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The Life of P

Heavy Rain

It’s no secret that I bought the PS3 as a blu-ray player and my gaming has remained almost exclusively on the Xbox 360. However this year there are a couple of PS3 exclusives that have my full attention: the first is the newly released Heavy Rain, on my radar ever since its intriguing casting trailer in 2006 (the tech is now much improved), and later in the year comes The Last Guardian. I felt surprisingly comfortable splashing out on the special edition of Heavy Rain despite the lack of tangible incentives. The reason is simply that, even if the game turned out to be average, it needs to be a financial success because this is exactly where I want to see the medium evolve and more developers need to start experimenting in this space. As it turns out the packaging alone almost justified the extra cost, with its beautiful embossed rain-slick appearance.

Quantic Dream describe their creation as “interactive drama”, a title that will make sense to anyone who sampled their previous offering, Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy, depending on your geographical location). Their creativity is evident from the installation sequence, a typically tedious affair that no one enjoys, which prompts you to remove a square of paper provided in the box and instructs you in making the origami creation on the cover (the killer’s calling card in the game). The game itself is often mis-perceived as a series of quick-time events that require a series of button presses those displayed on-screen. Although the visual stimulus is the same, the mechanics are very different because there is no defined scripted sequence through each scene. Instead you choose the actions to make, and not only is “failing” a series of actions not fatal to your progress, but it may even be intentional. For example in one early scene, surely any good father would let his own son beat him in a mock swordfight.

Very much an adult game, Heavy Rain is a noir thriller, with the player taking on the roles of four different characters investigating a serial killer called the Origami Killer. However the storyline can diverge depending on how you play out a scene, substantially altering the ending, particularly if a character dies or critically fails in their investigation. Adult themes extend to flawed characters: a grieving father trying to reconnect with his son; a drug-addicted FBI agent; an insomniac photographer. Their moods and perceptions are evoked through impressive performance capture and some neat camera tricks as much as voice acting. Where the game sometimes fails in its lofty goals is that the on-screen prompts are not always intuitive and one often triggers an action without real intent, somewhat breaking the intended immersion.

Nevertheless the style is pitch perfect, it’s rendered beautifully and Heavy Rain marks a real step forward for mature games. In a world where killing is still considered the chief gaming mechanic, it’s just a shame more people won’t be exposed to it.

4 Comments

  1. Two things – firstly how has the game been on your “raider” for so long (sorry, old habits die hard) 😉
    Secondly – http://www.cad-comic.com/cad/20100212 – is it as annoying as this portrays?

  2. No, it’s never quite that obtuse, but I just noticed this in his twitter feed: “Sheesh… made a flinch decision in the heat of the moment in Heavy Rain and I’ve been second guessing it for the last hour. Awesome :D”

    That’s often more accurate, where in tense situations you’ll grasp at something without being fully aware of the ramifications.

  3. How does the PS3 fare as a blu-ray player? I guess you bought yours when it was the cheapest way to get into the market, now that standalone players are ~£100 is it worth the extra for either picture quality or being useable for gaming?

  4. Actually it wasn’t the cheapest option even when I bought it, but there are still some advantages stemming from the fact the hardware is subsidised.

    1. Firmware updates: the PS3 is Sony’s cutting edge multimedia tech so while the blu-ray hit the market before the spec was finalised, the PS3 received firmware updates providing Profile 2.0 compatibility. The next jump will be 3D support and signs from Sony are that they intend for the PS3 to be able to support 3D films natively. The expansive hard drive means big firmware updates are easily viable.

    2. The unit’s processing power is vastly superior to the low-end blu-ray players, so disc loading times are significantly faster. I imagine this extends to some of the java-heavy online interactivity too, although I have not dabbled in much.

    3. iPlayer integration for the big screen is a welcome inclusion, though general web browsing is uncomfortable.

    4. Media streaming is decent, though not as smooth and easy as the Xbox360 when coupled with a Windows machine.

    5. Games are, obviously, the big one. Multiplatform titles often perform better on the 360 and its controller is vastly preferable, but if you can only afford one gaming device this does provide both games and HD films. If you have a console/gaming rig already but can afford another device, the PS3 exclusives are beginning to justify the cost of entry, even if they are few and far between.

    I’m afraid I’m not familiar enough with the sub-£100 players to comment directly, but it’s worth making sure you’re at least somewhat futureproofed before you buy. The PS3 is no longer the best pure blu-ray player on the market, but it’s near the top, still performing better than even the mid-price ones to my knowledge.

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"Lack of imagination is an occupational hazard for an apex predator."

(CC) BY-NC 2005-2019 Priyan Meewella

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