Heavy Rain is finally available on PC through the Epic Games Store nearly 10 years on from its original PlayStation 3 debut. In a sense, this release kind of feels like a homecoming as Heavy Rain began life as a PC and Xbox 360 release before being turned down by Microsoft for content concerns. After some talks with Sony, the game was released on PS3 in 2010 as an exclusive. It was this version I rented from the Blockbuster I was working for at the time and played through. Back then I had no kids and wasn’t married but still found the story of the Origami Killer to be an emotional ride. Playing the game again now after being married and having three kids has resulted in a much more dramatic experience!
A brutal killer known as the Origami Killer has abducted and killed 8 boys over the last 2 years. Unrest is at an all-time high and a new victim has just been taken! The hunt for the killer is on as four stranger’s lives become interconnected along the way. Ethan Mars, a father, wants to find his boy Shaun. Norman Jayden, the FBI profiler, wants to stop a killer before more lives are taken. Madison Paige, the journalist, is seeking the truth behind the killings. Scott Shelby, the private eye, is hired by the mothers of past victims to do what the police can’t and bring justice for their lost loved ones. Together they could solve the case of the Origami Killer once and for all!
Heavy Rain plays like an interactive movie and places a huge focus on narrative decisions and outcomes. As the game begins players will be introduced to Ethan Mars preparing for his son’s 10th birthday party. Here the basic gameplay functions and controls are explained. Players can control Ethan with a keyboard and mouse or a controller. For my main PC playthrough, I used the keyboard and mouse exclusively while dabbling with controllers on replays.
Unlike the PS3 and later PS4 version of the game, movement is not done by holding down the R2 button, even when using a DualShock 4 controller. Instead, all movement is handled in a more traditional way that should be pleasing to many. The new movement system does come with its own set of quirks though. It is also worth noting that the frustrating motion controls of the PS3/4 versions of the game have also been removed unless you decide to play the game with a DualShock 4, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Interacting with the game's environment is handled using the mouse or the right thumbstick. A prompt will appear above an object if it can be interacted with and will require players to do a deliberate motion to use. At various points throughout the game interactions will require taking objects from one area to another to trigger more prompts. Some interactions will also require the use of multiple keystrokes and/or mouse movements to complete. Outside of these interaction prompts the screen is kept clear of any type of HUD elements.
At any point, you can hold the right mouse button to bring up a character's thoughts. Pressing the corresponding keyboard key will have the character you’re currently playing as narrate that particular thought. Thoughts can be useful for trying to decide what to do when your next step might not be overly obvious. The extra depth you can glean from some of them is also a cool bonus! Some are also plain cheesy.
Conversations throughout the game play out virtually the same way as the thoughts menu. As a character converses different dialog options appear and you can select whichever one you want. Dialog options can lead to numerous outcomes for any given situation. At one point in the early chapters of the game, you can have Scott talk down a man attempting to rob a convenience store. Or, if things go south you can get into a fight with the robber that can result in the hospitalization or death of the store clerk.
Heavy Rain features various fight scenes that play out as quick time event sequences. Depending on your selected difficulty level, you have what seems like an eternity to complete prompts to just a single second or 2. Higher difficulty levels also throw new button combos into the mix to further trip up players. Failing on some of these fights can result in the death of your character. With a character dead, the outcome of the story can change dramatically and certain segments will be skipped entirely. Each character can die during a playthrough which can make doing alternate story runs interesting. And yes, there are quite a few endings for each character!
Once Jayden becomes playable late in chapter one, you will be introduced to the Added Reality Interface or ARI. ARI is a tool that is used to discover clues or other information at crime scenes including detecting blood samples or checking particles in the air. ARI also has access to a wealth of case information that you can later go back and analyze. Analyzed information can also be charted to a virtual map within ARI to further track down who the Origami Killer is. Early in the game we also get to see that ARI can be used for recreational purposes too! The use of ARI is a particularly cool plot point within Heavy Rain that I have enjoyed.
