Heavy Rain, much like Quantic Dream's previous and subsequent games, is a narratively driven exploration into the movie that writer/director David Cage so desperately wishes he could have made instead of a video game. Unfortunately, he neither has the directing or writing skills to produce a film nor the understanding that video games are vastly different from that medium to produce anything that resembles a game either.
First, let me just say I hate the mindset that for a game to be considered art, it must mimic another expression of art, in most cases films. It's demeaning to video games to think that the only way a video game can be an artistic masterpiece is by making it feel "cinematic." There are times when creating a cinematic atmosphere works in a game's favor. Just before Heavy Rain I beat the first two Uncharted games, and they married both film-style cinematography with video game action and tension, never forgetting what it actually is. But David Cage is no Amy Hennig or Neil Druckmann. No, he's something else entirely.
But anyways, if David Cage really wants his games to be seen as films, then I'm going to review Heavy Rain on those merits (well, at least the first three sections anyways).
Plot: The story follows four different characters in their pursuit to capture the Origami Killer, a serial murderer that kidnaps children in the fall and drowns them as the rainwater rises underground. Ethan Mars is the father of the Origami Killer's next victim, Scott Shelby is a private dick trying to find the killer, Norman Jayden is FBI profiler sent to the city to help police capture him, and Madison Paige is a journalist that gets herself wrapped up in the investigation. Each character has their own reasons for capturing the Origami Killer and none of them are safe from his retaliation....
Except that's not true. Reviewers and Quantic Dream are excited to let you know that this game is so intricately crafted that anyone can die and the story will go on without them! This is a very deceptive claim. Two characters you control survive until their epilogues and the other two cannot die until the last one or two sections of their respective stories, at which point the plot has already progressed almost to the endgame.
There are also at least two unanswered plot holes that are not even so minor that they're nitpicks. They actually totally break the logic of the story. See, Ethan Mars has a number of blackouts, the nature of which are what leads to the police suspecting him of being the Origami Killer, as the visions he has seem to be very in-line with the methods that the killer employs. This is never addressed and the answer was supposedly removed because it made the story too ridiculous. The second, more egregious plot hole involves the player's ability to listen to playable character's thoughts. One character's in particular reflect throughout the game what you think he's trying to accomplish, only for the story's final stretch to completely invalidate them when his true intentions are revealed. In a way, the game is lying to you. This mystery is not a mystery you can solve.
Characters and Setting: Set in an unnamed American city that has "noir backdrop" written all over it, Heavy Rain wants you to see the world in a darker shade than actually exists in reality. The world is peppered with characters whose morals are so ridiculous that only their forced actions could make the story get to where the write wants it to go. A corrupt officer that does everything in his power to be a complete a**hole that doesn't listen when someone can prove Ethan's innocence and insists the police shoot on-site without giving the unarmed suspect a trial. An alcoholic that refuses to help save his son from drowning because he's both drunk and abusive. The controllable characters, for the most part, fair better. Norman is methodical and rational if you control him that way, Ethan is driven to save his son but your choices will set his parameters, and Scott seems like a decent gumshoe with a knack for going out of his way to help others.
Madison fairs the worst of them all. Her first appearance features her getting fully nude in the shower for an extended period of time, the camera making sure you get a good long stare at her naked body. Her second has a greasy weirdo stare at her and her ass as she leaves. She uses her sex appeal to try to get close to a man that she wants to interrogate, which is fine, until that man ends up forcing her to get undressed at gunpoint until you figure a way out of the situation, hoping that her crushing his balls and saying "you go, girl!" after she gets her answers will make up for it. The camera as a whole lingers on her butt long enough for it to be noticeable after a few hours as well.
Audio: Quantic Dream is a French company, and Heavy Rain makes that obvious really soon. The dialogue is pretty rough. It's poorly written and stilted, and it doesn't help when a lot of the actors are not native speakers or don't naturally speak with the accents David Cage arbitrarily assigned to their characters. The children are the worst. Their acting is an abomination and it's clear that English is not their first language, and if it is, they didn't learn it very well. You'd almost think the actor behind Ethan Mars was French or a child as well if not for the fact that he's played by an English adult.
