The original Heavy Rain, released for the PlayStation 3 in 2010, positively blew gamers away. It presented itself as an interactive movie, and received universal acclaim for its originality, atmosphere, and for successfully blurring the line between video game and film thanks to bleeding edge visuals and performance capture.
A film noir-style thriller adventure, Heavy Rain followed four protagonists as their lives cross paths with a serial killer known as the Origami Killer. Hoping for a wide audience and perhaps even to introduce game averse movie fans to the medium, Quantic Dream kept the controls simple, but not easy.
Contextual button presses, quick time events, and Sixaxis motion flailing broke up sections that required some awful tank controls, but the ‘playable film’ emphasis and some clever movements that mimicked the on-screen action allowed the French developer to get away with what were largely off-putting input methods. In fact, many sections of the game were both challenging and exhilarating in spite of the dreaded QTEs.
Unsurprisingly for a narrative-heavy title, the main draw of Heavy Rain was choice and consequence: player's decisions and actions throughout the game shaped the story and led to one of several distinct outcomes, through which not all characters would survive.
Released to much acclaim and vastly exceeding sales expectations, it was nonetheless a flawed title in several respects, and unfortunately, time has only exacerbated the problems with writer-director David Cage’s first Sony exclusive.
While two or three voice actors give decent performances, the vast majority do a poor job. In particular, the French actors are barely able to hide their accents. Coupled with some stilted dialogue, this leads to many awkward and sometimes laughable performances.
The game’s plot, while still managing to keep players invested, containing more than a few plot holes. Dialogue is sometimes awkward, and facial animations jerky. Characters still possess that creepy, dead-eyed stare, and often transition through some weird expressions, almost like the character is having a stroke.
These faults did add to Heavy Rain’s B-movie charm back in the day, but next to performances like those in Telltale adventure series The Wolf Among Us or Campo Santo’s Firewatch, they are much less forgivable in the present.
The visuals – so important in this sort of game – have seen a large overhaul. Textures are much more detailed (particularly on faces), models are noticeably smoother, and the titular rain looks a lot less like a filter over the screen and a lot, well, heavier.
The screen tearing and frame rate issues that vexed the original have also been patched up in this remaster, so now things run at a smooth (but hardly breaktaking) 30fps. This may not be stellar by today’s standards, but the original suffered from sporadic moments of slowdown, so this is a marked improvement.
Not much else appears to have been touched, which is the case of the god awful tank controls is a travesty. Holding down R2 and using the left stick to steer just feels unwieldy, and the sudden shifting of camera angles often makes the character walk face-first into a wall or get stuck on furniture – something made all the more aggravating during sequences where time is of the essence. This was one of the biggest complaints players had with the original game, so it is just unfathomable why the controls were not fixed or tweaked in any way.
Yet Heavy Rain Remastered still has a certain appeal – enough that the overall experience skews positive, and that it can still be recommended with reservations for newcomers. But it can only be advocated for for the same reasons the original received praise, so for those that played on PS3, this reworking won’t justify the price tag.
However, Heavy Rain Remastered is also available bundled with Beyond: Two Souls Remastered, and at that discount price is worth it for those keen for a long look into the mind of David Cage. Just know that like Heavy Rain, that game’s problems were never that it wasn’t pretty enough, and as such, are unlikely to be rectified by a new coat of HD paint.