While the story is complex, actually playing Heavy Rain is quite simple. The controls and instructions are straightforward, and the game is mostly about making decisions. Before you get started, there are some options to customize how the game is presented.
When load Heavy Rain for the first time, you will be prompted to perform a system update to the 1.01 version, which includes a bug fix. After the patch, you will be prompted to adjust the brightness/darkness of the display, but moving the slider right or left until you can just barely see the crane within the black box. Afterward, the game itself will install, which takes quite a while. During this time you will see directions on how to fold the origami paper included with the game into the ubiquitous crane, features on the North American and PAL region cover art as well as throughout the game. Use to advance instruction screens and to go back. When the game finishes installing, you can proceed to the main menu.
Here you can start a new game, get downloadable content, see the game extras or fiddle with the game options. Heavy Rain has three save slots, on which you can play separate games. In options, you can adjust the brightness and darkness, change the volume for voices, music and sound effects, change the language for voices, subtitles and menus, and change the game difficulty. These options are also accessible from the pause menu during gameplay by pressing .
Extras contain any of the bonuses you unlock during the game and a list of the trophies you've acquired. The bonuses are awarded for completing chapters and performing certain in-game tasks. Trophies are unlocked in much the same way, and because of the divergent storyline, collecting all bonuses or trophies takes more than one play through.
There are three difficulty setting, described by how accustomed you are to playing video games. The difficulties range from only casually playing video games and hence unfamiliar with the game controller, to playing regularly and being well acquainted with the controller. The difficulty setting doesn't affect the story or ability to earn bonuses or trophies, so choose whichever one best describes your level of familiarity or ability. Lower difficulty settings will give you longer reaction time for timed button presses, reduce the amount of buttons you need to press at a time or during a sequence, and change most of the slowly unfolding movements to normal quick movements. If you feel like the gameplay is too difficult while playing, you can adjust the difficulty on the fly.
The game is auto-saved at certain points, indicated by the outline of the crane in the bottom right corner of the screen. Don't turn off the game while it is saving. If you're unhappy with how something turned out, you can go back and replay chapters. From the main menu, select the Chapters options and pick the one you want to do over. When you replay a chapter, you will have the option to save or not save. If you choose to save, it will affect later on in the story if you do something differently. If you choose not to save, you can just play through the game, and when you come back after quitting, you'll go back to your old save from before you began replaying chapters. You can still earn bonuses and trophies whether you decided to save your replay progress or not.