Ethan Mars seemed to have it all; a beautiful family, a steady, well-paying job and a happy life. That was until he lost one of his two sons in a car accident. The accident didn't just hurt his relationship with the family he had left, it cost him his job and his mental health as he tried putting the pieces together again for his one remaining son, Shaun. Then, on a fateful, rainy night sometime later the unthinkable happened. After having taken his remaining son to the playground for some afternoon fun on the carousel there, Ethan suffers from a blackout (an occurrence that started happening after the traumatic accident which left him comatose for months) and when he woke up, Shaun was gone and Ethan stood alone in the street with an origami sculpture in his hand - a foreboding sculpture indeed, with the so-called "origami killer" on the loose in the city.
Heavy Rain follows Mr. Mars as he tries to find out what happened to his son. A difficult feat, we quickly find out, as he is taken through a series of Saw-like torture puzzle scenarios in order to find his little one, ordered to do so by a mysterious individual through a series of origami-folded letters. Apart from following Ethan, the player also gets to play as three other individuals; Norman Jayden, the agent in charge of finding the Origami killer using his FBI-issued high-tech glasses; Scott Shelby, a private investigator looking into the murders; and Madison Paige, a journalist with a severe case of insomnia who helps one of the other characters out after waking up from a nightmare in the middle of the night.
The game has an interesting narrative arc, where the beginning of the game sets the tone of what's to come incredibly well, showing Ethan's "American dream" past, almost resembling a joyful life-simulation game at first, at least before things turn sour, which makes the narrative break hit hard when it actually does land. The multiple protagonists add to the narrative in an interesting way as well, with the player forming relationships with them all, molding them as they play through the game, essentially creating their personalities from scratch by making specific choices. Other than that, each and every one of the four playable characters could end up dead depending on the player's actions, yet the story will go on, potentially resulting in different outcomes for each playthrough.
Enough talk about the narrative and its arcs; when Quantic Dream's thrilling adventure Heavy Rain released for PlayStation 3 in 2010 it received well-deserved praise for its gripping narrative, its unique gameplay, and its branching storylines. With the game having just been re-released on PC, how well does the game hold up today?
Heavy Rain looks much like a playable movie, with the gameplay relying heavily on so-called quick-time events (QTEs), where the player will get a prompt on the screen displaying a button they have to press within a set time. In Heavy Rain, these prompts and their timers decide if your character lives or dies, resulting in the player sitting at the edge of his or her seat throughout the game. Say what you want about QTEs, Quantic Dream has built its legacy on this gameplay and the developer makes it work. The narrative is intense, as is the gameplay since the player can't relax or take their eyes off the screen when playing through a scene and this creates an incredible sense of immersion. After each encounter, the player is left wondering what could have been, no matter if the outcome was good or bad. The prompts differ from motion controls on the PS3 and PS4, but we still get slight and forceful analog stick movements, one can hold multiple inputs at once, and you'll be asked to tap buttons as and when required.
In the PlayStation version, the player moved around by looking in one direction while pressing down the right trigger to move. This eliminated the classic issue that comes along with ever-changing camera perspectives, where the character suddenly starts moving towards the camera after having previously been moving away from it, prompting the player to move around aimlessly for a while before finding the right way to tilt the analog stick. The feature we just mentioned has been removed in the PC version, so instead of holding a button to walk, you move with the analogue stick. This means the perspective-issue is back with the change and when playing with a keyboard and mouse, the issue was even more prevalent. It got so bad that we plugged our controller into our PC and prayed for the game to have controller support, which it did. While the option to use a controller certainly made things easier, we would have liked the game to have kept the "hold R2 to move" trick, but with that said, it's not bad enough to dwell on.
A piece of criticism that Heavy Rain received that was more than warranted was its voice acting, and that has not changed. The voice tracks are still incredibly strange and pull the player out of the otherwise immersive experience at times, but the PC release isn't a remake, so that's to be expected.
An issue we weren't expecting, however, was the drops in framerate that the PC version suffers from. The issues aren't there when actually playing the game, but the cutscenes suffer from, at times, crazy framerate issues where the visuals will freeze randomly. The PlayStation 4 version had these issues as well (although not as noticeable) while the original PlayStation 3 version did not, so somewhere in the porting process, something went wrong.
Other than that, however, the PC version runs smoothly, has the same gripping narrative, the same intense and satisfying gameplay, and the same intriguing cast of characters, but should you play it we recommend you do so with a controller because using a mouse and keyboard isn't the best way to experience this thrilling adventure.