Review: Heavy Rain Chronicles: Chapter 1 – The Taxidermist

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You all know I love Heavy Rain, right? Well, I do. Sadly, I can’t say the same for the first chapter in the Heavy Rain Chronicles DLC series, released yesterday on the PlayStation Store for $5 and previously made available as a free download for those who pre-ordered the complete game.

Chapter 1 of the Heavy Rain Chronicles, subtitled The Taxidermist, takes us back prior to the events of the main storyline, following journalist Madison Paige on one of her earlier investigations into a taxidermist who she believes could be the Origami Killer. Sound familiar? Well it is, because it’s the same thing as the demo scene that was used as a teaser back in 2008 when Heavy Rain was unveiled at the Leipzig Games Convention – I’ve embedded the old trailer further down the page to refresh your memory.

Generally speaking, The Taxidermist is every bit as tense and evocative as the full game, perhaps even more so as you search through the suspect’s house with creepy stuffed animals starring you down and happen upon a truly gruesome discovery. The chapter is paced brilliantly, and some incredible split-screen camera work makes the final sequence of attempting to sneak out of the house as the taxidermist comes home as suspenseful as any scene from the full game. Each scene has many different outcomes as well, so there is some fun to be had in replaying multiple times to experiment.

But that’s really all The Taxidermist is good for. There are five different “endings,” but each is nothing more than a newspaper headline describing the achieved outcome, so there’s very little satisfaction gained from replaying to see them all. The chapter adds nothing to the Heavy Rain story either, and the actress playing Madison sounds startlingly different from her final performance. Also a sign of the tech demo origins, the animation quality seems rougher around the edges than the main production.

Worse still, the chapter is absurdly short – I’m talking 10-20 minutes short. I completed my first play-through in less than 20 minutes, and I thoroughly searched every nook and cranny of the house and purposefully attempted to savor the experience for as long as I could. When it was over I literally muttered to myself aloud, “is that it?”

The Taxidermist can be seen as either a success or a failure, depending on what you look for in downloadable content and whether or not you got it as a pre-order freebie. As a standalone chapter, it is a compelling slice of Heavy Rain psychological adventuring and, like a demo, functions as an excellent teaser for the main game. But that’s all you’re getting here: a paid-for tech demo that fails to flesh out Madison’s back story or add anything of substance to the Heavy Rain storyline. Even $5 is too much to ask for that.

Now I can only hope that future chapters in the Heavy Rain Chronicles are more substantial…

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Pros:
+ Suspenseful pacing and atmosphere
+ Many ways to experiment with each scene

Cons:
– Short with little value, even at only $5
– Voice acting sounds off
– Not as polished as main game
– Adds nothing of substance to the Heavy Rain story

Game Info:
Platform: PS3
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Quantic Dream
Release Date: 4/1/2010
Genre: Adventure
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!