Here we are at number 3 in the top ten games of 2010, with Heavy Rain a definite fully deserved winner of this spot. No game has ever made us feel quite so connected to the story, with every action resulting in a consequence, often in the most unbelievable way, and where every emotion of every character can really have an effect on your decision making skills.
Never, and I mean never ever, has a video game or even a movie made me feel as sympathetic and connected to the characters as the absolutely immense and story-driven game that is Heavy Rain. To play from start to finish, reacting to the events of the game as if they were real events happening to you then and there, feeling the pressure your characters are under in multiple, heart-pounding situations, where even the slightest wrong twitch to the most panic-induced mistake can mean the difference between one of the characters in the story being killed off, or even simply changing the progress, pace, and outcome of the story entirely. Every action you take, and every decision you make, can mean the difference between life and death, a happy ending and a miserably depressing ending, and just knowing you have this kind of power to drastically affect the outcome of the lives of the characters in the game makes you think very long and hard about the majority of your decisions – and trust me, unless you have no conscience at all, you will definitely feel the pressure in the dozens of moments when you are expected to commit to an action with only seconds to make a decision. At times, the feeling of dread is absolutely horrible, but believe me when I say that this is meant in the best, most amazingly immersive way possible.
A game like Heavy Rain, one that forces you to make the toughest of decisions about very difficult scenarios, involving some very believable characters and a whole load of possible outcomes, really allows you to get a totally authentic feeling about what you might do if these things were actually happening to you. I can’t go into any detail without revealing anything in a spoilery fashion, but suffice to say, there are many times when you will go into the situation thinking ‘OK, this isn’t so bad, I’ll definitely do this’, but then when it comes to crunch time, and the pressure is on to make your decision, knowing that there’s no reloads, no checkpoints, and no way to backtrack, you will seriously start to question your initial plan again. Sounds like a simple case of re-assessment, right? Wrong, you might suddenly realize you aren’t sure what you want to do anymore, but you only have a matter of seconds to hurry up and do what you are going to do; the game does not wait for you, ever. If you don’t make a decision, and fast, then you will suffer the consequences, and you will lose control of the situation. Pretty much like real life, eh?
This isn’t your standard video game shoot em up or detective story, it’s a real, living, breathing story that ropes you right in and keeps you hooked until the climactic ending, one that can change in a dozen or so ways depending on how you chose to play, and not to mention its ability to change how you actually feel. That’s why Heavy Rain got number 3, and that’s why it’s absolutely effing awesome.
As a fan of Quantic Dream’s brilliant-but-flawed Fahrenheit, I had high expectations for its spiritual sequel and it absolutely did not disappoint. I can honestly say I’ve never become more emotionally involved with a game’s characters before Heavy Rain, and it ended up being one of the few games I played through twice in a row, from start to finish simply because I couldn’t allow myself to let it end the way it did on my first try. Of the 21 different end sequences (which form to make an overall ending) , I was left with the absolute worst combination possible. To say it depressed me doesn’t even come close. I felt sick. Everything that could go wrong had gone horribly wrong. Anybody with a PS3 needs to experience this game for what it does to you – I got the ending I deserved because I made bad decisions at key moments, and suffice to say on my second play through, with the power of hindsight, I got the absolute happiest ending possible, and I felt much better.
Technically, the game is unique. You’ll no doubt know that the game contains more quick-time-events than traditional gameplay, but don’t be put off until you’ve tried it. It feels like a movie, yes, but it retains the key ingredient of what separates films from games: interactivity. Each of the main characters are playable, and you make their choices, and you live with the consequences no matter how dire they may prove to be. Its no exaggeration to say entire chapters of the game may become inaccessible to you depending on how you handle certain situations, and that is astounding. A game like this takes a massive amount of effort to produce and to think that a huge chunk of your content may not even be experienced by the majority of players would make most developers cry.
Superior animation, all fully motion captured, mostly excellent voice acting, a fantastically gripping story with multiple paths and conclusions, and the emotional equivalent of being hit in the head with a sledgehammer (in my first experience, at least) makes Heavy Rain a stand-out title on the PS3. It fully deserves its place as one of the best games of 2010.