Heavy Rain review

  • One of the most stunningly believable game worlds to date
  • It's genuine emotionally affecting at times
  • You'll be engrossed
  • It's badly written
  • It feels a little smug at times
  • You'll hate it if you're an action junkie

It’s not the evolution of game narrative

Fact. However much Heavy Rain eschews the traditional A to B linearity of video game storytelling, the fact is that its stripped-down interaction mechanics make it much more an evolution of cinematic narrative than of video game storytelling. This isn’t a game where skills or problem solving will usually be required (more on that latter point in a bit). It’s a game in which you experience an unfolding story rather than play through it in the traditional sense.

Imagine a film in which you can reach in and touch the world you’re watching, or hear how certain events make the characters feel on a personal level. That’s what you’ve got in Heavy Rain. It’s a movie which uses interaction in order to create a greater connection and sense of empathy within its audience.

And in that respect, it works fantastically. You’ll feel a strong personal bond - even a relationship - with the game’s better-written characters. Their personal quirks and foibles become believable and reassuring and the sense of who they are as people is unquestionable.

Similarly, the already stunningly-rendered game world becomes all the more real for a bit of hands-on exploration. It’s amazing how much the mundane actions of digging through a fridge, taking a piss or even changing a baby’s nappy can add to your bond with the story, particularly when they’re completely optional.

The more visually cinematic Heavy Rain becomes, the more obvious its design philosophy is. Watching a split-screen image of a film protagonist struggling to escape a building while the enemy prepares to enter would be a tense experience already, but when the hero’s fate depends on your physically tense button mashes and stick flicks, it’s suspense on a whole new level.

Above: The perilous results of Heavy Rain's more demanding QTE inputs

The QTE commands frequently even approximate the physical actions your character has to make in the game world, further adding to the immersion, even if a few become so unnecessarily convoluted that you can occasionally run the risk of running out of fingers part way through. 'Augmented cinema' would probably be the best term to use to describe Heavy Rain, and as a sensory experience there’s nothing else like it around today.

It’s not an adventure game

Those of you hoping for a grand renaissance of the good old point-and-click are going to be disappointed. You see while Heavy Rain steadfastly follows the old genre trope of identifying and interacting with usable items and characters in the immediate environment, you’ll rarely ever have to think about what to do with them.

Rather than finding the right object to pass an obstacle, you’ll usually just investigate your surroundings until you find the element that moves the plot along. It’s no more taxing than eliminating the villagers with the filler dialogue in order to find the quest-giver in a JRPG. Need to find a route out of a locked room? Just fulfil the QTE requirements of each possible exit until you trigger the one that actually works.

Heavily beset by the enemy? Don’t go looking for a hidden weapon. Just hit the right QTE buttons as the scene plays out and things will roll along of their own accord. Heavy Rain is all about soaking up the rich atmosphere and intrigue of an evolving story. If you can reconcile yourself with being more of a passenger than a driver, you'll find yourself dragged into proceedings very quickly.

When the rare problem-solving sections do arise, they’re welcome indeed, and very well thought-out. There’s no need for awkward video game logic in Heavy Rain. Just think like a real person in a real situation and the answer will present itself pretty quickly.

It’s strange how such an innocuous and simple design decision can make a game so refreshing, but Heavy Rain’s problem-solving is logical, smooth and natural in a way few games ever manage.

It’s not just a great big cut-scene

While you won’t play through Heavy Rain’s world in a traditional sense (don’t expect to manually aim a gun any anyone, or navigate the environment as kinetically as Nathan Drake) , it’s actually a good deal more involving than you probably expect.

As you explore the potential of each environment you’ll have full manual control over your character. The control scheme is a strange blend of old-school Resident Evil and a driving game, in which you hold down R2 to walk in the currently-faced direction and use the left stick to turn your character in transit. Mercifully, all directions are relative to the player, not the character, and the fact that you only need to tap the left stick rather than hold it means that the system works very well in handling Heavy Rain’s automatically switching camera angles with the minimum of fuss.

The one drawback is that movement can be sluggish, with human beings feeling a little like dump trucks at times, while twitching around like over-zealous ballerinas at others. Certainly, there was one occasion in which we inadvertently sent our protagonist off on a whole new story thread just because we got arrested while spectacularly failing to manage to cross a road. Hardly heroic.

As for the numerous hands-off sections, in which your character’s actions play out automatically and your QTE inputs simply dictate the success or failure of a certain action, they feel much more immediate than you might expect. Thanks to some sharp cinematography, canny direction and the illusion of spontaneity afforded by the branching action scenes (even a successful fight can take two or three different directions before you win), Heavy Rain’s combinations of button taps and stick tweaks can feel as gratifying as lining up a headshot in real time.

