Heavy Rain is a game with some glaring flaws. The gameplay is largely a one shot wonder. The plot is riddled with holes and veers off to the realms of ridiculous by the game's end. This is major stuff for a game basically built around redefining what gameplay and plot are to video games. That said, I can't in good faith brand Heavy Rain a failure because despite it's often massive issues, I still enjoyed it a lot.
Being all the buzz at the moment, I can't imagine there are many people reading this right now without some prior knowledge of the game, that said a little background info is always pertinent. The game centers on the “Origami Killer.” A serial murderer whose modus operandi involves, you guessed it, origami. The game starts roughly with the kidnapping of his latest victim, young Shaun Mars. Shaun's father, Ethan, is naturally a bit perturbed by this turn of events. The plot follows his efforts and the efforts of several other characters to find and save Shaun and stop the Origami Killer.
This plays out through a series of quick-time events and mini-games that, depending on your performance and choices can have an effect on the overall story, to an extent. While Heavy Rain's very packaging touts that “every little choice” makes a difference, the little things honestly often made little difference to me. While it's neat that major characters can actually be killed and permanently removed from the game, overall I found the overall differences based on choice to be a bit too scant. At some points, I tried approaching things differently and yielded the same results. What's the point of having choice, if it's just going to bring you to the exact same place anyways? Worst of all, no matter what choices you make the game inevitably forces you to a conclusion that is built around one of the most ridiculous twists I've seen in years. I wouldn't go so far as to say it ruins the game, but it certainly sours the experience a bit, especially when there were plenty of other alternatives hinted at throughout the plot that would have made a thousand times more sense. It was as if the developers just felt that for this kind of story a big twist was necessary when really it just comes off as cheap and stupid. While riddled with negligible plot holes throughout, Heavy Rain's end is just schlock of the worst variety, dragging down the experience as a whole.
There are other issues. The quick-time events work for the most part. Some are a bit mundane, but the developers really succeeded in creating some really suspenseful heart pumping moments that will make you cringe whenever you make a mistake. That said, the game's insistence on involving you in every single minute action that your character performs becomes really annoying. Opening doors, pulling things from your pocket, rocking a baby to sleep; while they don't seem all that bad when first experiencing the game, when you're replaying it and you just want to proceed so you can figure out all the ways to mess with the story. The game's frequent reliance on linear, unavoidable moments really serves as a roadblock to its “choose your adventure” style gaming. After all, who wants to trudge through fifteen minutes of dull just to get to a choice that may not matter any ways?
All of these problems laid out though, I can't say Heavy Rain is a bad game. A less than successful experiment perhaps? Yes. But a failure? No. For what it did wrong I still really enjoyed Heavy Rain. The story, though eventually a let down, is still suspenseful and emotive. I really cared about what was going on throughout. The fact that a single misstep on my part could leave a character dead really made each decision on my part carry more weight. For what it does wrong, Heavy Rain does a lot right and I really hope more developers will try this kind of game in the future. With a little refinement this could be a fresh new style for gamers to enjoy.