Nearly 10 years ago, Quantic Dream released their psychological thriller HEAVY RAIN on PlayStation 3. The mature-rated title was an acquired taste due to its unorthodox control scheme, which has come to define the developer’s future titles, but it delivered an enjoyable mystery for players to solve. Now for the first time ever, the David Cage directed title can be played on a non-Sony platform since the French studio are beginning to release its back catalog on the Epic Games Store. And while its roots are still based in its awkward PS3 days, it’s still quite an engrossing yet flawed experience.
The narrative-focused game features four separate protagonists that are attempting to track down the mysterious Origami Killer, a person that abducts small boys and then forces them to drown from accumulation of rain. The case winds up being most personal for Ethan Mars, the latest father to have their son taken from them by the deranged abductor. However, hope is not totally lost as the killer asks him to perform a number of challenges in order to prove he’s worthy of being a father.
Mars’ life wasn’t always so dramatic and that’s why Heavy Rain‘s opening moments are still quite effective. Rather than going through Saw-style tests and looking for clues, the game opens with Mars preparing a birthday party for his youngest son, Jason. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, and the house is filled with distractions to interact with as there are radio-controlled cars to be played with, plates to be set, and much more to do. It’s a small slice of normalcy in a game that barely has that and it juxtaposes nicely with the traumatic and dramatic scenes that follow.
Heavy Rain PC Review | Press 1 to Jason
It’s this opening section where players are introduced to the game’s unique control scheme as well. While players have control of the character’s movement, all of their actions are done through quick-time events and mouse movements. So the player will have to walk near it and then make a right quarter-circle motion upward with their mouse to do something simple like open up a cabinet door. It’s a bit strange at first, but it definitely gives Heavy Rain its own identity from a gameplay perspective and it’s been used in both Detroit: Become Human and Beyond: Two Souls since then.
However, the mouse and keyboard is not the best way to experience Heavy Rain due to how goofy it can be at times to perform the desired mouse movements. For example, if you want Mars to enjoy some orange juice (it’s part of a balanced breakfast, after all) then you have to awkwardly shake your mouse back and forth in a comical nature. Rather than simply using your thumb to move an analog stick, you’re using your entire arm to perform the task. It doesn’t make the player feel more connected to their in-game avatar, it just makes them feel like a bit of a dork while they are trying to enjoy this deathly serious story.
Other than that one caveat, Heavy Rain has transitioned quite nicely to personal computers. The quick-time event sections use the “WASD” keys that the player already uses to move, and conversation is handled by the top row of numbers. So, that means you’ll press “1” to call out “Jason!” in the game’s infamous opening section that has been immortalized as a meme despite its serious nature. Despite how comical the game can unintentionally be at times, which isn’t helped by how bizarrely some of the voice actors speak English, it’s hard to not be intrigued by Cage’s mystery.
It’s not exactly And Then There Were None as far as mysteries go, but Heavy Rain is still better than most attempts at telling a serious narrative in gaming. By focusing on a human conflict and the connection a father has with their child, it is not brought down by poorly handling complex themes like Detroit was. All-around, it’s Cage’s strongest story to date and one that is still entertaining in 2019 even if there are some overly cheesy scenes and weak dialogue by a bunch of C-actors doing their best. And that effort, despite its sometimes shaky execution, is admirable.
The choice-laden storytelling, however, isn’t as impressive now as it was then. This sort of game storytelling was more refreshing in 2010 before there were 20 Telltale games and other games (like Until Dawn) doing something in the same vein. Given how the novelty has worn out a bit of its welcome, making choices and seeing their consequences doesn’t stick now as much as it did then. It still works here and there are a few interesting choices, particularly the more gnarly stuff, but it’s not as much of a highlight when viewed through a modern lens. Although Heavy Rain‘s lack of a “Game Over” and willingness to push on after failure still holds up as not as many games commit that hard to the branching narrative concept.
Heavy Rain PC Review | Where did the taxidermist go?
One other disappointment with the PC release is that it’s missing Heavy Rain‘s lone DLC chapter, Heavy Rain Chronicles Episode 1: The Taxidermist. The decision to not include it is understandable as it was meant to be one of several additional chapters that would build upon the core game’s stories, but it’s easily one of the best moments of the game. Focusing on escaping from a different serial killer’s house without being harmed is a novel task that benefits from the game’s litany of choices and consequences. It’s dramatic fun, explains why the protagonist Madison is so skittish, and works great as a standalone experience. So, it sucks that it’s not included here or the 2016 PS4 version.
While the Heavy Rain PC port is solid for the most part, I did run into a few technical issues during my playthrough. The game crashed several times after freezing between the chapter transitions. The scene would continue to play even after the visuals would lock up before it would eventually boot me to the desktop. This isn’t a huge deal with how infrequently it happened, but it’s certainly an annoyance. It’s also worth mentioning that Heavy Rain shows its age in spots due to some dated, ugly textures. The character models all look better than ever, as you can see in the loading screens, but their quality further points out some of the game’s more archaic visuals.
Despite having some awkward control quirks while playing with a mouse and keyboard, the PC version of Heavy Rain is just as solid as the PlayStation 4 re-release. Both versions look superior to the PS3 original, but still have a few issues that make none of them the definitive way to play David Cage’s best title. The important distinction here is that this is now playable outside of the PlayStation ecosystem for the first time ever, so it’s being introduced to a new audience. For them, it’s a totally serviceable way to track down the Origami, Origammy, and Origarmy Killer.
GameRevolution reviewed Heavy Rain on PC with a copy provided by the publisher.