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eal

Heavy Rain Movie Review

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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....

 

SPOILERS:

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.

Edited by eal
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Rare posting error on my part.

 

Being the first person to post in your topic is like being the first and only person to like your own status update.

Edited by eal

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Never "played" heavy rain. But I have always disliked games that try to be to cinematic. And this one takes it a few steps further. I mean, I don't even like uncharted personally.

I have never looked for reviews or opinions on this game. But the few people that I know who have played this game have always talked about it favoribly. So it is interesting to see a review like this.

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Heavy Rain is probably the best David Cage game... which doesn't mean much. More like his least mediocre game. At least it doesn't have giant magic office bugs like Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy  :)
 

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.

 

The mechanic to listen to the character's thoughts breaks the story so bad, I can't believe noone at Quantic Dream noticed. 

 

 

Shellby is constantly thinking about catching the killer... despite the fact he IS the Origami Killer. If he was just saying it out loud it would make sense, but why would he lie in his thoughts? It's such a big, obvious plothole that it's almost unbelievable they kept the mechanic in - just removing it would solve so many problems with the story. Also, the part where he finds the body of the guy in the clock shop is just ridiculous. Like you said - you can't solve a mystery when the game outright lies to you.


 
 

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.

...oh god, I forgot about that part. The "you go, girl!" bit made me cringe so bad. The way Cage pretends she is actually an empowering, feminist character, despite her constant sexualization and the multiple creepy near rape scenes involving her, is just painful. The worst part is that a lot of people seem to fall for it, as I've seen Madison in several 'Best Female Video Game Character' lists. Like, who is she, even? You never learn much about her aside from her suffering from insomnia, and all she does in her chapters is either tend to Ethan's wounds or escape creepy sexual situations.

 

I have to say, I'm pretty surprised you didn't mention the infamous 'JASON' soundclips in the Audio part of your review  :)

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I alluded to the "Jason!" bit in a status update a few days ago. I actually had a little thing in there but cut it out.

 

I give David Cage credit for this one for not shoving in any mystical nonsense but it sounds like Ethan Mars was supposed to have a psychic connection to the killer to explain his blackouts so I can't give them too much credit since omitting it had a negative impact on the logic of the story.

 

In regards to another maybe plot hole....

 

Was any explanation given for Scott pursuing Gordi? I imagine he was either using him as a patsy for his crimes or he was getting some sort of revenge for Gordi committing a crime under his name. I'm also surprised David Cage didn't try to draw any parallels or make any sort of connection between Gordi's father and Scott's mission. He wanted to find a father who would do anything for his son, and his father was going after Scott for targeting Gordi. You could almost say he was going to extreme lengths to.....save his son.

 

 

I also like the scene where Blake inexplicably finds out where Shaun is being kept moments after you figure it out after spending a good chunk of time trying to suss out the information. And where the police insist Ethan's doctor must break confidentiality because someone's life might be in danger. No, Ethan doesn't admit to any crime to his therapist or whatever he was so he shouldn't be required to inform anyone. He didn't threaten to hurt himself or others, no one in his family told his doctor he was going to hurt someone, and he isn't seeing him because it was court-ordered.

 

And in regards to Madison Paige, well, at least she got off better than Jodie.

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I give David Cage credit for this one for not shoving in any mystical nonsense but it sounds like Ethan Mars was supposed to have a psychic connection to the killer to explain his blackouts so I can't give them too much credit since omitting it had a negative impact on the logic of the story.

 

In regards to another maybe plot hole....

 

Was any explanation given for Scott pursuing Gordi? I imagine he was either using him as a patsy for his crimes or he was getting some sort of revenge for Gordi committing a crime under his name. I'm also surprised David Cage didn't try to draw any parallels or make any sort of connection between Gordi's father and Scott's mission. He wanted to find a father who would do anything for his son, and his father was going after Scott for targeting Gordi. You could almost say he was going to extreme lengths to.....save his son.

