Monday, November 7, 2011

Heavy Rain Review

I take a long time to play games. I think I pretty much have to be the slowest player in the history of the world. Also, I only just recently got a PS3, so now I have access to PS3 exclusives. Yay! Because there's a nice little stable of games I've been jonesing to play.

Heavy Rain was, in a word, awesome! I've never played a game in one day, but man, I could not put the controller down.

The Good
  • Ridiculously beautiful graphics. The background, the shadows, the facial details and expressions-- I get the feeling that this is what L.A. Noire wanted to be. 
  • Storyline was engaging and captivating. 
  • Loved that I got to play as multiple, distinct characters. Again, I can't resist a comparison to L.A. Noire, where I got to play as two characters but they were pretty much cookie cutter personalities. 
  • Great atmospheric build-up. Spooky in places without being cheap and without reverting to tired cliches.
  • Good character acting/voicing. 
The Bad
  • The controls, the controls, and the controls! I can't say enough bad things about the control scheme. In fact, I have to break out of bullet points here. 
So, I play a lot of 1st and 3rd person shooters. I can't remember a game that didn't follow the basic controller layout of one joystick controlling movement (usually the left), and a button, like R1 or R2, adding some additional feature like running or sprinting or parkor (Assassin's Creed). In Heavy Rain, the R2 button moves the character forward, and you guide their direction with the left joystick. This took a little adjusting, but I eventually got used to it.

What was impossible to get used to was the slow response the characters had to the controller action. I found myself trying 4 and 5 times to do something silly like open a drawer. They employ the game play element of having contextual actions pop up when you are in the vicinity of something upon which the action can be performed. You go by a dresser and if the drawers can be opened an open action appears. I had to often pass back and forth several times to get the character to stop when the context action popped up because he/she would overshoot it. This is especially annoying during one of the game's many time-sensitive scenes.

Also frustrating was the use of on-screen prompts that you had to react to quickly during action sequences. In order to complete a fight scene, for example, button symbols would pop up on the screen, and you had to push the corresponding button on your controller in the appropriate manner in time. It was like playing Guitar Hero, but with a lot more variation to the buttons. Not only did you have to register that there was a triangle followed by a square followed by L1, but you also had to remember that if L1 was blinking you needed to push it repeatedly, and that if the triangle button looked a certain way it meant to hold it down-- little things like that got very frustrating when it screwed up the outcome of scene. Combine that with the fact that you can't save on demand and you've got a controller-throwing situation.

Not only can you not save on demand, you can also only save one game at a time. I'm a big fan of having several different save points in a game so that I have a lot of options for going back and replaying some part (you should see my saves for Mass Effect 2). You no such option here. I actually completely boffed one of the aforementioned Guitar Hero-esque scenes, and before I could quit out of the game and go back to the previous save point the game had saved it for me, so I had no choice but to continue on. Really unhappy about that.

Despite those flaws, the game was an excellent way to spend a day. I heard rumors about a sequel. I will definitely be lining up to buy it.

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