Heavy Rain is one of the litany of games that originally debuted for the Playstation 3 that I had missed, mostly due to the fact that I was a primarily an Xbox 360 owner during 2011. So when the Quantic Dream game was re-released on the Playstation 4, I took the plunge to play it.
Heavy Rain follows four characters: Ethan Mars, Madison Paige, Norman Jayden, and Scott Shelby; all of whom are searching for the Origami Killer, a serial killer that abducts pre-adolescent boys and murders them by drowning them in rainwater, for various reasons. Ethan's son Shaun has been kidnapped by the Origami Killer and Ethan has been tasked with completing trials in order to save his son's life. Madison is later revealed to be a journalist who is doing her own investigation into the Origami Killer. Norman is an FBI agent who has been called in to assist in the investigation. Scott is a private investigator that has been hired by some of the families of the Origami Killer's victims to find the Killer. These interwoven stories create an interesting narrative with twists and turns galore that offer a game with multiple endings, depending on the choices that you've made throughout.
There are a few issues with characterizations though. Madison's intentions are not known until very late into the game, roughly ten hours, and it's unclear as to why she's even a part of the game until then. As such, she just seems like an attempt at diversity among the cast of white men. Not to mention that her introduction into the game is a scene whereupon her exiting the shower, where you see everything she has to offer for some reason, she is attacked in her home in what is eventually revealed to be a dream sequence. Note: there may be a way to move on to the attack sequence without the shower but I haven't discovered it. This dream is only mentioned offhandedly later in the game with her stating that she suffers from insomnia and isn't developed upon at all nor does it seem to be a part of her character.
Lieutenant Carter Blake, Norman's partner during the game, is also another issue when it comes to characters. Blake is one who firmly dances on the other side of the law, citing that criminals have no rights and goes out of his way to back up his words. I find it difficult to believe that this detective has not been fired from the police force or at the very least, suspended. Blake seems to exist in order only to highlight that Norman is very much the good cop and provides an antagonistic face for Norman to bounce off of with the mystery of the Origami Killer looming over both of them.
Graphically, it's a competently done remaster of a 2011 game. Overall detail isn't on the level that you would see with more modern games like Horizon: Zero Dawn or Uncharted 4: A Thief's End but these are the same animations and models from 2011 just brought up to a higher level of detail so I'll allow some leeway.
In terms of sound, the voice acting sticks out as a negative. Heavy Rain takes place in an unnamed United States city near New York. As such, the characters of Ethan Mars, Norman Jayden, and multiple children clearly sound like foreign voice actors attempting to do differing American accents but slipping in and out of them periodically, thus making a distracting final product.
The score of the game is very strings intensive and remind me of the Saw franchise in terms of tonality. However, whoever did the sound balancing of the game frequently has music swells drown out dialogue from characters, forcing you to turn on your subtitles. This might be good to some, considering some of the voice acting, but this shouldn't have gotten to the publishing stage without being addressed by someone.
The gameplay is ultimately the biggest downfall of Heavy Rain. Moving your characters around levels is a chore. With most games, all you would need to do is move the left stick in the direction that you'd like to go. For some reason, Heavy Rain has you also hold down the R2 button in order to actually move around. It's bizarre, clunky, and makes the game just outright unfun to play.
The other main gameplay element is Quick Time Events. For some people, QTEs are infuriating at their base level, having to quickly press buttons that appear on the screen in order to succeed in a scenario. For the most part, the QTEs in Heavy Rain aren't terrible. That is, however, until you get to the motion controls. For the uninitiated, Playstation Move was a response to the Wii, a stick with a giant light ball on the end that you pointed at your Playstation Eye in order to use motion controls. Move was a controller that was used during this era of Playstation due to the fact that the PS3 was so far behind both the Wii and Xbox 360 in terms of sales and Sony thought that motion controls would be the future. Years later, here we are, still with the twin-stick controllers of old. Tangent aside, Heavy Rain was one of the games that made use of the motion controls supplied by Move. So when the game was ported to the PS4, they didn't remove the Move controls, they just updated them with different gestures to use with the Dualshock 4, which contains some remnants of the Move controllers. While certain controller gestures are simple enough to use and are picked up with no issue, such as spiking the controller in a downwards motion or shaking the controller up and down, moving the controller from side to side and tilting the controller are not picked up as easily. This makes a very frustrating experience in certain trials when your controller not picking up a gesture could cause a failure.
Overall, Heavy Rain was an enjoyable time even through all of the problems with the controls. Players who are interested in a good mystery game should leave Heavy Rain and it's multiple endings fairly satisfied.