Some might disagree that a PC port merits a full review. A port report would probably be more to the point, especially if the reviewer already played the console version. In this case, it's the exact opposite. I only played Heavy Rain for an hour or so back in 2011, and it was on a borrowed PlayStation 3. I found the controls completely absurd and decided to play something else. Since then, I've heard a lot of things about it and sometimes felt curious to give it another try. Different endings in RPGs and adventures are always fascinating to me, and that's ultimately what Heavy Rain specializes in as an interactive drama thriller with four playable characters.
If you've already played the PlayStation 3 and/or PlayStation 4 version, you won't miss anything. In fact, you'll probably hate the PC controls as much as I hated the PlayStation controls. Not that I loved the PC controls either, but I did think they make more sense. The graphical enhancements are also not exactly noticeable in comparison with the PlayStation 4 version. If you're not that into graphics, you won't really miss the option to turn up whatever anti-aliasing is. While Heavy Rain does look pretty decent for a near-10-year-old game, that's not why you'll want to play it.
Controls, Interactions, Mechanics in Heavy Rain
Quick Time Events (QTEs) are generally poor gameplay design, or so designers say these days. The reason for that is that they make players feel like trained monkeys. Just press the buttons in the right sequence like you're told. Heavy Rain does have quite a bit of that, and that's one of its flaws. However, it's more complex than just pressing Triangle, Circle, Cross, or Square (or the keyboard equivalent). You'll have to use directions very often as well, matching your mouse movements and clicks with other keys. Sometimes it can be kind of fun. Most of the time you're still just a trained monkey, sadly.
The character movement can be quite awkward, as it usually happens with a third-person perspective in confined spaces. You'll run into walls and objects very often as you try to get your characters where they have to be. You'll also have to change the direction where your character should be moving as the camera perspective shifts. It's not a big problem, but it's there, and you'll encounter it enough that it might become annoying. If you're already used to gaming with a controller, it's probably better to use one instead of mouse and keyboard.
A lot of side interactions are so pointless you have to wonder why developers would waste resources on something like that. You can shake the orange juice in a box and juggle balls or apples. Or you can sit on chairs and open empty wardrobes, cabinets, drawers. The game tries to simulate actions like starting a car, which is entirely pointless. There is one car chase scene, but that is just QTEs with directions. It just seems like the player could have a bit more agency than performing these pointless actions.
Choices & Consequences in Heavy Rain
There is a good deal of player agency in the choices you make along the way. Some of it is quite subtle and hard to notice, especially when it comes to the investigation segments. After all, you'll be playing four different player characters, with different points of view and approaches. Some of the choices and details hinge on some QTE segments as well. You'll need a keen eye to notice some details, and that's where Heavy Rain stands out. The show doesn't stop if you mess it up or miss something. The branching narrative design is robust enough to handle even deaths of player characters and their consequences.
If you let your characters die, you'll not only get fewer pieces of the puzzle, you'll miss chapters. I've always found it much more interesting to have in-game consequences to my actions like that, rather than in the ending scenes or slides. A lot of great RPGs and adventures fall short in that sense, not showing you how your choices affect the in-game world and overall narrative. It's definitely more challenging to design, and most likely more expensive, but it's no doubt the best use of the gaming medium. Punish me for my choices, go ahead, but don't leave it to the ending. It won't really matter much then.
Heavy Rain's Interactive and Passive Drama
Now, there's been a lot of talk over the years about David Cage's writing. And I finally see it. It can be hilariously ham-fisted and just plain awful in many parts. It's fine to make use of tropes, but you have to be aware of clichés as you do it. Not to mention there are way too many coincidences happening all over the place, and some characters seem brain-dead, with ridiculous motivations at times. Then again, it's not that much different from Kojima, who's also one of those eccentric auteurs trying to make high-flown cinematic games. It just goes with the territory, I suppose, and I've learned not to expect anything else. This way I can enjoy it for what it is.
That said, there's some impressive raw drama here in quite a few scenes. Even if the character development is often textbook (flawed heroes overcoming limitations, and so on), Heavy Rain manages to stay interesting across a whole playthrough. And again, this is almost a decade-old game, but the animation can still convey a decent emotional impact. Sure, the characters look a bit dead-eyed most of the time, but, depending on your choices, you might see some powerful scenes. The voice acting is just as uneven as the animation and the writing, but mostly cringe-free, at least for me.
So why should you play Heavy Rain on PC?
If you're mainly a PC gamer, there's a wicked pleasure in finally getting a console exclusive on your platform of choice. Now if you ever want to play the game in the future you can just log into your digital library of choice, download and play it, most likely even on substandard hardware. And Heavy Rain was clearly ported with that in mind, with a consistent set of graphical options that make it mostly future-proof. You'll easily run it on any computer you happen to own for a new playthrough.
Apart from that, it does look decent as a whole, though the noir scenarios and the constant rain are rather drab. Most of the textures look excellent, especially on character models. While the facial animation does look stiff if you compare it to recent games, it's not that noticeable. Most of the time I was able to forget that I was playing a game from 2010, and that's a feat in itself. There are flaws everywhere, but you can't deny that Quantic Dream developers know their stuff. From a technological standpoint, Heavy Rain does look dated, but it remains compelling as an interactive drama.
Heavy Rain Review | A Proper Port
While you won't find Heavy Rain anywhere near my top ten list of favorite games, I really enjoyed it for what it is. It speaks to my love of branching narratives with choices and consequences, and my appreciation for attention to detail. It may be not the best game at it, but it does achieve a meaningful and compelling experience. I'd love another game where you can play as Norman Jayden investigating crimes and mysteries. And while there are a couple of technical flaws with this PC port, mainly with a stuttering frame rate in the late game, it's sturdy enough overall. It's definitely worth the current price tag, even if you won't get more than 15 hours worth of playtime on a single playthrough.
Most of all, it's great to see Heavy Rain finally joining its kindred titles Omikron: The Nomad Soul and Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy) on PC, though sadly not on GOG (yet?). Soon we'll also see PC ports of Beyond: Two Souls and Detroit: Become Human. It's laudable to see a developer like Quantic Dream committing to port its games like this, though we can see why they were console exclusives first. Heavy Rain does a decent job of getting the foot in the door, and hopefully, it will set a standard for other PC ports of console exclusives.
TechRaptor reviewed Heavy Rain on PC via the Epic Games Store with a code provided by the developer.
- Compelling Branching Narrative
- Some Impressive Raw Drama
- Pointless Interactions and Unorthodox Controls
- Slipshod Writing