Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Quantic Dream
Release Date: February 23, 2010
ESRB: Mature 17+
This would have been an excellent game if not for major story flaws.
Gezegond Score: 7.5
Pros: Features the best possible gameplay for storytelling • Story is fantastic in the middle of the game • Characters look real and are animated well
Cons: Plot holes • Plot inconsistencies • Disappointing ending
Not immersed enough yet? Another immersing aspect in gameplay is what I’d like to call “object button mapping”. See, in most games, each button represents an action. For instance, by pressing x, you kick. I call this “action button mapping”. In “object button mapping” however, each button is mapped to an “object”, such as one of the character’s limbs, or the camera. While the former is more practical and suited for complex gameplay styles, the latter immerses the player in the environment better, meaning each has its own particular use.
In Heavy Rain, the developers have made the right choice to use “object button mapping”: The left analog stick represents your neck, and by moving it you look around, moving the camera accordingly as well as your head. R2 represents your feet, and by pressing it you move in the direction your head is facing. So if you want to turn right for instance, you use the left analog stick to tilt your character’s head to right, and then press R2 to move in that direction. While this might sound too unnecessarily complex, it does a great job at immersing you in the game, and you’ll quickly get used to it because it makes sense. The right analog stick represents your hands, and you use it to perform various gestures that utilize your hands. Moreover, L2 represents you mind, L1 flips between the 2 camera views at each scene, and your controller on the whole represents the character’s entire body (for use in sixaxis motion gestures).
All of the above add up together to make a truly wonderful immersive gameplay style, making this the best method I have ever seen for telling a story in a game so far. This is the sort of meaningful innovation I’d like to see in more games, and I wholeheartedly praise Heavy Rain for it.
There are two more things I’d like to talk about here. First are the extras. Going through the game you unlock 7 concept art galleries and 3 “making of” videos. The most important aspect of the videos is that they show the real actors who the characters are modeled after. I thought the characters looked artificial so I was surprised to see how much they resemble their real actors. The only one that looked a bit different was the FBI agent, which I thought had the least artificial model! Turns out I find realism unreal. The concept art gallery, while not so attractive to regular gamers, is definitely a plus for people who’re interested in art or game design.
And so we reach the most important aspect of Heavy Rain: the characters and the story. All of the technology, the gameplay, the level of details, and everything I talked about up until now were merely tools for presenting the story. Given the importance it carries, I regret to tell you that the story unfortunately falls short. Very short. Let’s get to it, shall we?
The story revolves around the “Origami Killer”, a serial killer targeting young boys, leaving an orchid and an origami figure on the bodies of his victims. The story is told through the perspective of 4 different characters that are all in some way related to the origami killer. Each of these characters has their own story theme and gameplay style.
Ethan Mars, the main character, has his son kidnapped early on the game. His side of the story is full of intense emotions, usually pain and confusion. The origami killer demands him to do harm either to others or to himself in exchange of his son’s life, leading to a lot of painful decisions he must make. This decision making makes the bulk of his gameplay style.
The story is actually quite good and would be outstanding if not for its major flaws. Let’s start with the weak introduction: The first 30 minutes of the game is dedicated to showing you how to play the game, and in those 30 minutes the story is very thin and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Actually, let me rephrase that: it doesn’t make any sense. For example, in the first chapter Ethan’s son suddenly “teleports” upstairs (I can’t think of any other way he could go there that fast) to… find his bird dead. Did he kill the bird? Did the bird die on its own? What is the reason we should know or care about the bird at all? It doesn’t have anything to do with the story, and the lines are so bad that it doesn’t contribute to the development of characters at all. My only guess is that it’s just a failed attempt at sounding deep and metaphorical.
Or in the second chapter, when his other son decides to wander off in the mall despite him warning him not to do so several times. After finally finding his son, he rewards him with by buying him a balloon, after which he wanders off again despite his father telling him firmly not to do so two times. Instead of getting angry and going after him and bringing him back, Ethan spends a whole minute trying to find his wallet to pay for the balloon. Wtf?
The problem with the story however, is that there are two flaws that are always present: First, the plot holes. There are a lot of things that go unexplained in Heavy Rain. Unfortunately, I can’t elaborate more or I would be spoiling the story, but there are events that happen but never explained why. Similar to the bird in the introduction, you might think that these have something to do with the story, but then the story goes on and on until it’s finished and they’re left unexplained.
The second flaw, which was my biggest gripe with the game, was the inconsistencies. Ethan has some blackouts early on in the game and they seem to be really important. They also have strong hints about the identity of the Origami Killer. However, once a couple of them occur, they just stop happening out of the blue and then the plot takes another direction and a bit later it’s like the writers forgot that blackouts happened at all. Not only are they not addressed, they are never mentioned again.
And finally, my second major gripe was the ending. The ending was… how should I put it? Pointless. And Meaningless. I don’t want to spoil it so imagine a mystery murder case. The detective looks for clues one by one, and slowly gathers information. All of them point that Mr. X is the killer. Then at the end in a dramatic twist, it is revealed that the killer was actually Mr. Y. They show you a flashback in which Mr. Y kills the victims. The credits roll. Notice that they never bother telling you why all the evidence pointed to Mr. X being the killer. That would feel like 98% of the story was completely pointless. That is how Heavy Rain’s ending feels. Out of the blue, this guy is the Origami Killer. Bye.
There is a reason for both the plot holes and the inconsistencies that the developers have explained: Deleted Scenes. Many of the plot holes and the blackouts are explained in a deleted scenes video that you can watch here. (It’s full of spoilers, so make sure you watch it after finishing the game) However, this does not make the ending make any more sense. You can also read more about why the ending doesn’t make sense here if you want. (This is also full of spoilers) This leads me to believe that there was something else going on besides deleting scenes which resulted in this.
My theory is that the game’s story was dramatically changed mid-development. You see, where the story was going in the middle of the game would make it a bit… controversial. Yes, that’s the word. I believe they changed the story fearing the controversial nature of it would negatively affect sales. That’s the only way I can explain the ending, the inconsistencies, and the plot holes altogether. The fact that the developers have already admitted that they changed the story to remove all supernatural occurrences is just further evidence to this theory. Perhaps, they changed it a little more than just “removing supernatural elements”.
These flaws, when put together, completely ruin the story which would have been otherwise fantastic. And with the story being the most important aspect of this game, the whole experience and fun factor of the game suffers. Unfortunately, the story, and by extension the whole game fails to deliver anything fun, meaningful, or interesting in the end. This would have been an excellent game if not for major story flaws. If these flaws were not present, one could forgive gameplay shortcomings considering the genre, but this is the other way around. Still, I believe that it’s worth playing for all the positive aspects that I have mentioned. You can experience something new rather than playing a game that’s very similar to the ones you’ve played before. Just try to ignore the ending and make up your own for this story. I’m sure it will fare better than the real one.
Out of 10
The plot holes, inconsistencies, and the ending ruin the otherwise fantastic story.
Despite some minor annoyances it’s wonderfully done.
The gameplay is specifically designed for telling a story and it’s almost flawless.
The game crashed a couple of times and on one instance a vital object wasn’t rendered at all.
The game takes around 9-11 hours to complete, and there’s not much left to do once it’s over.
(out of 10 / not an average)