Launch title for the Playstation Move motion controller: Although it was released months before the Move's release, the game was freely patched with native Move support before the launch of the Move, and all re-releases of the game since the Move's release have Playstation Move Support proudly displayed on the box.
13) The apartment that Ethan is moving into at the end of the game is the same apartment that was lived in by the hero of David Cage's last "interactive drama" game Indigo Prophecy (2005). Ethan even makes a funny comment about "a friend" helping him get it. That friend is Lucas Kane from the other game.
14) In 3D computer graphics, spherical harmonics play a role in a wide variety of topics including indirect lighting (ambient occlusion, global illumination, precomputed radiance transfer, etc.) and modelling of 3D shapes.
15) Emulated in: RPCS3 (not fully emulated).
16) Game was also released on Playstation 4 and Windows (with full 4K resolution support).
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