Developer: Quantic Dream
by: Jason Love
You’re at a mall with your wife and two sons on a lazy Sunday afternoon. While your wife and one of your sons goes into a store to look for shoes, you and your other son hang out outside of the store. He gets bored and wanders off, despite your protestations. Suddenly, he’s lost in the mall crowd. What do you do? Quantic Dream’s latest release, Heavy Rain, is built upon finding out your response to this, and even more emotionally trying situations, throughout the course of the game.
The underlying premise behind Heavy Rain is that a child serial killer has chosen his next victim, and you have four days in which to find the child before he’s killed. While that answers the question of “what is the game about” in a conventional sense, it really doesn’t address the experience of the game, which lies in the who and the how. Over the course of Heavy Rain, you control four different characters, each of whom has his or her own motivation, flaws, and personalities, and each of whom must face his or her own trials. As the player, though, it is really up to you to decide exactly what kind of people these characters are, and how far they’re willing to go to see their convictions through.
The greatest strength of Heavy Rain is that it does everything in its power to make you feel like you aren’t just playing another game – experiencing the story and events as they unfold – but are an actual, active determinant in causing the story to play out however you choose. That degree of freedom you’re given in order to create your own story and experience is, essentially, what Heavy Rain is all about. No other game I’ve played has given me quite the same feeling, even if it is only illusory at times, that I am creating a world of my own design by choosing to tuck a child into a bed, or choosing to not open a door and instead walk away.
While the game is not without its flaws – the voice acting can be a bit spotty at times and there are a few plot holes – the overall experience of Heavy Rain is easily one of my top ten all-time gaming experiences, and I cannot recommend it enough. Despite this, Heavy Rain is not a game that’s going to appeal to everyone. If a game filled with QTEs and semi-long narratives sounds like something you want to play, then you’ll likely enjoy Heavy Rain. Even so, I strongly recommend playing the demo first to see if you’re a fan.