Hey, everyone remember Interactive Movies? Remember how much they all sucked? Well, Heavy Rain...doesn't! This isn't so much a game as it is an experience. The actual gameplay consists of QTEs, pushing R2 to walk, and swinging around the Six Axis. The first three chapters waste all this on microwaving dinners, or drawing pictures, or watching your kid get his dumb ass ran over. After that, however, the story picks up substantially, with the rest of the protagonists quickly jumping into the thick of things. Shelby is all about kicking ass and taking names. Jayden is the rookie FBI agent teamed up with an amoral sociopath. And Madison...doesn't do much of anything until the second half. Even Ethan, the dad with a hobo beard, starts taking a few dozen levels in Badass about two hours in. All of this is set to a depressing, and yet strangely hopeful, tale of redemption. Unless, of course, you want to play it for straight angst. That works, too. The real beauty, however, is in just how meticulously Quantic has structured the game's storyline. The whole thing about the story changing to match your actions isn't Blatant Lies like in Fable. Even if it's only an illusion, the game makes your everyday decisions seem important. Even those boring early chapters work in this way, showing a person's life before and after enormous tragedy. About three or four hours in, the game becomes more meticulous in its branching. Anyone Can Die becomes the Status Quo. Character motivations are thrown into question. Ethan's Saw-esque trials become more and more insidious. The final scene is almost totally different depending on who survived, who arrived at the right spot, and how the final battle goes. Everything just feels important, and in a video game, that's just about the best you can hope for. Heavy Rain is a slow game, taking time to build itself up. Those leery of QTEs really need not worry. The penalty for failure is pretty light most of the time, and it's actually fun to go through the various scenarios just to see what it'll change. If you have a PS 3, give this a go. Like I said, it's an experience, one that demands your attention and won't let go until the very last body has fallen.
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