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    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Review - Heavy Rain..

    Anyone familiar with Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit) would know that QuanticDream probably wanted to be in the movie business, but didn't make it somehow.. Despite the low quality 3D designs of the game, especially for a PlayStation 2 release, but the story sucks you right in.. Starting from the psychotic thriller of the first murder, Indigo Prophecy managed to deliver a trip like no other.. Well, maybe Metal Gear did that too, but Indigo was something different.. If you played it, you'd know..

    Now, Quantic's latest release, Heavy Rain, promises to top that experience, deliver it's self-designed genre to the next generation of graphics, and promise you a thrill of a life time.. Of course, i anticipated this game since the technical demo of E3 2006, and already vented on the ban of selling it, and finally found it for a lousy 360 SR (it was supposed to be 400, but i used my skills -may or may not included beating the guy-).. So, after all that trouble, after all the waiting for the game, and after a full 10+ hours of game play, Did QuanticDream deliver?

    The game starts you off real slow, trying to familiarize you with the different controls that you might face.. Even if you played the demo, the game won't pick up the pace until an hour in the story (give or take 15 minutes).. The slow parts are few, and very well placed along the story, so there's a really good balance.. However, whatever this journey has in store for you, you'll wish there would be more slow-paced parts, just to absorb what’s happening.. 

    What really makes this game a memorable experience is the decisions and choices you make along the road.. Putting in mind that your choices can affect the course of the story, the character development, AND how the characters link to each other, and that alone enriches the psychological part of the gaming experience.. And to make it even worse, the moral line between the choices given to you are not that clear (not like those "kill the hot chick" or "marry the hot chick"), and you might spend minutes pausing the game, trying to think if whatever choice you'll make is the right choice.. At one part of the story, you'll face some surprise decisions, so you might consider having some sharp attention to survive..

    My advice? to get the full experience out of the game, live as if you're the character, place yourself in their shoes, and DON'T repeat chapters that you didn't like their outcomes (Save that for the second time you play the game for trophies)..

    By now, you can notice the amount of details and thoughts put into the production of this release, and it sure paid off real well.. I seriously didn't think a single blurry can take in the amount of different story chains this story can grow into..

    The game play can be a bit troublesome at the beginning, especially with some illogical key combinations.. How you move the character didn't really sink well with me to be honest.. You're asked to keep holding the R2 button, and move your character with the left Analog stick (sounds like driving a car if you ask me.. oh wait, it IS how you drive a car on most games) so it took me some time to get used to.. By the time i reach half of the game, i almost understood why they chose it, since most of the story is driven by the director, and some action-sequence scenes require key combinations that can put you on an adrenaline rush.. But still, it was a bit corky, and i was bumping into allot of walls and wasting minutes trying to get the right direction right to look at an object or interact with one..

    But generally, you can't help but notice that many parts of the game is using a style reminiscent of point-and-click adventure games.. i really miss that genre of games, and this game was right on the spot, with a Hollywood flare.. Not as heavily loaded with puzzles though, since the story itself focuses on the story, and the story is nothing more than your average Hollywood thriller, the only difference, you're living it..

    Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit)

    Now, It's known that graphics don't make the game, it's the game that makes itself popular or not.. And though Indigo Prophecy proved that fact on the PlayStation 2 (have you even SEEN the graphics? they were badly rendered PlayStation One kind of stuff), Quantic Dreams surely tried to create a completely new high to a genre they already mastered (well, masters of their own design so to speak).. And compared to Indigo, Heavy Rain (which is a different story, by the way) is an extremely polished version of almost similar game play, and sure managed to leap forward in terms of graphics and directing..

    One thing I can say for sure, based on my limited knowledge (to avoid flame wars), the texture rendering of the game is by far the most realistic, most Highly Defined set of eye-candy visuals that you never saw on a console before (consoles, not PC's, so calm down).. Yes, it's THAT good.. At some points of the game, The scenes can look very VERY realistic, my eyes almost bled out adoring it.. Lighting in this game is very well designed and distributed, you can tell from a simple glance that whoever was involved in the process of the programming, really put his knowledge to work..

