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Heavy Rain Review and Story Analysis
How a game affects you largely depends on the type of game it is and the way you play. I like to completely immerse myself in a roleplaying game—to pretend I am the characters I play as. So in a game like Heavy Rain, where immersion is a major focus, this effect is doubled. As such, I have an incredibly strange relationship with this game: I played it half excited, half terrified. When I reached its conclusion I found myself flabbergasted in more ways than one, but ultimately satisfied. Your mileage may vary.
Graphics: Is it Shiny Enough?
Realistic graphics typically aren’t my thing (I’m all about anime games), but these are nicely done. Walking, running, and crawling look reasonably solid and the movement of the characters’ lips while they’re talking is well-executed. The kissing, notably, isn’t. There’s this odd space between characters’ mouths while they’re kissing that just makes it look…awkward. Nothing’s perfect.
The environments are well done and believable and the game’s title weather effect, the rain, looks just like real rain: cold and wet. Any water in this game is nicely animated with ripples and waves. Overall, the graphics serve their purpose in helping the game create the atmosphere it desires.
Music: Setting a Mood
The “music” of Heavy Rain is difficult to define. A lot of Heavy Rain involves the sound effects and voice acting (which is stellar, by the way). The music is typically laid against the background to help enhance the mood—whether that mood be nostalgic, stressful, anxious, etc. For immersing you in the mood, this music does an admirable job throughout much of the game. It almost becomes an anticipator, though: the stressful music starts playing in a scene and you’re immediately thinking, “Oh man, what’s going to happen?” When this occurs and then nothing eventful does happen, you’re left with this strange mixture of disappointment and relief. Whether this is an intentional effect or not is unclear. Regardless, the music does lend to the game, even though you probably won’t want the soundtrack anytime soon.
Gameplay: How You Play Matters
Heavy Rain has an unorthodox approach to this that either helps or hurts it, depending on your perspective. Moving is achieved by holding R2 and pressing the left analog stick the direction you wish to go. The right analog stick is used to perform various actions, when prompted. Nearly all the other buttons are reserved for Quick Time Events—sequences in the game where you press a button quickly to perform an action. Even the motion of the controller is used in this fashion. Once I got used to these odd controls, I found they quite enhanced the experience. After all, why wouldn’t a game that acts different play different?
Speaking of different, in most games, when your character dies you have to start that section of the game over (or the entire game, if it’s real old school). Heavy Rain boasts the bizarre feature that when a character you’re playing as dies, the game keeps going without them. With four characters to protect, the amount of stress this puts on the player is unbelievable. I only learned 2/3 of the way through the game that you can start a section over from the main menu if someone dies. I am sad to admit I had to use this function late in the game. I had missed a small, but vital clue earlier on and so couldn’t come to the conclusion I wanted and my character kept dying. Finally, I surrendered to the poor conclusion in that section and discovered the game has built in back-ups for just this situation: my character lived and the poor conclusion became moot thanks to the actions of another character. So there are some nice safety nets built in for those who need them. That’s always nice.
Oh, and one last thing on controls: sometimes you can’t aim worth bupkis while walking. There were a few times, also, where prompts would appear and I wasn’t sure what they were prompting me to do until I tried them. Again, nothing’s perfect.
Story: The Non-Spoiler Edition
Storytelling is where Heavy Rain excels. It invests you in each character and their situations and brings people together in logical, intriguing ways. Some story sequences were so intense they left me shaking or crying. Heavy Rain doesn’t pull any punches, either: there’s a pretty heavy (ha-ha) scene about 10-20 minutes into the game where a character dies. People are still disputing the numerous endings, the choices that get you there, and the identity of the Origami Killer. Whether or not people liked the results, they were left with a strong opinion and the game did affect them. If the story had never invested them in it at all, people wouldn’t debate it so hotly. However you respond, you will have a response to Heavy Rain.
A solid game with a fantastic pull. The story is immersive, intriguing, and moving and all other aspects of the game support it. For what it is and what it tries to do, Heavy Rain succeeds.
*Note that for me, a 10/10 is a game I thoroughly enjoyed that does everything I expect it to and more; one that I know will stick with me. There is no such thing as a “perfect game.” But there is such a thing as a game that works, and works beautifully, and Heavy Rain does exactly that.
Story: The Spoiler Analysis
If you don’t want any spoilers, please stop here.
