Saturday, February 27, 2010

Heavy Rain reactions

----- NO SPOILERS -----

I've been looking forward to the PS3 game Heavy Rain for quite some time now. On my way home from work on Friday I stopped at Target to pick it up. The kid at the electronics register was super excited about the game too. Now, outside of the gaming community, very few people have the slightest clue what Heavy Rain is. This is why I've chosen to give my initial reactions to the game here online. Since I can't discuss the game with most others. Plus, for reasons to be explained, I can't really discuss it with the people who are playing the game.

It's my opinion that game developers, much like movie studios, have figured out a money making formula and will seldom deviate from that. And why would they? Money is money. In the movie world, big action adventures with tremendous special effects will be your meal ticket. Intriguing plot lines are irrelevant (see Avatar). If you know your movie can make $100 million or more, you're going to produce it. The same goes for video games. The top games year after year are first person shooters and the musical (see Rock Band and Guitar Hero) games. Personally, I've peaked as a faux-musician and I'm tired of shooting "enemies" in a variety of ways. I've played Uncharted 2 online for months now and have amassed something like 5000 kills of other online players. When is enough enough? When will the senseless killing end?

It is for this reason that I would support Heavy Rain, regardless of reviews. Heavy Rain is simply a complex, plot driven drama that intends to immerse you into the story line. For their risk taking alone, I am behind this game. Worst case, it will open the minds of some video game makers. Best case, it lives up to its tremendous hype and begins an entirely new genre of game.

As I give my reactions to the game, I won't give any spoilers that you wouldn't already know from seeing the game trailer:

I played for 5 hours on Friday evening to the point where I basically fell asleep due to exhaustion. Here are my initial thoughts beginning the next morning:

- The story line is compelling. Within the first hour I was immediately immersed in the characters.

- Don't play this game while you're tired. You have to think quick and act quicker. Often times when you're least expecting it.

- Most games allow you to save and go back to where you saved the game. This game forces you to make split second decisions and live with them. The resulting gameplay is based upon those decisions. For the first time in ages, I've felt a heightened sense of thrill while weaving my way through the story, knowing my decisions could be permanent to the outcome.

- (VERY MINOR SPOILER if you haven't seen the trailers) Within the first hour or two of the game, I suggested they market the game as "Heavy Rain: Where you can suck as a dad even in your fantasy life."

- Music is often under appreciated in games. Heavy Rain is no exception. The music immerses you in the moment.

- The first time through the game, you have no idea how your decisions are affecting the subsequent gameplay. Honestly, I have no idea if my decisions play any role in the overall game. It seems like they do.

- Which brings us to the question of replay-ability. If I play this again, will I get a completely different story? Or is the story basically the same with the illusion of choice?

- When you install the game, there are instructions on how to make oragami. In fact, they give you a piece of oragami in the game box. My oragami is sitting in front of the TV. One of those neat little extras that make the experience just a little bit better.

- My brother and I are comparing notes over IM right now. Since we don't want to spoil each others' game, we have to ask "How many inches of rain have fallen in your game?" That's the best way we've figured out how to compare our progress without ruining anything.

- Based on our vague conversations, certain scenes played out differently for us purely upon our skill and/or decisions. This alone has me excited for a replay of the game.