The music, however fairs far better. It's actually quite a moody and atmospheric soundtrack. It creates tension when under pressure, drama when things get intense, and calm when things die down. It does a good job of sounding like the backdrop to a neo-noir thriller film, so I guess in that regard David Cage succeeded. However, on more than one occasion, the music would cut and disappear in a segment, leaving the game silent except for when a character says something or produces some sort of noise.
Gameplay: You move your character around a set piece with tank controls, holding down R2 as you direct them with the joystick. When you approach something that can be interacted with, a button prompt will appear on-screen that will direct you in what button you must press. For example, turning a knob would require pushing the joystick to the left, then giving it a spin. Brushing your teeth has you moving the controller up and down, then side to side. In a situation where multiple actions are needed, such making your way through electrical wire without getting hurt, you will need to hold down an increasing succession of buttons. For simple tasks, two or three buttons will be required at most. But in dangerous or highly elaborate cases, managing to hold down four or more buttons can be quite a task. Occasionally, you'll have to pick a dialogue option, and in distressing situations, your choices will shake violently, making figuring out which button you must press for the response you want more difficult. Button prompts will also shake during high pressure or intense moments but has no overall affect on the game. Little touches like these help to make you feel a bit more involved in the story. That being said, Heavy Rain is meant to be a choose-your-own-adventure, when in fact, your choices barely matter and all it does is try to make you feel like you're greatly affecting the outcome of the story when you make a mistake.
David Cage is infamous for saying that getting a game over is a failure of the game's design. Forgetting the fact his next game had game overs, what does it say about Heavy Rain's game design when the busted QTEs don't work and give a negative outcome or unclear options result in something bad happening? I got two characters killed in these ways, one of which was a playable character I brought to the final section of the game.
Overall Feelings: A game is a game and players keep that in mind when they end up walking into walls or struggle with the camera. But Heavy Rain wants to be viewed as a movie and limits the gameplay as much as it can, so when you're knocking your character against that wall or can't move the camera properly or wander aimlessly trying to figure out what to do next, it breaks immersion. You remember you're not watching a movie, your performing limited actions in a game. In one instance, I had to hurriedly perform a task while dramatic music started playing, but the character's lumbering walk and slow pace didn't reflect the breakneck rush to complete a task it was trying to convey.
Whether David Cage liked it or not, he was making a game, a game that tried to mimic and make you feel like you were watching an actual film. But for a movie to engage the audience it needs good acting, a decent script, and a competent director. Heavy Rain has none of those things, so it fails in its intentions. David Cage rests so heavily on the narrative aspects of the game, that when they fail to deliver, the gameplay can't come to rescue it, so now it fails as both a game and a film.
I'm sure everyone on the Den will agree with me when I say that Maribel is the literal worst. Her personality is toxic, her eyes are monsterous, and she runs like a Naruto-loving weaboo in gym class. What more can be said about her foul hair, her abusive insults, and her Pilgrim attire? I made this topic specifically so every like-minded Denizen can think about it. So who else hates Maribel and why? Feel free to share. I'm sure it's everyone and they can think up millions of reasons.
It's been nearly 11 years since Dragon Quest VIII first reached our shores and it also happens to be my first game in the franchise. You'd think that'd mean I've played it several times over by now, exploring every nook and cranny until I've completed the game numerous times. You'd be very, very wrong. For a long time now, it's been a never-ending cycle of starts and stops every couple years up until a few years back when the PS2 was put in storage and I gave up entirely. Well, recently I've dug it out again and I'm giving it one more go at VIII.
This time, however, I decided to follow the recent trend here and put together a sort of playthrough diary so a public record of it will encourage me to keep going until I've finished it. I'm going to post, at the very least, one update a week, but I will try to do more so I don't become complacent. And even if I have nothing of importance, or anything at all, to report, I'm still going to post something.
The farthest I've gone has been Argonia, which apparently took almost 40 hours according to my playtime and that feels waaaaay too long to me. But for this playthough, I'm going to start fresh from the beginning. At the moment, I've leveled up the Hero and Yangus appropriately and equipped them well enough to take on Geyzer.
So, I'm pretty much done with this whole "only 32gb" thing, and I want to invest in some external storage. It doesn't have to have a ton of space because Nintendo doesn't really do a lot of digital exclusives, and of the ones they do have, only a handful have my interest, so I'm hoping I can find one cheaper that way. Preferably portable, I guess, since I don't have a ton of space for another box. Any suggestions from people who might have already done this?