Thursday, August 13, 2015

Heavy Rain: completed!

Started in 2011, continued in 2013, and completed in 2015.  Heavy Rain is a game that I've always wanted to see the end of, and had admired from a storytelling perspective, but the first couple of chapters in particular didn't enamour me to the game itself.  In the last update I posted, I talked about how the switching characters felt a bit jarring, and made the game feel quite disjointed.  It's not a huge surprise that it's taken me until now to finish it off, then.

Now, part of what I want to talk about is the story, and that's an integral part of the game experience.  If you've not played the game, and intend to do so, I recommend that you don't read any more.

A problem that all story-based games have is that you, as the player, are often obliged to do something that you ordinarily wouldn't.  This happened many times in this game - shooting a drug dealer dead, cutting off your own finger - and what makes it worse is that in this game you can theoretically reach the end of the game without doing these things, but if you don't do them, you know that you'll end up with a bad ending.  The game's too long to play through many times, so you want to see the end properly, so you end up doing stuff that distances you from the characters.  The game gives you the perception of choice but you are aware that some choices are better than others.

So I played through the game not the way I wanted to but rather the way I assumed the developers wanted me to.  I slowly grew comfortable with each of the characters - understanding the desperation of Ethan, the weariness and honesty of Scott, the panic of Madison, and the angst of Norman.  Even though they were doing stuff that I wouldn't, I could empathise with their searches for the killer.

However, half way through the game, after a lot of character switching, it was starting to become obvious that one of the characters was going to be responsible for the murders.  This was a huge disappointment.  When playing the game, you assume that you are the character - even if you have to do things that you ordinarily wouldn't, you are doing things that the character would do.

Really, don't read further if you've not completed the game.

So, when it turns out that Shelby is the killer, I felt cheated.  All those chapters where I was controlling him, the information that he was the killer was being withheld.  Nothing in his behaviour indicated who he was.  Why was he investigating the killings if he knew he was the killer?

Maybe things would make more sense if I were to replay the game.  If I could replay chapters, and fill in a flowchart in a chapter select menu, I might do that.  As it is, I was left suitably downhearted to  make such a replay unlikely.

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