(Sorry, I couldn’t resist using that title.)
Hello all! It’s the first Game of the Week of 2016! Last week, a whole year ago, I talked about Dead Rising, a game I feel works in part due to it’s pick-up-and-play appeal. Slightly.
I wish I had a pick that was kind of symbolic or whatever for the new year, but I pick these games sort of randomly. So let’s talk about Heavy Rain.
Heavy Rain is Quantic Dream’s follow-up to Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit, which I’ve covered way back. It’s the same kind of cinematic...it’s more of an interactive movie than what one would consider a “traditional” game. Here, you spend a great deal of time watching the story of Ethan Mars, who is searching for his kidnapped son, Shaun. Shaun has been taken by the Origami Killer, a serial killer who kills young boys by drowning them during days of, um, heavy rain. You play as Ethan, along with Scott Shelby, a P.I. investigating the killer; Madison Paige, a reporter, and Norman Jayden, an FBI agent. They all follow initially separate plots that converge more and more as you progress through the game.
Let’s get this out of the way: Heavy Rain is kind of a pain to control. It’s an adventure game, so there’s not a lot of QTE’s that require quick inputs...but they are there, and Heavy Rain likes to use weirdo controller inputs like half circles with the analog sticks and shaking the controller and what not. Not to mention you need to press R2 to walk, so...well, it’s tricky to get accustomed to, and you never really get used to controlling this game.
And it’s very much a game, more so perhaps than Indigo Prophecy was. Like Indigo, the majority of the game is spent choosing various responses to dialogue, progressing the plot while allowing you to shape the characters into the people you want them to be (sort of). There’s a large amount of choices to make, which affects the story and ending. That’s actually my favorite part, because...
This game still looks great, and it’ll probably look even better on PS4.
...it’s possible for these characters to die “prematurely,” that is, before they would traditionally be killed in a story like this (if at all). While much of the game’s plot is set in stone, there’s a number of endings you can get depending on the choices you made. (Sorry for being vague, but I like to keep these articles spoiler-free if possible) There is never a “Game Over” screen; the story marches on no matter what happens to your characters. And so much can happen to them. I was pretty relieved when I made it through with all of them intact, though I must say, despite the variety of endings and plotlines, and despite Quantic Dream’s stance...I feel like this is the intended path, even if there’s no explicitly labled “true” ending. It’s like “you can do anything you want, but please go this way. Please.”
The plot just seems to be at it’s highest level of cohesion when all four main characters make it; losing one character or two makes the game feel incomplete afterwards. Maybe that’s the point? But it’s still something that nags you.
Heavy Rain is one of those titles that people who call themselves “hardcore” gamers scoff at. “It’s not a real game!”, they shout, as they turn back to their shooter or sports game of choice. You shoot like twice in Heavy Rain, maybe. But just because a game doesn’t feature things like shooting, combat, RPG mechanics, or failure states, does that make it less of a game?
I don’t think so. I once had someone tell me that [GAME TITLE REDACTED] wasn’t a “real game” because of it’s perceived lack of failure states. (Not saying what game it was, but let’s say it’s a controversial title that shouldn’t be controversial). That’s a sad way of thinking. I mean, SimCity technically has no failure state, no game over screen. And yet, SimCity is one of our most celebrated games.
So no, I really don’t think a game being “movie-like” lessens it’s status as a game; what that status is really depends on who you’re asking. Everyone has a different definition; mine is “if you think you’re playing a game, you probably are.” Long-time readers of my weekly series here probably figured by now that I’m into a large variety of games. I like blasting aliens or whatever the hell you’re shooting/stabbing/exploding, but there’s also a place for games like Heavy Rain; something that’s less interested in power fantasy and more interested in telling you a story. It’s okay, I think, for the story to be front-and-center in a game, even in this case, where it overtakes the gameplay...or rather, the gameplay exists only in service to the story. Maybe I don’t want every game to be like this, of course, but still.
And thankfully, Heavy Rain tells a good story. I mean, it’d be a colossal failure if it didn’t. Is it the best story in gaming? Well, no, because Blaster Master exists. But it’s pretty damn good, and worth a play; even if you don’t consider yourself “into” these kinds of games, give it a shot. It’s coming to PS4, so there’s a good opportunity to catch it if you missed it the first time.
Thanks always for reading my stuff! As always, leave comments, suggest future games to be featured as Game of the Week, read more of my stuff at Current Digital (see what I picked for Game of the Year!) and find me on Twitter!
Next week-There’s a series of driving games that was quickly overshadowed by Grand Theft Auto. However, the last title in this series is unquestionably brilliant. Let’s Shift into it this Tuesday.