More Info

Release date: Feb 23 2010 - PS3 (US)
Feb 26 2010 - PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: PS3
Genre: Adventure
Published by: SCEA
Developed by: Quantic Dream
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs
PEGI Rating:


  • PorcelainPoison - June 25, 2011 2:08 p.m.

    SPOILERS IMMINENT - I just completed this game and on my first run, managed to kill three out of four main characters along with Ethan's son and Scott Shelby's assistant Lauren. The Origami Killer, Scott, walked away whilst everyone else died. I'm pretty impressed with my FAIL. xd But I do like this game and 2 of my other friends do to. Comparing the shower scenes, however, I never realised how ridiculous it was at first but maybe the makers were pandering to the idiots, as it were, to score another point and another possible purchase? I don't know but it made me laugh. One things for sure though, I'll definately be playing again soon to get a better ending.
  • Darkhawk - February 11, 2011 3:13 a.m.

    I already liked GamesRadar, but it was this review that finally convinced me to turn to you guys for all future game information. While Heavy Rain gets Metacritic acclaim (they're doing their "publishers of the year" feature right now), it's nice to pull up an intelligent and realistic review on your site. Keep up the great work!
  • cj12297 - June 9, 2010 1:54 p.m.

    i thought it was really good and i think i know what plot hole you mean
  • midway007 - May 29, 2010 10:31 a.m.

    1 of my fav games of 2010 so far great graphics and soundtrack with a movie like feel and multiple endings but i wasnt too keen on the taxidermist episode though lets hope episode 2 be better :)
  • CrazieChris - May 18, 2010 8:58 a.m.

    I played the demo, its not bad. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, professional or not. Its a game point blank, no game is absolutely perfect. Cuz It always comes down to da money situation. Neways, I thought it was a nice change in gaming, I hope to c more like it. The idea of different results is great compared to once u played it u know wat will happen. Im goin to buy n trade it upon beating it cuz I heard it wasnt a very long game, cuz I definetly played worse. Id give it 3.5 out of 5. Later fellow members
  • silentassassin51 - April 13, 2010 2:18 a.m.

    I've gotta say this is the first Gamesradar review I was disappointed by. I've played through the game already, more than a few times and I like it a lot. And honestly, in my playthroughs I didn't really get this sense of pretentiousness everyone keeps talking about. Yeah, they call it "interactive drama" when it is, to its core, still a game. But god am I glad they're trying something different in a sea of samey garbage. I for one am sick of shooters, and the market is pretty freakin' crowded at the moment. But anyway. The sections with the gripes about story and all that jazz just sound like the complaints of "that guy" about a movie. You know, "that guy" who deconstructs each plot hole or just says something is "so unrealistic." Yeah, I caught all of them the first time through, but I didn't let them bother me. Sure, some of the scenes seem unreasonably acted, and no, I don't know what Norman Jayden's accent is supposed to be. But complaining about scene continuity is a little dangerous in a game like this, which offers a choice in almost every scene. Yahtzee Crowshaw didn't care for the story much either, and he too complained about the ending. But he qualified himself by saying that to do a game like this requires rewriting a scene many times. His game, which was to have six or so core choices would have had about sixty four different stories. A game with as many choices as heavy rains would have thousands. My point is that yeah, a few sequences slipped through the metaphorical story crack. But when so many were done right, I don't personally give a toss. And the complaint of "maturity?" Really? Yeah, that shower scene can be a two minute long boobstravaganza if you want it to be, but the controls for undressing Madison are the same as any other action in the game, and can be done just as fast. Is it unrealistic that a woman would be naked a) in the shower and b) in her own fucking bathroom? No. Bitching about that sequence reminds me of everyone who always complains you can beat a hooker to death in GTA. Yeah, you can do it, but you don't have to. It's totally up to the player. If you hit the first command in the shower you see her bare breasts for a brief moment, then she gets right out of the shower, just like Ethan. Poor taste would have been letting you walk around, or do the following (spoiler alert) fight sequence naked. Anyway I know no ones really going to read this but I wrote it anyway because I felt like it. In sum, loved the game, didn't really dig this review. But isn't that how it should be? hm.
  • wiljohannes - April 8, 2010 6:41 p.m.

    those voices and faces... just, not right.
  • madgoody - March 16, 2010 10:14 a.m.

