reviews\ Feb 16, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer - PS3 - Review

Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer is a tasty melding of different genres, with one foot in the real world in terms of environmental familiarity, and the other foot firmly entrenched in the surreal.

The game, from Quantic Dreams and SCEA, is a blend of discovery for the four central characters, but also one that embraces the word ‘immersive’ in a manner that tries to go beyond the cursory elements associated with most games and puts the player in the shoes of the characters. From mundane tasks to timing combat elements, and using a heads-up display as an FBI agent to uncover clues, Heavy Rain is a game that epitomizes the concept that games are interactive novels.

There are four characters in the game, each a thread in the overall tapestry of the storyline. Each plays a vital part in the overall telling and each character can be controlled by the player as the game progresses. But lest you think the game will be a walk in the park, mistakes can be costly. If you react too slowly in the timed-button-mashing moments during combat and the character central to that part of the story dies, you lose that character and that part of the story. The goal, therefore, is to go through the story with each character and experience the psychological murder-mystery from that up-close and very personal perspective.

The core ingredient in this game is the choices that have to be made all along the way. That’s what makes the game so intriguing. There is never a truly right answer, or even a righteous one. The player will be second-guessing himself or herself throughout. React on gut – that’s about the only way to do it. While a certain choice may seem the nice thing to do, or the noble, or even the right one, that one decision may wind back around and have terrible consequences later on in the game.

Four characters are the key, and at the core is the antagonist – a serial killer known as the Origami Killer. Replayability is rife here, as after completing the 10-12 hour game, going back in, making a different decision will yield some different consequences as the game moves forward. It is rather ingenuous, though not everyone will understand or appreciate it.

The setting is any town hit by poverty and hardship (like many American towns in the current economic climate). The game is adult-oriented, hitting on themes that are familiar. There is heartbreak, psychological terror, and a pervading sense of darkness that pulls gamers along.

The four characters are fleshed out remarkably well. Each has a sense of familiarity and also a darker side that reveals itself. The characters are architect Ethan Mars (whose life is ripped apart when one of the children introduced during the tutorial – which passes itself off as a glimpse of his home life and is extremely believable – is killed in a car accident), an FBI profiler named Norman Jayden (who has a drug habit that rears itself at the wrong times), retired private detective Scott Shelby, and photo-journalist Madison Paige. The amazing thing is that each of these characters feels real. Their actions may be controlled, but there is a connection made through the controller that resonates in the way they are given life that extends beyond the monitor. And that makes seeing bad things happen much more personal.

The graphics are incredible, with attention to detail that is remarkable. The control scheme is also very well realized, moving from some motion elements that are of the ‘why didn’t anyone else thing of this?’ to the onscreen prompts during the action scenes that requires gamers to press corresponding hot buttons. The audio is well done.

At first, the game seemed mired in minutia, and didn’t seem all that attractive. But then something strange happened. Going beyond the need for a quick action fix, along with the connection forged with the characters (realized in part by the control scheme), the story and game world started to matter.

Sure, there are a few stumbling elements in the way the game plays out, and some frustration is bound to pop in, but Heavy Rain is a great achievement. It may have gathered elements from different genres, but Quantic Dreams has forged a brand-new experience. Heavy Rain goes beyond the confines of the HD screen and gets inside the player.

Review Scoring Details for Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer

Gameplay: 9
‘Immersion’ is a word bantered about, but very rarely without a solid originating reference point. Heavy Rain could well be that reference point. The camera can be a bit odd, but that is seldom. The game controls take a bit to get used to, and in frenetic scenes they can seem to hamper, but the driving elements do work very well as a whole.

Graphics: 9
Some minor distractions but the look and ‘feel’ of the game’s environments and characters is excellent.

Sound: 8.5
The audio is solid and a nice supporting cast member to the audio. Together the audio and graphical elements weave a realistic world.

Difficulty: Med/Hard

Concept: 9.5
There are very, very few games that can compare with the psychological elements, or the power of choice elements that this game has. The controls might seem a bit much initially, but the reasoning for the control scheme becomes clear deep into the game.

Overall: 9
There are some flaws, but taken as a package Heavy Rain is a remarkable achievement in gaming that creates an interactive experience that goes beyond the pages of a good novel or film noir. This is a game that needs to be experienced.


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