I've just had about half an hour to let everything sink in about Heavy Rain.
From day one, Heavy Rain has been a project in deep secrecy, which always wanted to lessen the gap between movies and videogames. It seemed to be a very expensive gamble in animation and motion capture, trying to get the 'Uncanny valley'. I never played Indigo Prophecy properly and I tried Omikron too late, I knew the game would be based around QTEs and it makes you wonder how a game could be completely based on QTEs. I was very sceptical that this game was going to make Sony lose a lot of money, it had a SLIGHT chance of pulling something off.
After completing Heavy Rain, I can't say IF Heavy Rain actually pulled the vision of ultimate realism in games off. But what it did do, was something FAR, FAR BETTER.
It has singlehandedly set off a wave of emotional and moral content in games which has never been shown in this way before, at the same time, it has challenged what a game IS and created a brand new genre, which may never have the same impact ever again if anyone else tried to 're-do' what Heavy Rain has done, even Quantic Dream.
The director of the game was heard in interviews that he didn't want people to have 'fun' in Heavy Rain and he only wanted people to play it once. Obviously for a videogame developer, this is a very unusual thing to bring up. But there's this. Heavy Rain isn't a VIDEOGAME, it's what I'd like to call, a VIDEO-EXPERIENCE. It isn't fun, but it's really engaging, the 'fun' is what's going through your mind as you think about character; "What would I do in this situation?" and the game rushes you, it throws obstacles in your way. You choose how to tackle them, avoiding something may not always be the best way to do, sometimes you have to hit a situation head on.
Usually, whenever a developer comes up with a way to make a player involved in a game, they go for two options;
1. They give them a vague past, they make the character likable and make you understand WHY they tick like that, they joke, they have weaknesses, they introduce you to the people all around them, best friends, nemesis's, that way you can gauge how 'good' this protagonist is. Sometimes you see them transform over the game like a caterpillar to butterfly.
Examples; Nathan Drake, Cole McGrath, Solid Snake, Master Chief, Jak, Mario, even Kratos, even though I disagree with the character, even Marcus Fenix fits under this umbrella.
2. Or they go for the old, 'It's you' see through their eyes malarkey in First Person Shooters which are beginning to wear thin in recent years, which hasn't really changed since Halflife 1 after Doom and tries to make YOU the character with no dialogue, most of the time a questioned, confused mute, nothing more than a symbolic avatar which in games such as Halflife 2, Condemned, Fallout 3, Modern Warfare, Bioshock, Portal and other games. Most the time, you feel no connection to them other then their hands and seeing through their eyes, which is more like a mounted camera strapped on their neck.
An exception to this so far in my opinion is Tommy from Prey. Who you bravely get to see in the mirror RIGHT at the start of the game.
Heavy Rain makes another option, one that is so unbelievably risky. It makes the game characters 'act' even when you're not controlling them by pressing R2 to get them to walk. The characters are constantly animated, stood still? No they're not. You can see the fear, confusion or sorrow in their face, the body language, they shake, they rustle around. The motion capture is so much more than just 'tracing' over someone's movements to make them seem 'real' which is much more than even the most top developers out there are doing, even Naughty Dog in Uncharted 2.
The HUD of the game is mainly floating QTEs. They are mere icons for a possible action, sometimes you have to discover what this action is. The more erratic, panic or the worry of moral situation your character goes through; the HUD shakes around, sometimes making it blurred and unreadable, a visual metaphor of how you would feel in the progress of thinking such a rushed decision.
The same when you press L2, you get the 'thoughts' of the character rotating around their head, you can select to hear with the referred button, this is what they're thinking about, the shocking thing is that some thoughts, you're thinking EXACTLY the same.
With the suggestion of the characters being more real as they still animate and sit down, the raw animated emotion comes out of the characters. It's amazing to behold, everything is so perfectly synced and it's different most times depending on their recent experience or well being.
You can SEE just by the body language what's going on in a character's head.
And then, you realise. You begin to discover who the people are, they don't know their selves, you, playing as them don't know if YOU'RE doing the right thing playing at them, you wonder if they're motives are the right thing to do. It questions YOUR morals and the character's. At the start, you don't know a THING about these people, but you still care about them, they are YOU and you are THEM.
Once doing an action, hypothetical questions come up in your mind. IF YOU did the right thing, sometimes doing the WRONG thing the best thing to do. Is it better to be selfish than care about some random person you just met and just got given the wrong impressions about?
Do you let someone do something you don't agree about or leave it?
Heavy Rain brings all that to light.
The simple layout of the PS3 controller is perfect for this game, I just can't imagine anything else being as easy as the simple shapes labeled on the buttons which are so easy to process than any other controller system. It wouldn't had worked.
Heavy Rain has stunning graphics, a chilling soundtrack, an unprecedented level of realism, and it's a game that makes you think. A story that unfolds around you. It creates a new genre, it kicks a whole new flair into the adventure genre without being too unrealistic. The people you play as can die, the game continues. It's unpredictable to stop death, like life.
It makes everything about the Sixaxis relevant since Flower, those people who laughed at the Sixaxis? Well, I think David Cage of Quantic Dream is laughing at YOU and I am too.
The gamble paid off Sony, well done. This game may never be followed up again, this is one for the game developer textbooks. It's an event.
I just did a review of a game and I didn't even give away a SINGLE plot detail or name the characters. Go play Heavy Rain, don't enjoy, unfold the mystery and ABSORB it.