Game review: "Heavy Rain"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

"Rain" often feels more like an interactive movie than a rock-em sock-em adventure title, which is appropriate as the story it tells is a personal one. The four main characters - a father who has lost both his sons, a woman struggling with her mental health, a drug-addicted FBI profiler and a dusty streetwise private investigator - are all realistically damaged people.

As players guide the actors through the story, timed button presses can result in the various scenes having vastly differing outcomes. Outcomes depend on if you're successfully executing the actions on screen in the appropriate time. This might seem like a tedious exercise at first, but the gameplay - it's sort of reminiscent of that Simon game from the '80s - manages to feel tense and challenging.

The setting is a generic American urban environment like New York or Chicago - or at least what someone who isn't from the U.S. and who only knows America from "Law & Order" re-runs might visualize.

It's brown and dingy, and while that's usually a negative, the fairly monochrome feel of the world augments the mood. The few scenes that include vibrant color really stand out as surreal thanks to the game's excellent visual design.

Characters are important to "Heavy Rain," so it's also fitting that the game depicts very realistic people. Emotion shows on their faces and in their body language throughout.

There are some minor issues with the story - it's slow to build, and the beginning scenes (as the game teaches you how to play) feel unimportant at first. Luckily, these scenes pay off later emotionally.

But where the game is weakest is in the script and voice acting. For a title that relies so heavily on the voice actors to build emotional sympathy, it's disappointing that the cast is obviously a collection of non-native English speakers.

And some of the script, while grammatically fine, smacks of translation. Cadences are off, and the characters' accents and pronunciations come and go unevenly.

Regardless, "Heavy Rain" is a groundbreaking attempt to bring emotive gameplay to the video game arena. The story's gripping and the visuals are incredible. Thanks to a wide variety of results, it also offers more replay value than many adventure titles.

"Heavy Rain"

System: Sony PS3

Price: $60

Players: 1

Rated: M for Mature

Who Should Buy it?: Mystery lovers

GameOn! Grade: A