 

 

Oh yeah, I remember reading something about Ethan's psychic link to the killer. On one hand, I think it's good they cut it out... but on the other hand, Ethan blacking out and waking up with an origami figure in his hand no longer makes any sense. The lack of mystical nonsense is probably why I consider this to be the best of his games, though in a way I'm a bit disappointed - the magical office bugs were probably the most entertaining part about Indigo Prophecy  :)

 

I give David Cage credit for this one for not shoving in any mystical nonsense but it sounds like Ethan Mars was supposed to have a psychic connection to the killer to explain his blackouts so I can't give them too much credit since omitting it had a negative impact on the logic of the story.

 

In regards to another maybe plot hole....

 

Was any explanation given for Scott pursuing Gordi? I imagine he was either using him as a patsy for his crimes or he was getting some sort of revenge for Gordi committing a crime under his name. I'm also surprised David Cage didn't try to draw any parallels or make any sort of connection between Gordi's father and Scott's mission. He wanted to find a father who would do anything for his son, and his father was going after Scott for targeting Gordi. You could almost say he was going to extreme lengths to.....save his son.

 

 

I also like the scene where Blake inexplicably finds out where Shaun is being kept moments after you figure it out after spending a good chunk of time trying to suss out the information. And where the police insist Ethan's doctor must break confidentiality because someone's life might be in danger. No, Ethan doesn't admit to any crime to his therapist or whatever he was so he shouldn't be required to inform anyone. He didn't threaten to hurt himself or others, no one in his family told his doctor he was going to hurt someone, and he isn't seeing him because it was court-ordered.

 

And in regards to Madison Paige, well, at least she got off better than Jodie.

About Scott's reasons for pursuing Gordi... I'm not sure. The game never really explains why. Some fans think Shellby intended to frame him for the murders, while others believe he felt Gordi was hurting the integrity of the Origami Killer name with his copycat crimes. Frankly, There's no confirmation of either theories though. Frankly, I think it's just bad writing.

 
Hmm, I'm not sure who got it worse, Jodie or Madison. I think Jodie got treated slightly better by Cage - sure, she also got multiple near rape scenes (the one in the bar is just baffling) and a shower scene, but you do learn more about her as a character than you do about Madison. Not a terribly well written one, but at least they tried to give her some backstory. Then again, she is the main character, so I guess they had no choice.
 

I do really hate how you can't reject Ryan in Beyond Two Souls. I did everything in my power to turn him down - I told him I didn't love him whenever I got the chance, and I even let him get tortured in the Chinese Underwater Ghost Base - yet no matter what you do, the game still forces you to hook up with him. At least in Heavy Rain you can choose whether you want to kiss Madison or not.

 

Edited by ChrystalChameleon
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I only kissed Madison for a free trophy, honestly. Also, I wanted to see the fully clothed sex, which in all fairness, does turn into fully naked sex at the very end, even if you can't 100% tell.

 

The thing that sucks is that Heavy Rain had the most potential in terms of story, huge plot holes aside. I honestly think he could have fixed everything by setting up a MacGuffin then revealing his last minute mystical bulls**t explanation that Ethan Mars is the true killer or something. He commits the crimes during his blackouts. Maybe his brother John's death led to a psychic connection similar to Beyond: Two Souls where his brother lives on as a second personality inside Ethan that kills the children of the people responsible for his death. Might be more obvious than what they ended up doing but at least you could figure it out. Regardless, I felt the story was solid enough. However, it was ruined by David Cage-isms and the acting was just not up to par. More positively, the prompts looked nice in a very minimalist way and felt good to perform, it was mostly the QTEs that screwed me over.

 

And the thing that sucks about Beyond: Two Souls is the opposite of Heavy Rain's problems. The on-screen prompts are a mess. I couldn't tell at all what I was supposed to be doing sometimes. It has far less control than Heavy Rain despite trying to make you feel like you have more. You can only do certain things to certain characters as Aiden, your choices genuinely don't matter, like your example with Ryan, and you can try to make Jodie the kind of character you want her to be but everyone will still see her the same regardless of the personality you give her. The story might not have had as many egregious inconsistencies but it was still bad. It's non-linear narrative and that heel turn at the end crippled what could have been an adequate story. Also, that dedication at the very end made me almost feel physically ill. David Cage broke his own rule too and had game overs. They're more like restarts, but the point stands. However, it had superb acting and it was a technical marvel. It looks better on the PS3 than some PS4 games.

 

Maybe he can finally get it right with Detroit.

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