Speaking of plot, I don’t want to get too much into spoiler territory here since this PC release is bound to open the game to a whole new audience who may have missed out on either of the previous PlayStation only releases. But, each character is given depth and traits about them that I have really enjoyed. Ethan must do whatever it takes to save his son and will be pushed to see just how far he will go to accomplish this including numerous moral choices. Jayden has a drug addiction that can interfere with the way certain scenes play out. Madison is an insomniac who relives past traumas when she sleeps, only finding solace in motels. And Scott is dealing with asthma and past losses. Each character really brings their own spin to the story and I love it!
The PC version of Heavy Rain is based on the remastered version of the game released on PS4 in 2015. As such there are updated models and textures over the original 2010 PS3 game. That being said, you can tell this is an older game at its core. Textures are less sharp compared to modern games. Shadows are rough and the motion capture in use for characters can look a little dated at times. The few in-game pre-rendered cutscenes also look a little out of place with their lower quality compared to the nicer looking real-time assets. This is by far the best-looking version of Heavy Rain without a doubt, just keep expectations in check when you first load it up.
Numerous options for graphical quality have been added for the PC release including resolutions up to 4K, texture, shadow, reflection and model quality, anti-aliasing and ambient occlusion. An FPS limit is also included and can be set to lock the game to either 60 or 30 FPS. I experienced no stutters on my system with the 60 FPS lock, making the whole experience look buttery smooth! This version was also supposed to support ultra-wide monitors but selecting an ultra-wide resolution just turns out a pillar-boxed display sadly.
As for the audio work in Heavy Rain, where do I even begin? Let's start with the pros. The musical score provided by Normand Corbeil is exceptional with each character receiving their own unique sound and feel. Each moment of the story plays out with a perfect musical accompaniment to really drive home the emotion. Some of the recorded dialogue is also perfectly conveyed and delivered, mostly from the character of Scott Shelby. Unfortunately, the rest of the voice work can fall short at times and the emotions that should have been portrayed end up missing.
There are also various localization errors present throughout the game that can make certain conversations feel off for a game that is supposed to take place in America. I also have no idea what is going on with most of the child dialogue; it just sounds off at every line. At times the music can also overpower dialogue, which is a problem considering how important any piece of given dialogue can be to the overall story. I also wish they could have decided on a single way to say “origami” throughout the whole game.
As far as replayability goes, Heavy Rain can keep you occupied for multiple playthroughs. Each scene has different ways they can play out and one outcome could change what will happen in a later scene. On top of scene variations, there are also the numerous character endings that can be unlocked, with each character having at least 4 different endings, including one for each of them that includes their deaths. There are also different bonuses to unlock for finishing your playthrough which can include concept arts and “making of” videos!
What It Could Have Done Better
Despite this being the definitive version of the 2010 classic, Heavy Rain still has some issues I would have like to have seen fixed. There are different areas of the story where things are brought up and then just as quickly discarded. Like what the heck happened to Ethan’s blackouts?! The localization could have also used some refinements to help with dialogue in certain scenes. Of course, adding in new dialogue would require bringing in actors to re-record which falls outside the view of a simple port, but I can still hope! Upping the resolution of the pre-rendered cut-scenes would have also gone a long way to increase the overall presentation.
I also found the new keyboard movements to be a bit janky at times, with camera transitions really causing trouble. I also found certain key combos for interactions and QTE’s to be a bit uncomfortable, especially on higher difficulties when more keys are thrown into the mix. I have also had a ton of trouble getting controllers to work with the game despite there being compatibility for them. A majority of the time they won’t be detected by the game at all, which is what led to my keyboard-focused playthrough. I also have no idea what is up with Madison and her inability to walk onto sidewalks! Seriously I have had this issue pop up in 4 separate chapters and again on various replays of those chapters.
This is the best version of Heavy Rain available today with mostly improved controls when using a controller, and overall better graphics! I seriously wasn’t expecting the emotional rollercoaster this latest playthrough of Heavy Rain gave me. Even though I knew the story and I knew what could happen, the changes in my own life since 2010 resulted in each decision feeling more impactful. Some of the moral dilemmas you are given throughout the journey had me pausing the game to really dig deep and question what I would really do in that particular situation. I ended up getting sucked in so thoroughly I had to finish my first 9-hour playthrough of the PC version in a single sitting! If you are a fan of interactive storytelling or just love a good mystery, Heavy Rain can still deliver an enjoyable experience despite a few flaws. For the $20 asking price, I think the ride is more than worth it!