My review of Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain for PlayStation 3 will appear in Tuesday's paper but it's alreay online. Here's the condensed version: It's wonderfully original and well worth checking out.
However, it's also a very different breed of interactive entertainment.
Having spent the better part of a week with it, I've come up with a handful of suggestions to consider prior to playing that will help you get the most out of your time with Heavy Rain.
1. Select an appropriate difficulty level.
You can select difficulty based on your familiarity with the PlayStation 3 controller. Don't be a hero and choose the hardest setting simply because you want a challenge. Even veteran gamers will make their fair share of mistakes on the hardest setting, and any of them could mean the death of a character. Plus, there are some scenes that are essentially Twister for your hands, requiring players to press half a dozen buttons at once. Shame compels me to admit that at one point I actually used my nose and tongue to hold down all the required buttons. It didn't work. The moral: Play at your level, not above it.
2. It starts slowly, but stick with it.
Early scenes progress at a snail's pace, but they're important for two reasons. First, they familiarize players with the game's unique contextual controls-something you'll be thankful for later on. Second, they're required to set the stage for emotionally charged sequences that come later. Think of it like a movie in which viewers get to know their protagonists before troubles beset them.
3. Do what your character would do, not what a gamer would do.
Some games demand that players investigate every accessible area in their environment. This is not one of those games. Nor should it be. If you've just pulled up in front of a house, then clearly that house is your focus. Don't bother wandering off down the street. You'll only get a couple dozen paces before the game cuts to a scene of your character looking confused and turning around. It will impact your suspension of disbelief, and not in a positive way.
4. Let the game run its course.
That's my way of saying don't switch off your system every time something goes wrong. If you do, you'll cheat yourself of the game's primary strength: It's organic, seamlessly flowing narrative. The game and story were designed to be played without any restarts. Remember, even if something goes terribly awry you can always...
5. Play again.
This is a game that all but demands a second-maybe even a third-play. Not only will you earn different (and perhaps happier) endings, you'll likely experience new scenes that your actions the first time around caused you to skip. Even if you played flawlessly the first time through you can still see new things simply by making different decisions. The story may only last about ten hours, but many players will triple that time with repeat play-throughs.
Have fun with this one, folks. It's a treat.
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