Under the Radar

I keep up to date with games, everyone who knows me knows this and that is why people come and ask me about what is coming out or if I have played a certain game.  I like to know what is coming out and research it a little to find out if it might be something that I’ll be interested in playing, I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at spotting what might be a popular game.  So why oh why is it possible that I completely missed out on noticing the impact that Heavy Rain would have on gaming and more importantly on how I view games?

I can't believe I nearly missed this game.
I can't believe I nearly missed this game

I had noticed all the previews and features in magazines about Heavy Rain but after a skim read I had decided that it wouldn’t be a game that I was interested in.  As far as I could see there was too much emphasis being put on how good the character models were and not necessarily enough being said about the actual game itself.  Right up until the game hit the shops I was totally oblivious to it, I didn’t even really know that it had been released.  I was on the phone to a friend who works in a game shop and was asking about another game when he said that he thought I would be wanting to pick up Heavy Rain. I told him that I wasn’t interested in it and left it at that.  In the following week I became acutely aware that there was great praise being heaped on the game so I started to pay attention, just a bit to start, and read some of the reviews to form a better idea of it.  I have an application on my iPhone that shows what is hot in the gaming world and in a very short time Heavy Rain was right up there, second only to Bad Company 2, I now had to take notice.  Of course I then noticed that Heavy Rain may be something quite special indeed when I couldn’t buy it anywhere, this is usually attributed to shops not being sent enough stock but a call to another friend in a game shop confirmed that the game was literally flying off the shelves, damn!

Is it graphics, is it real?
Is it graphics, is it real?

In some sort of fated moment my Tesco vouchers came in the post so I decided to see if they had Heavy Rain in stock (they hadn’t had any since it sold out on release), to my delight the game was in and I swiftly purchased it and looked forward to getting stuck in.  That night after all the chores were done and the wee one was tucked up in bed I fired up my Playstation 3 and started on the game that would change so many things for me.  First up I noticed how amazing the game looks and was struck by the level of detail in the character models, damn the previews were right, then I was utterly taken by the control method, it in no way mimics real life but gives you a sensation of more control than ever before.  As I played through the first few hours I was amazed at how doing everyday things could be so compelling, yes there are limits to what you can do but the manner and aplomb with which you do these things just hooked me in.  I was comparing this to the Shenmue series as I played along but then realised that it wasn’t fair to either games to do that, they do share the use of quick time events and a largely open world but the way in which they handle the subject matter are entirely different.  I soon realised that I was playing something very, very special and something that has now totally changed my perception of what makes a game good.  The next day at work I was talking to anyone that would listen about the most awesome game I’ve ever played and going into great detail about all the things I was able to do and how I was doing them.  That night I attempted to take some videos of the game running to show my workmates and even though the quality wasn’t brilliant I still enthused about what they were seeing; soon everyone wanted to try it out.

Can life really be a game?  Yes!
Can life really be a game? Yes!

I should explain to you how Heavy Rain has changed games for me and this will be quite hard to put in to words since it has affected me on so many levels.  First up the story is told like a great film and the genius part is that you can control the outcome of many different aspects of the game, all the characters are some of the most believable people I have ever encountered in a game.  You can see pain and anguish in the characters’ faces, especially the main protagonist, Ethan, you really can see the inner turmoil he is going through and I felt it very easy to sympathise with his situation.  The game also has many scenes/situations rarely handled in a game before and some of them are of truly nightmarish proportions, this was epitomised in the shopping mall scene which can be every parents’ worst nightmare.  Some of the decisions you have to deal with really do question your own morality and make you think about the repercussions that they may have for the rest of the game.  At times I felt emotional about what I was seeing and playing through and at times I felt true anger towards some of the characters – feelings that I have never encountered in games before and I liked it.  This didn’t feel like a game for the best part, this felt like it was the next step in the way many people perceive games and indeed gamers. I have no doubt that non-gamers would gain so much by playing through Heavy Rain; as much as gamers would.  My biggest regret at this point is that I have finished it and there is nothing else out there ready to go, there is a new chapter to download soon but I need more, I want to feel the feelings and emotions getting stirred up again, I now want all my gaming to make me feel like this.  I’m challenged, shocked, impressed and obsessed with a game that I almost never played.  For the record I never guessed who the killer was right up until the very end.  If you haven’t played Heavy Rain yet I urge you to give it a try, I’m sure it will change a lot of you too.







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