    However, to the claims that it actually floors Uncharted 2's graphics, they do in terms of texture at some parts, but in overall 3D environment, interaction with it and the level of details? Not the slightest chance, and here's why:

    • Some of the tools and elements (lighters, mobiles, weapons) used in the game seem pre-rendered 3D Max models, with no attention to their details.. I mean, the guy was drinking a bottle of water, and it was empty, and had a color for a label.. And the Remote, is like a block stolen from an Evermotion collection WITHOUT the texture maps..
    • The 3D modeling of the main characters, their hand movements during game play, the way they interact with objects around them (doors, closets, even fights), they're not very well programmed.. They seem off key at points, and some movements make them feel like dead 3D zombies.. If you notice closely, the surrounding none important characters are actually better programmed in terms of background interaction than the main characters of the story, and they have even better motion capture.. Actually, the background characters are the ones that make the background so alive and rich..

    • The lip syncing isn't rock solid, and you can't escape that old kung fu movie feeling when some characters talk to each other (voice and lip movement are WAY OFF), and the eye movements is really unnatural, which is scary at points when two characters talk, and you find an eye that strays away.. i actually thought some of the characters have lazy eyes, or were possessed or something..
    • Finally, the facial expressions of the character isn't really that well balanced.. At some points in the game they can seem almost Human like, and these are mostly in the main parts of the story and the main twists.. At some other points, they look very dull and Computer'ish, the kind of facial expressions you'd get in Oblivion or Fallout..

    As for the story itself and how its experienced, I'll break it into 4 different areas, because each has something that compensates for the downs of another:

    • The directing is superb, and has Hollywood all over it, which is probably why you'd get a feeling that QuanticDreams tried to be in Hollywood, and they're doing this trying to prove they got the skills.. The good point about the directing is that it's tailored completely for the player's experience..
    • The dialogue between the characters is convincing, but you can't help come across a couple of cheesy moments here and there.. However, the acting fits the genre of the story..
    • The plot of the story is filled with twists, head scratches and seat-jumps.. --Possible story-expectation spoilers-- BUT at some points, the game forces a sort of story development on you (like let's say you're asked to go to the bathroom, and you don't, you'd suddenly find yourself in a cut scene where you are in a bathroom, and so on).. And as the plot thickens, and the story starts to get to a point where you're anticipating, you'll end up with a "What?"..
    • The soundtrack is probably one of the most memorable and strongly-impacting musical experiences found in any major games.. The musical score is authentic, but not in a Zimmer or Shore kind of way, but it's good and fits all tastes, and best of all it's interactive.. The music develops and subsides with a natural flow with your movement and certain actions, and you won't notice the transitions since it will feel almost natural.. And like Indigo prophecy, when you turn on Radios and Stereos, they're showcasing some really good alternative rock tunes (probably from some indie group) and they're instrumental so you don't feel the curiosity of sitting around for the lyrics, like in Indigo's choice of Theory of a Deadman..

    To some who were expecting more of an action oriented platforming, or more running and jumping kind of platforming, you might have to reconsider playing this game, because it has to be cleared : This is NOT a game.. it's an interactive movie, with the limitations and freedom that is offered by your characters role in the story and it's development in the story, and most importantly, the part of the story you're in.. So before you set your expectations high, set them in the right place first.. The re-playing value however differs from one player to another..

    To some, it's a one time experience kind of game, and to others (like myself) i will go through it ONE more time just to see what can happen if i chose differently at some points (here is where the option to chose chapters, and the option to save progress or not in those chapters come in, because the options are too close to each other, you may want to consider what to choose.. Oh, and some scenes have a timer, and if you don’t react, suffer the out comes)..

    So, it boils down to the main question of the event.. Did they live up to the hype? Did they deliver? and was it worth the price tag (a bit hefty for Saudis)?

    Yes, a Yes and a Hell Yes.. Heavy Rain is a gaming milestone in it's own field, and an experience like no other delivered before (other than them of course).. So if you never played the first game, get ready for a mind blower.. But if you did, and you happen to be a PlayStation 3 gamer, then you don't want to miss it, if you’re welling to do some overlooking..

    Score: 7.5/10



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