By JimmyJackJones 0 Comments
I already went pretty in depth into why I loved Heavy Rain. I recommend you check out that review if you want to know specifics about how I felt. In summary, I thought it was a fantastic evolution of the adventure game genre that excelled in the way it not only told the story, but allowed the player to determine how the story would play out. My brother recently finished the game, and when discussing the climax of the game we realized things played out pretty differently for the two of us. Whereas I had all my characters survive up to that point of the game, someone died in his game. Therefore, a character who played a key part in the final struggle for me wasn't even around for that whole scene for him. It was actually pretty cool to realize how different things can turn out due to some decisions earlier on.
This wasn't David Cage's first attempt at "Interactive Story Telling". His previous project was Indigo Prophecy, a game that I really liked but can admit was still flawed. In that game, you have two central characters (you take control of other characters, but these two are definitely the focal point). One of them is a man who finds himself possessed by something that forces him to murder an innocent person in a ritualistic fashion. The other character is a cop who is trying to solve the murder after the fact. The early acts of the game are an interesting game of cat and mouse for the player, as they are simultaneously trying to cover their tracks and uncover leads. Then about a third of the way in, things get crazy, and the supernatural tones that were implied up to that point blow up into the main crux of the plot. And that stuff actually stays pretty interesting as it pursues some Mayan mythology that doesn't really get explored a lot in modern entertainment. But once the final act kicks in, the whole thing sort of goes out of control. New plot points and antagonists appear out of nowhere and seem to derail the story. There are alternate endings, but they don't actually take into account any of the actions throughout the game. They only depend on a few choices near the end and how well you can do on the final QTEs. It was kind of a disappointment, as the early chapters seemed to hold a lot of promise on how you could change the pace and mood of the story.
And speaking of the QTEs, this was maybe the big drawback of the gameplay. When any action would start up, two "Simon-esque" circles would pop up on the screen to indicate which buttons you should press. It worked OK, but having big multicolored circles on the screen could also distract from some of the crazy stuff going on at the same time. This is one of the big improvements in Heavy Rain. QTEs are still the main gameplay element when the action heats up, but the way they are implemented are miles ahead of Indigo Prophecy. The button prompts are put in the best contextual point, popping up where your eyes would already be focused. This tends to flow well with the action rather than distract from it, and makes you feel more involved in what's going on onscreen.
Heavy Rain also benefits from avoiding the supernatural tones of Indigo Prophecy. As I stated earlier, I liked most of what Indigo Prophecy tried to do with the supernatural stuff. There were moments early on in Heavy Rain where I thought they might veer back to the supernatural for their later chapters, but I'm glad they decided not to go that route. Staying more grounded in reality helped the story have a much deeper emotional impact. When your protagonist gets crazy superpowers and can start flying around, it gets hard to identify with him. When your protagonist has to decide if he should cut off his finger in the hopes of finding a clue that could help him save the life of his child, well that pain becomes much easier to sympathize with. The emotions conveyed in the game really helped you forget you were looking at computer generated characters, and made you feel like you were watching actual people interact with one another.
I wrote my review of the game the same day that I beat it, so I wondered at the time if my opinion would change later on when the emotional high died down. Five months later, I can say I still feel the same way about Heavy Rain. I feel like this could be an important game due to the way it approaches its storytelling. This is just one of a few games lately that will alter the way the story plays out according to the player's choices. A whole lot of games have tried this over the last few years, but games like Heavy Rain, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, and the Mass Effect series seem to be taking that concept and realizing its true potential. I hope developers take note of what David Cage and Quantic Dream achieved with Heavy Rain and build on it. This was one of the most memorable gaming experiences I've had all year, and I hope I get the chance to have more like it.