    Worse game ever! I got this yesterday without reading any reviews and just going on a very well made TV ad- so my mistake i know. Yes the game is like a movie but trust me you would turn this movie off after 10 minutes! I did give the game longer than that but it was so dull, having a shower and playing with the kids isn't a game its life and its boring which is why we all play these games isn't it, to escape the boring lives we lead? No you cant make your decisions as promised its just another script, you cant even go where you want. I was expecting something in between GTA and Fallout and got something between The Trueman Show and a Church service, yawn. Maybe if you could slap your kids and get it on with your wife in the dining room, it would be slightly entertaining. If you do think this is a great game maybe you should look at your own lives because if mine was this dull, i'd be off to find a high bridge. For Sale one copy like new of Heavy Rain!
  • Clavius42 - March 9, 2010 4:03 a.m.

    Thanks for the brutally honest review of this not really brutal pseudo thriller. Three things to add to your Most Distracting list: 1) Ethan's repeated non-inflection calling out his son's name in the prologue 2) characters who can't run even when they're supposed to be in a hurry - nothing kills tension like a character just walking around while ominous music plays and the split screen shows the peril they're in 3) the insane button-mashing mini-games to do things like climb freakin' hills! The technology of Heavy Rain blew me away, but if this was a movie on Netflix, I'd give it one star...
  • garp94 - March 3, 2010 3:03 a.m.

    Got anything nice to say, GR?
  • ScruffMoney - February 27, 2010 11 p.m.

    God that was a long review but an enjoyable read. I agree with many of your points but still would've scored it higher. Personally I think it's a great game and experience and would love to see more like them, if perhaps a little better written.
  • SuperStingray - February 27, 2010 9:24 p.m.

    I loved this game simply because of it's interactive factor. Without it, it would really be nothing special. Not to spoil anything, but there is a scene where Ethan puts himself through intense pain. If I were watching a movie, I'd probably just cringe or close my eyes. But since I was the one doing it here, I actually felt the guilt and remorse of doing it. Say what you will of the story's quality, but it's a damn immersive game.
  • b-dog1991 - February 25, 2010 10:54 p.m.

    I would say the last 7 page of comment's are the reason why the industry needs games like Heavy Rain. It has, for better or worse, encouraged debate on the true form of games in general. And while it's obvious to forget, some of the greatest moments in games have come from cut-scenes, take MGS for example. Playing and watching Snake were blended in innovate ways where you still felt immersed in his adventure. Not to say Heavy Rain isn't interactive, just not in the sense we experience regularly. It's a shame then that it's exclusivity has put it under fire, because experiences like this are so uncommon amongst the glut of generic titles pumped out every week. Will we remember AVP or Dark Void in 5 years time, in the same way people getting misty eyed over Fahrenheit (sorry, Indigo Prophecy)? Here's hoping at least
  • Nerdlicious - February 25, 2010 5:38 a.m.

    Fine then..either an 8 or a 9 would suffice. It's amazing
  • TURbo - February 24, 2010 11:55 p.m.

    GamesRadar does not rate on a 20 pt scale. 9.5's aren't possible.
  • Ash1138 - February 24, 2010 9:03 p.m.

    Better than Indigo Prophecy; one of my favorite adventure games of all time? That's all I needed to know.
  • Nerdlicious - February 23, 2010 11:20 p.m.

    I would have to disagree strongly with the rating....give it a 9.5 at least! I know it's a jump from 7 but the game is not like any other game out there and it's so beautifully crafted not only in visuals and controls but in human emotion. I'm only 15% in and I cried and gasped! It has been keeping me on my toes at all times and my heart has been racing the entire time too! One thing I don't like about the game is the double standard of sexuality displayed. If I'm going to see a naked lady in the shower, or taking a piss- boobies and all, I'm going to want to see much more of the male then just a bare ass! Ethan Mars is a hot piece!!! (BTW is it just me or does Madison Paige remind you of Olivia Benson from SVU??)
  • maryjames2010 - February 23, 2010 7:47 p.m.

    Do you want a free PS3, if so, follow this link.
  • Anduin1 - February 23, 2010 6:11 a.m.

    Bias reeks within this review
  • Ironarm - February 23, 2010 3:01 a.m.

    Heavy Rain is my most anticipated games of the year, if not of all time. I'm completely ready for a totally different gaming experience, not just point and shoot gameplay. I can't really sit here and argue that Gamesradar is wrong about this review. It's their own professional opinion and I utterly respect that. I just know that this is going to be my type of game; a deep adult story with (hopefully) great acting and writing. (Like I said I'm not going to tell Gamesradar they are wrong, but I'm optimistic that the writing and acting won't be bad at all)

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