It has been almost 10 years since Quantic Dream first released Heavy Rain for the PS3, and I was given the opportunity to try out the PC Release. Sometimes in life, you just get swept up in strange situations that are entirely beyond your control-a sentiment echoed throughout the narrative of Heavy Rain. When this game first released, I was in one of those situations myself, so I’m one of those rare gamers that has never had the opportunity to experience the rich story and industry-changing controls that the game had to offer. Going into this review, I’m extremely thankful that I had no nostalgia covering my eyes or previous biases to sway my opinions. This is our Heavy Rain review for PC.
Heavy Rain is a game that has always frequented our conversation in gamer circles, usually beloved for its rich narrative focus. As an outsider to the game, it has been increasingly harder as the years go by to actually admit to never having played it. The narrative-driven game was put on a high pedestal as one of the greats, how could I not have played it? Life. And sometimes, a lot of death. You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. Heavy Rain is ruled by this mindset.
The game is jump-started seemingly centered around one point of view, a man by the name of Ethan Mars and his family. There is a fairly lengthy tutorial at the beginning, explaining how you’ll move around and interact with the environment via mouse and keyboard. At first, I’m not going to lie, I was kind of digging it. It felt kind of nice to move my mouse in the direction to open a cabinet. Somehow, I felt more connected to it. But, as my journey through Ethan’s charming suburban home continued, I became a little more disgruntled with how the camera and ‘WASD’ keys functioned and started to feel the disconnect. Something about the movements just felt frustrating, and there were a lot of silly actions involved with fixing breakfast that probably weren’t necessary. There were some scenes where I struggled with maneuvering around just to find the door out. Still, I fought the urge to swap over to my gamepad controller, because I wanted to experience the game in its PC form.
Funnily enough, Ethan Mars isn’t the only protagonist that you’ll struggle with controlling. Three other main characters join the scene, all of which allow you to experience a unique point of view in the main story. Scott Shelby: a private investigator/retired police officer whose main goal is to find evidence about the Origami Killer. Madison Paige: an insomniac journalist who lives alone in the city and has frequent nightmares. Norman Jayden: a young FBI agent, who uses an experimental device known as the ARI (Added Reality Interface) and has a crippling addiction. Each of these characters is tied in a unique way to the Origami Killer. He is considered the main antagonist of the series and is also the mysterious dark figure that continues Ethan Mars’s descent into anxiety and depression with the kidnapping of his son, Shaun.
Right off the bat, the autonomy that this game gives you is kind of jarring. Personally, I’m not used to being given the option to legitimately walk away from a situation without being forced to be the hero. The details hidden in the environment were masterfully woven into the story, as well. In each scene there were objects you could interact with, that would give you fragments of information about the story or that would hint at information lying just underneath the surface. You absolutely did not have to pick these things up to progress, but they were placed in just the right spot to pique your curiosity. Ultimately, it’s these small details that tended to stay with you from scene to scene, driving your search for more clues and answers to the problems thrown in front of you. Again, it’s about how you react to your environment. What will you choose to do with the information given to you?
Many of the decisions you have to make are influenced by quick-time events or QTE’s. QTE’s call for engaging the ‘WASD’ keys or your mouse (sometimes both at the same time) in a timely, accurate manner, in order to have a positive outcome in a scenario. While this certainly gave many scenes that heightened a sense of urgency, I wasn’t completely a fan of it. With the mouse and keyboard controls already feeling somewhat ‘wonky’, I constantly felt on edge or disappointed when I couldn’t react quickly enough because I was engrossed in a detail in the cinematic or was paying attention to a line of text when I should have been more focused on pressing a button. With that being said, even the smallest decision you make can have a pretty hefty impact on your story. Heavy Rain doesn’t punish you with a “game over” screen. Instead, you have to live with the outcome of your decisions and push on to accept whatever consequences your failed actions have wrought on the people around you.
As a career-focused individual, with absolutely no interest in having children, this game still managed to hit me hard. The first night I really sunk into this game, I spent a lot of time immersing myself in the world. I made Ethan a cup of coffee, turned on the radio, and spent several long minutes exhausting every action I had to play with the kids. Yes, I even shook the orange juice and drank directly from the carton. As someone who loves analyzing how stories are constructed, I knew something felt wrong. It felt too safe, too secure, and too right. I knew this happiness wouldn’t last for long. After several more hours, when I inadvertently channeled my inner Madison’s insomnia and fell asleep, I actually had nightmares about being held at gunpoint and found myself deliberating about what I had to do next to get out of that situation. Heavy Rain’s story is the kind that really gets deep inside of you, latches on, and doesn’t let go. And I really appreciate that in a game. Though it has its own clunky controls on the PC, I found myself far too immersed in the storytelling to let that be something that made me put the game down.