My experience with Heavy Rain was actually one of the best available: all four of my characters lived until the end and I got some of the “best” endings for each of them. At the end, I was left with a few questions, but not as many as most. The only logic leaps that made zero sense to me were these:
- Jayden’s ending. He sees miniature virtual tanks on his desk and they’re still there when he takes his ARI glasses off. I get the theory that this is due to brain damage from using the glasses too much, but what I don’t get is: why tanks? We’ve never seen tanks before. Why not one of his virtual environments, like he’s seen before when he was hooked on Tripto? The tank thing just felt a little too out of left field and Indigo Prophecy-ish for me.
- Madison’s surprise when she hears the name of the Origami Killer. We’re given no previous indication that she knows Scott, so why does she act like the mom said Ethan’s name or something? The only theory I’ve read that could explain this is the idea that Heavy Rain may have originally included different killers depending on what paths you chose. Still though, her reaction seems totally out of place considering this didn’t make it in.
- Madison can call Jayden after escaping Scott’s apartment. Also, Jayden finding Madison’s fingerprints at the Blue Lagoon and never questioning her. Both of these questions can be explained with a single scene: one in which Jayden calls Madison to ask her why she was at the club, she refuses to comment (why would she?), and they both hang up. Assuming Jayden gives her his number “in case she thinks of anything she can tell him,” she then has both the knowledge of his involvement in the case and the ability to call him; and he’s done his job. This scene never happens. I’m not sure why.
Next, the things that didn’t make sense to others that did make sense to me:
- Madison’s involvement in the story. I’ll admit her involvement is unclear at first and it seems awfully convenient when she runs into Ethan at the hotel. (I totally suspected her of being the Origami Killer for a while precisely for this reason.) Later in the game, if Ethan finds her notebook, it is revealed she’s a journalist investigating the Origami Killer and Ethan’s connection to the killer. It’s as solid a reason as anyone else’s in this game and yes, her involvement seems more minimal than the others; but without my Madison, my Jayden would never have made it to the final confrontation with Scott. I missed an essential clue in the Blue Lagoon as Jayden (stupid receipts!) and so hit a dead end in his investigation. His ARI investigation of the Blue Lagoon is the part I had to start over—my “poor conclusion” was Jayden accusing Blake, who I knew was innocent. After my Madison escaped Scott’s apartment, I had her call my Jayden; logic being that my Ethan already knew where Shaun was because he had completed all the trials. (And cauterized his finger, thank-you-very-much. Not bad for playing with no walkthrough or knowledge of the game’s plot beyond what’s on the back of the box.) So without my Madison, my Jayden’s in the dark. For me, she was crucial.
- Scott as the Origami Killer. I can’t discuss Heavy Rain without at least touching on this vastly debated topic. We can argue his motivations pre-reveal up, down, and sideways—the truth is that they depend on how you play. My thought process while playing Scott initially was: this is a good guy, he saves everyone. Post reveal this can still make sense—he saves everyone to try to fill the empty void left by the one person he couldn’t save: his brother. He burns evidence because he’s at the end of his rope—Ethan’s his last chance/guinea pig. He could’ve cleaned this stuff up years ago, but he does so now because if Ethan (the man who almost died trying to save his first son) won’t pass his trials, no one will. His motivation also makes sense: he wants someone to do what his father could not. Supposedly, John was Scott’s twin and the strong bond between twins is infamous. After losing both his brother and a part of himself, why wouldn’t Scott snap one way or the other? (This is a guy who needed therapy, stat.)
The big question mark? Why, after all Ethan’s gone through and after (my) Ethan has passed every trial, would Scott aim his gun to kill Ethan? Perhaps, having found perfection, he doesn’t want to give Ethan a chance to disappoint him in the future. Perhaps it’s a symbolic “F--- you, dad,” and Scott’s pretending he’s shooting his father. It’s hard to say.
I also wish there was an ending where you could arrest Scott, but at the same time I don’t. I admit to helping him up before he could fall off the conveyor belt because I wanted to save him—literally and figuratively. Realistically though, the time to save him passed long before he started killing. It passed when his brother died.
One other really nice detail revealing the young Scott who couldn’t save his brother and the man who became the Origami Killer are one and the same: his asthma. The young Scott is constantly whistling and wheezing as he runs, which later manifests in the older Scott’s need for an inhaler. That is a nice, subtle detail.
So even though revealing Scott to be the Origami Killer totally crushed me because he was my favorite character…it still makes sense, depending on how you look at it.