This emotional interactive thriller, a PlayStation 3 exclusive, becomes the ultimate mature choose-your-own-adventure. Fast reaction times and a large screen are prerequisites as players dive into an immersive game world without the safety net of traditional extra lives and bonuses. There are no time limits either. Once your character dies, one of three other characters takes its place.
This highly replayable game incorporates information only when the players interact with it instead of the usual heads-up display (HUD). Developers float possible choices (in light colored text next to the corresponding controller button or sequence) among impressive graphics within the “Origami” serial killer storylines, set in the not so distant future of 2011 with past events occurring in 2010.
As these deep stories intertwine, separate actions and events (a.k.a. quick time events) change. Players get a wide result range amid an intriguing web revolving around the following four playable characters who all make their initial appearance in the corresponding order: family man Ethan Mars with his two sons Jason and Shaun, private investigator Scott Shelby, FBI criminal profiler Norman Jayden, and insomniac journalist Madison Paige. As the memorable Norman, you use a unique environmental interface, which enhances his environment and lets him easily sift through evidence, leads and information files.
You must learn about every character to make informed decisions plus these characters replace each other within the game should you fail and allow them to die. Movements become deliberate with a special button trigger instead of simply moving the analog stick, so you must carefully consider each step you take within a consequence-filled experience. The three different save files allow you exploratory opportunities without losing your progress.
The game adapts to your choices so the result becomes a personal reflection, so you get to invest and take ownership here for a deeper experience. The first time is always the most memorable, so play through the first time without any breaks. Expect a double-digit hour gameplay total to completely experience each scene and scenario.
The considerable replay value diminishes a bit because the eventual Origami killer is the same each time through. The developers will soon remedy this minor weakness by offering a series of stand-alone, playable short stories, occurring before or after the original plot, called Heavy Rain Chronicles. Each installment, beginning with The Taxidermist (releasing on April 1) with Madison as the main character, will be available for $4.99 each on the PlayStation Network. Can't wait for the likely sequel.
Heavy Rain is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for blood, intense violence, nudity, sexual content, strong language, and drug use.