| Heavy Rain (PS3) |
Heavy Rain is one of the more interesting games I've picked up and played in recent memory. It has plenty of action, drama and character development, but plays more like an interactive movie than a video game. The player is given free control of their character to move about the enviroment, though instead of the set button commands typical of most modern games Heavy Rain makes extensive use of context sensitive controls. For example, the player is able to consume drinks, use tools, do certain actions and much more just by moving the analog stick in certain directions. Moving the stick next to a refridgerator will open it, moving it while inside a car will fasten the seatbelt... and so on. The actions themselves depend on the enviroment.
The game starts out with simple commands to ease the player into the game, waking up, taking a shower, getting dressed and moving about the house. The first chapter intoduces Ethan Mars, the main character of the game and his family. Its his son Jason's birthday and he'll have a set amount of time to do things before they arrive. What he does during this time is entirely up the player, he can work on a project in his study, turn on the radio or tv, or just goof off playing with his son's toy car and lazing about outside. Regardless of the players actions his wife and two boys will arrive home and a set series of events will occur.
This is how most of the gameplay works, with the player having a set time to complete certain actions and explore certain areas or given a sequince of button presses to decide how events unfold. These could be simple single button presses to make a choice or several to accomplish certain tasks. One notable thing about the game is that the story continues and alters depending on success or failure, which means events may change because of player actions, but the story won't end until the player completes the game. Because of this the player helps sympathize with the characters better since a missed button press or sloppy move could cost them greatly. Even if one or more characters die the game will simply move along with the ones that survive. Who lives and who dies (in addition to other factors) will decide the ending the player recieves, be it good or bad.
One thing I liked was how the main female characters are just as useful as the males in helping to solve the case instead of just being distressed damsels or "mission control" characters that only provide intel. Both of the women join the three male protagonists on the front lines of the investigation and risk their lives right alongside them. Sure enough, both can end up dead by the end of the game just the same as the men if the player commits a major mistake. Both genders are also equally committed to finding the Origami Killer, the villain of the story, at any cost. The overall theme of the game can be summed up in a single question: "What would you do to save someone you love?" You see, the Origami Killer commits very speciffic murders, namely young boys aged 10-13, by drowning them in rainwater. The plot truly begins with Ethan's son Shaun being kidnapped and follows the five main characters trying to save him.
I already mentioned Ethan, the young boy's father, above. The other characters are Madison Page, Scott Shelby, Norman Jayden, and Lauren Winter. Madison is a reporter who ends up getting caught in Ethan's efforts to locate his son when they bump into each other at a motel and immediately begins nursing him back to health when he returns injured from his trials. Scott Shelby is a kind man who was hired by the past victims of the Origami Killer to find the murderer at any cost, getting many chances to save additional lives along the way. Norman Jayden is an FBI profiler brought in to catch the killer who has his own fair share of problems, such as a nasty addition and a psycho cop as a partner. He still does his best to find Shaun Mars despite quite possibly having the most chances to die of any character in the game. Lauren is a hooker whose own son was one of the Origami Killers past victims and is trying to find her son's murderer at any cost. Some of the characters do questionable things, but all of them have their flaws as well as many redeeming qualities. Even the killer has their own reasons for commiting the crimes they do.
I have to admit that there are quite a few misandric moments (a guy getting his balls crushed as a form of interogation, several fathers portrayed as abusive or outright evil) in this game. There are a few moments I cringed at, but the game isn't nearly as offensive as others I've played. Now with the bad out of the way let me move on to the many positive things I noticed while playing the game. The theme, as I mentioned, is the love between a father and his child. Not all fathers are good and some make mistakes, but the game does show many fathers who would glady give their lives for their sons. This includes a literal example, as during one of the many trials Ethan must perform to reach Shaun it is possible to find the body of a man slumped over in an air vent. He clearly wasn't able to save his son, but died alone and helpless just for a chance to get a clue that might have helped him. Ethan Mars himself can die right after saving his own sons life and several bad endings to the game involve him commiting suicide for failing to save Shaun's life.
The game is fairly dark for the most part, but the happy ending is well worth earning. I can't give Heavy Rain the full approval I would have loved to, but its rare that I see a game or any form of media show such sympathy for all the sacrifices fathers make for their children. Characters like Norman Jayden also do an excellent job portraying the sacrifices men make to protect others. Not only can Norman be killed by other characters, but also while struggling to find the last clue he needs to save Shauns life. He can stop searching for this clue at any time to save himself, but seeing him die painfully while still desperately trying to save the life of a child he doesn't even know is one of the saddest and most heartwarming scenes in the game. With all the hate men get in modern media its a welcomed change to see something that is willing to cast men, especially fathers, in a more sympathetic light. If you own a PS3 and like emotional thrillers with a film noir atmosphere I highly recommend trying out Heavy Rain.
- Reviewed by Midnightundead
Rating: M (Blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, sexual content, strong language, use of drugs).