I remember when the PS3 had just been launched, and the Xbox 360 had been around for about a year — back when the term “next gen” was still being used frequently. A worryingly large contingent of gamers kept on whining about how “next gen” games were nothing more than “last gen” games with better graphics. It was quite grating to listen to after a while, but perhaps if they’d known games like Heavy Rain were on the way, it would have shut them up.
To tell the truth, Heavy Rain is hard to classify. It brings to mind the old term “interactive movie”, which over-zealous games writers used to apply to certain games over the last decade, even though they didn’t really deserve it. In the case of Heavy Rain, however, it holds true. In the past, if a game tried to be too movie-like, either the movie elements or the action game elements would suffer somehow, but Heavy Rain really is like a movie tightly integrated with an action game in a way that makes the best of both worlds.
[Note from the ed: The below paragraph contains spoilers of the events that occur in the first couple hours of the game. In the spirit of this game’s nature, I suggest that those who wish to preserve the experience of discovery rather skip to the next paragraph, marked with an asterisk. There’s also a bit in the first paragraph on the next page. Don’t say I didn’t warn you :P]
This interesting hybrid experience is delivered in the form of a compelling crime thriller. Ethan Mars is a happily married family man, but after losing one of his sons in a car accident, his marriage breaks up and he winds up sharing custody of his remaining son, Shaun, with his ex-wife. One day, while Ethan and Shaun are at a local park, Ethan looks away for a moment and Shaun is abducted by a notorious serial killer known as the Origami Killer. The Origami Killer’s trademark is that he drowns the boys he abducts in rain water and leaves their bodies near train tracks a few days later with an origami animal in their hands. A lesser known trait is that he likes to try and engage the fathers of his victims in a deadly game, daring them to complete a set of dangerous tasks to earn clues to their child’s whereabouts before it’s too late. Whether or not Ethan will be able to complete the Origami Killer’s sick challenge is entirely up to the player.
*In addition to Ethan, the player also gets to control three other characters. The first is Scott Shelby, an aging private detective who used to be a cop. He is apparently investigating the case of the Origami Killer at the request of the previous victim’s families. The next is Madison Paige, an insomniac who meets Ethan while he is struggling with the Origami Killer’s mystery. She claims to be a photographer for interior design magazines, and helps Ethan out because she cannot leave people in need alone. The last is Norman Jayden, an ambitious young FBI agent who is sent to help the local police track down the Origami Killer, using his advanced FBI techniques and cutting edge tools. He gets the feeling he is less than welcome among the cops of the town, and has a hard time dealing with their rough treatment of suspects and their slapshot investigative techniques.