Apr 6, 2011

[Games] Heavy Rain (PS3)

Heavy Rain (PS3)With the steady advance of video game technology in terms of capabilities, graphics and the kinds of experiences they're able to create. We've seen how the ability to create more and more realistic CGI has lead to similar improvements in movies and thus the march of CGI-animated pieces left and right (and the inevitable spread of 3D movies as well.

It has been often discussed how technology may reach point where we can create movies completely with "fake" or artificial characters. It's somewhat frightening how this is becoming more and more true and we've recently seen movies with younger versions of characters present like the recent Tron: Legacy movie. And we've seen better and better CGI movies like the interestingly realistic Beowulf and the naturally beautiful Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within. The wonders of technology indeed.

But at the same time, gaming technology has advanced to the point when the line between movies and games continues to blur more and more. The main difference beyond the similarity in terms of story, animation and voice acting is the element of interaction and involvement. And that's the kind of experience that games like this one now provide - and quite effectively too.

Heavy Rain is an adventure game released in 2010 exclusively for the PS3. It was created by Quantic Dream who also created the PS2 / Xbox classic, Indigo Prophecy.

The really does play out like a movie, in what more people tend to call interactive fiction. Think that this is like the radical next level of the Choose Your Own Adventure books or something. The game puts you in charge of four different characters as you go through the story and put the pieces together. The choices you make throughout the game and whether or not all characters survive will determine the ultimate outcome. Thus this creates more and more possibilities for how the story might play out, potentially promising a new "story" every time.

The story centers around a mysterious series of kidnappings of young children by someone the media tag as "The Origami Killer", since the boys are all eventually found dead with an origami figure in their hands. The killer always kidnaps a young boy during the rainy season and a few days later the boys are found dead due to drowning.

Ethan Mars, your first character, is the father of two boys of his own. But when his son Jason gets lost in a mall crowd only to get run over by a car shortly thereafter, it changes Ethan forever. He sinks into a deep depression over the next two years and then the game really begins with Ethan being estranged from his wife and with a similarly poor relationship with his other son, Shaun. Recently he's begun to suffer a series of blackouts until eventually Shaun disappears somehow and it is suspected that the Origami Killer may have targeted him next.

Other characters include Norman Jayden, an FBI profiler determined to solve the Origami Killer case, Madison Paige, a photojournalist who suffers from extreme insomnia and eventually finds herself following the case as well. And finally there's Scott Shelby, a retired police officer who is now a private investigator also investigating the case.

During some sequences, Heavy Rain (here with P...Image via WikipediaThe game is divided into multiple chapters where you get to control one of the four characters. This means you get to walk around whichever location he or she is in, interact with objects and other fun stuff. As you approach items or areas that you can interact with, various trigger commands will show up that you will need to follow in order to trigger the item. Some of them are pretty intuitive such as turning in the direction a door know opens or brushing your teeth following the same motion. Other actions get trickier such as holding down three separate keys in order to simulate carefully climbing up a slippery slope.

This may not seem like much of a "game", but add in the amazingly timing musical scoring, the dynamic camera shots and the overall mood created by the game and what you have is more than just a game. It truly is an interactive movie, one whose outcome changes with every step you take. The game provides for a lot of replay value since each chapter of sorts branches off into different paths depending on what your character does and what you manage to achieve - or what you fail to do.

The game truly turns the movie experience into a more immersive game experience without the need for other equipment. Why bother with the technology that leads to the old notion of virtual reality. Instead just focus on better in-game direction and conceptualization to make it more realistic and more importantly more relevant to the players. The game is pretty successful in making you associate or even relate to the characters and thus you end up fighting to save them as much as you can - or dreading the realization that you may have made a mistake here or there.

Heavy Rain is a game unlike most others that I've encountered and I'm glad that my partner and I got to enjoy it together. It gets 5 traumatic instances of self-mutilation out of a possible 5.

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