The Heavy Rain won’t wash your hands for you

“ETHAN! WASH YOUR GODDAMN HANDS!” Dan and I yell at the T.V. screen while Ethan helplessly stands in front of the sink, staring blankly into space. “Look, dude, you took a leak. Now you wash your hands.” But no, Ethan is not interested in washing his hands.

Maybe half way through the game, Ethan takes another leak and then he walks to the sink. We are excited to discover a helpful interactive arrow! “It’s about time you washed your hands you stupid idiot,” I mutter, pressing forward with my right thumb. Ethan turns the faucet, cups his hands, fills them with water, and then splashes it all over his face. I can almost taste the blood, urine and fluoride.

You know how when you watch a thriller movie you sometimes want to yell at the characters for being so stupid? With all of the times they split up and wander into abandoned buildings, you’d think that they’d never watched a movie in their whole pointless, empty lives. Heavy Rain seeks to remedy the problem of viewer disconnect by letting you make the decisions. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Ethan won’t call the cops like I would, and he won’t wash his hands after he goes to the bathroom.

There are a few times, though, when the decisions are chilling and excellent. I played through the entirety of Heavy Rain with my buddy Dan. Dan doesn’t play games at all, but he sat there watching me participate in ‘interactive drama’ for 10 hours. The controller pulses in my hands as I hover over a table littered with sharp objects, preparing to sever the last digit of my pinky. Dan helpfully suggests, “Whatever you do, just don’t use the saw.”

It’s been said about a million times, but the game is incredibly cinematic. I think that this is why Dan was willing to sit there watching me play it for so long. It sometimes feels like it’s made for viewers as much as it is for players. The interactive elements of the game that are there, however, certainly increased my immersion in the game—navigating an electric maze was intense, and the countless quick time fights always had me gripping a sweaty controller.

It’s probably because Heavy Rain tries so hard to be like a movie that I find myself judging it on so harsh a scale. I found the romance subplot entirely unconvincing, for instance—and not only because of the awkward and unnecessary sex scene. I just didn’t believe that those characters could or would fall in love with so little and trite interaction. There were a few plot holes that bugged me, and one or two lines of dialogue felt pretty stale. By gaming standards, though, the plot, script and characters were great. It might be to the game’s credit that after playing the demo I was ready for an interactive version of The Big Sleep.

David Cage said in a recent interview that he has been writing thrillers because working within such a well established genre was convenient. With Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain, he was trying to establish a new language, and in order to do that he needed something that was “easy to write.” Whatever problems that it had, Heavy Rain did establish a new way to tell stories. This is its greatest achievement.

And Cage seems prepared to move on. “I think I’m done with thrillers,” he says, and I for one am intrigued to see what other stories he has to tell. I hope that we will look back in ten years at the new masterpieces that Quantic Dreams and other developers have created and say to ourselves, these could not have existed without Heavy Rain.

This isn’t to say that the formula that Heavy Rain has established won’t change. I expect that motion controllers will make things better. I also expect that quick time events will become one way of doing action sequences, not the only way. There have been very mixed reactions to this game, which has prompted interesting conversations. It’s exciting. Here is where I stand: Heavy Rain has many faults, but it is still a fun and important experience. I would recommend it to anyone. But you might want to bring some hand sanitizer.

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3 Comments

  1. Overall, how do you feel about the gameplay?

    I almost never buy games right when they come out (and I have a ridiculous backlog as-is) so I have not yet bit on this one. I find it really intriguing, though, because from what I’ve seen thus far it’s taken the good elements of games like Eternal Darkness — while at the same time being a lot less linear.

    Where Eternal Darkness fell down was the gameplay, which was terrible, and a real shame because it was an otherwise excellent game (and fun to play in a group too). So how does Heavy Rain stack up?

    Reply
    • There were good things and bad things about the gameplay. Heavy Rain uses QTEs effectively, if a bit too often. The navigation system is terrible; it’s hard to get your character to go where you want her/him to go and there’s a lot of walking into bookcases and stuff like that. It’s probably the weakest point in the game’s presentation.

      Generally, though, the gameplay is unintrusive. The way that you play the game isn’t what the game is about. It’s about the story and the decisions and the emotions. Some reviewers have said that the gameplay gets in the way of all of this, but I don’t agree. I found it to be a relatively passive gaming experience. It felt like a movie, except that the action sequences were more intense because I was sort of participating in them. For the most part, though, the experience of watching the game and the experience of playing the game aren’t all that different.

      Reply
      • ok gonzalo y pues ya lo esaomts esperando jajaja te comento que a mi me gusto en donde tienes tu nombre encerrado pero deja le pregunto a jary cual le gusta mas y te aviso sale

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