In Retrospect – Why You Should Buy Heavy Rain
Seeing as how the Internet’s still buzzing over the awesome Kara video from last week, I thought that this would be a good time to revisit Quantic Dream’s last major effort – Heavy Rain. I wrote this piece back in 2010, but I think it’s still valid today. Without further ado, here you go.
Why You Should Buy Heavy Rain
An Unashamedly Subjective Article
Heavy Rain is an interactive drama psychological thriller video game created by Quantic Dream exclusively for the PlayStation 3. The game is written and directed by Quantic Dream’s founder and CEO David Cage. Heavy Rain’s story is a dramatic thriller modeled after film noir, featuring four protagonists involved with the mystery of the Origami Killer, a serial killer who uses extended periods of rainfall to drown his victims.
The player’s decisions and actions during the game will affect the narrative; the main characters can be killed, and certain actions may lead to different scenes and endings.
The game had its detractors, and I can understand why. It did tail off quite a bit towards the end and, like so many other games that dabbled in the supernatural, you ended up feeling like it bit off more than it could chew. However, the point still remains that it tried to do things no other game had tried up until then (as well as a couple of things that had been tried before, such as the interactive sex scenes; one of my few major quibbles with the game). It might have fallen short of all its goals; but that it tried to go in the directions it did is both note- and respect-worthy.
So when I heard that Quantic Dream was making a game for the PlayStation 3, I was very excited. When David Cage, the man who designed and directed Indigo Prophecy, clearly stated that there would be no supernatural elements in the game, my increasing excitement was only matched by my relief. And when the news finally broke that this game, tentatively titled Heavy Rain, would be the spiritual successor to Indigo Prophecy, I…well, I went out and bought a PlayStation 3, is what I did.
Finally, the game released on February 23rd to a fairly lukewarm response. Reviews were generally good; opinions were far less consistent. That said, I couldn’t find much evidence of anybody being particularly interested very much, either way. People just didn’t seem to be giving this game the attention it was due.
I, thankfully, am not people. I bought a PlayStation 3 for this game, as previously mentioned. (Well, and maybe one or two other little-known ones as well…) By this point, it should be clear why I didn’t try to write a review of Heavy Rain. I’m obviously far too biased to write a subjective analysis of this game. The only thing I could do is try to get across why exactly this game is significant; and that is what I shall try to do now.
Story v Gameplay
Story in a game is like story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.
At its very core, Heavy Rain is a story covered by a thin layer of gameplay. Boiled down to its bare essentials, it is nothing more than the technological great-grandchild of those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure children’s books; although that comparison is quite possibly unjust and almost certainly an oversimplification. Make no mistake; this is an adult story and it requires adult sensibilities to match.
Every character is flawed and somehow more substantial because of that. The flaws range from insomnia to a drug addiction, but their consequences and the ways the characters cope with them – these are things any of us can relate to. And it’s in this way, by winning the small victories, that Heavy Rain slowly sinks its hooks into you; until you realize that you’re actually invested in the story it has to tell, more so than you would be in a ‘normal’ game.
Immersion is the sum of the experience that Heavy Rain has to offer; if you resist the immersion factor, you will come away from it with absolutely nothing. If you are willing to let yourself be drawn in, then I guarantee that, irrespective of who you are, you will find something in the experience that strikes a chord. And that fact is key to my argument – you don’t have to be a gamer to be affected by this game.
- Roger Ebert’s Original Article
- Kelee Santiago’s TED talk refuting the above article
- Roger Ebert’s reply to the above talk
They make for interesting reading/viewing.
Now, I don’t intend to enter that debate at this time. I will say, however, that I believe that the games that genuinely affect us the most are the ones that :
- We can relate to
- Cause an emotional reaction of some sort
Obviously, the presence of one of the above doesn’t exclude the other. More pertinently, I think these are criteria by which we judge any piece of art, whether consciously or not; and if a game must ever be seriously recognized as a medium of entertainment with a global relevance (i.e., not just to gamers), it must satisfy the above criteria.
So, if we are going to treat Heavy Rain not just as an example of a game but purely on its merits as a form of interactive entertainment, how does it fare?
I’ve often found that the trophies a game has can sometimes give you an insight into the nature of the game or the mindset of the developers. For example, Uncharted 2 had the Beast Mode trophy obtained by, and I quote, “petting all the yaks in a village”; something that clued me in nicely to Uncharted’s and Naughty Dog’s particular brand of offbeat humour. God of War had the Bloody Hell trophy, obtained by covering Kratos in 500 buckets of blood; other people’s blood, of course. Fun fact : I got that trophy within the first hour of playing the game, and that more or less confirmed for me what God of War was all about. (as if I needed anything else!)
In the case of Heavy Rain, there is a rather telling trophy obtained early on, just as you finish the prologue. It doesn’t require you to do anything special, it’s unlocked automatically and can’t be missed. It’s titled simply “Interactive Drama”; the description below that reads, quite simply, “Thank you for supporting Interactive Drama.”
That one line speaks volumes about the way Quantic Dream viewed the game as they were developing it. They put ludicrous amounts of effort into this game, and they did all this in the realization that it could all be for nothing. This trophy is both a tongue-in-cheek admission of the fact that the most important choice of all the ones you can make with regards to this open-ended game is the one you make with your wallet; before you so much as open the box. More importantly, however, it’s also a tantamount recognition of the fact that here is an effort, a movement, an endeavour that needs supporting.
We could be seeing the start of something here. As of now, it’s still kicking around in an embryonic form. It might catch someone’s interest, or it might wither away out of sight and out of mind. But that’s the wonderful thing about gaming; it’s one of the simplest forms of democracy in the world. We vote with the money we spend; where we spend that money determines what we get, not only in the present but in the future.
Who knows, if there are enough like-minded people out there…someday, maybe not too long from now, we might see more games like Heavy Rain that push the genre-defining envelope and blur that line between a game and any other form of mainstream media.
The point, quite simply, is this : Heavy Rain will probably not be the Game of the Year 2010. It will probably not win many awards. It will probably not be globally recognized. It might not even sell well (Edit : Happily, it appears I was wrong about the last of those; now, back to praying I’m wrong about the others as well!) but despite ALL of this, it is in its own way quite possibly a ground-breaker much like the Wii was.
As such, Heavy Rain is something that might very well change the way we look at games; but, more importantly, it might change the way non-gamers look at games as well. And that, comrades, is well worth the ₹2500 price of entry.