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Something Smells Gamey: More Rain

If you are here, then that means you've chosen the ending to Mark's rose-tinted preview of Heavy Rain that leads to me overanalyzing its essence.

Don't worry. You stumble upon a scene with no spoilers.

If you still wish to go back, please load your previous save. Remember, however, that a real choice cannot be undone.

Did that last sentence sound pretentious to you? It should have; and in fact, it's that kind of attitude that almost kept me from picking up Heavy Rain for the Playstation 3. The game's director/writer/mastermind David Cage comes off as an arrogant douchebag with no perspective of place within his industry. Then again, he is French. Consider this recent quote of his: "Heavy Rain has the courage to break with most of the video game rules that were established 20 years ago and are still used today by most games." I acknowledge that most products of any medium tread in tried and true techniques, but there is always a faction at work to deliver new experiences. And that is just as true in the video game industry (e.g., Braid, Flower).


Let me step back for a second and refresh Mark's overview of the game, though. Heavy Rain is a self-proclaimed "interactive drama" in which a choose-your-own-adventure style story effectively plays out through your ability to react to onscreen button prompts. It is a glorified and extended quicktime event, and I'll admit that I'm drawn to the possibility. I was super excited to finally find Indigo Prophecy (aka Fahrenheit) on store shelves, which was Cage's previous output. And the first half of that game did feel new and incredible, before it fell off the deep-end into absurdity.

Heavy Rain fixes a lot of its predecessors' flaws, most notably by making the button pressing events match up more naturally to the onscreen action. There's even some motion controls thrown in for you Wii lovers, which bothered me only in so much as it didn't register some of my subtler attempts at not disturbing the cats on my lap. I faced serious repercussions for my failures, but the continued purring on my lap soothed over my fury.

The success of Heavy Rain ultimately depends on its story. And while plot holes riddle any probing look at the conclusion, I have to say I was pretty satisfied in the end. Still, Cage definitely needs to reevaluate some aspects of his storytelling before he (insert your word here)s all over the place.

The essential human relationship of the game introduced at the beginning is that of a father and his sons. This is nice, especially considering how many father/son game relationships feature that son being the spawn of a demonic, trident-wielding netherbeast. Nevertheless, I felt like this game started me back at literary square one with a "perfect" family in which the dad is telling his sons how great they are and the kids giggle and tell their dad how much they love playing with him and how he's the best dad in the world.

There is no subtlety here, and, most importantly, there is no real human interaction. Maybe I believe this because I'm a new age intellectual whose every action is jaded with cynicism, but I do not believe that families anywhere actually act like they do in these contrived situations. I'm fine with a simple scene of familial joy, but throw in a non sequitur here or there to tint the puritanical perfection with a shade of reality. I wanted something bad to happen to these people at the beginning of this game because I was annoyed by the cardboard cutouts presented to me as conceived content. Then again, I already knew bad things would happen, so maybe I was just anxious.

This contrivance is a problem not just with Heavy Rain, but with all melodrama. Because the story is so focused on delivering a serious statement, the characters are pigeonholed into spouting cliches that build little upon their character. In retrospect, this may be my number one reason for disliking Avatar so much (in spite of its resultant fan fiction). Every single aspect of that movie was so built into an archetype that I knew exactly what I was going to see in 20 minutes, 45 minutes, etc. all the way up and through the end; and I wanted to leave at that first interval because of it. Screw technological prowess. I'd rather look at Earth trees than Pandora trees; at least those have real life happening around them.

Now, aside from the main family in Heavy Rain, most other characters are portrayed with enough attitude to make me forgive and forget the tactic. Who doesn't love a weathered private investigator, or a smart and beautiful pair of CGI tits? I know I do. Serious issues can arise when these personalities are stretched into arbitrary romance plots seemingly driven by nothing more than the desire to animate a sex scene (Indigo Prophecy failed hard in this aspect). Yet that shouldn't be a problem with a good set of story editors, right?


Which brings me to my oh-so-brilliant hypothesis: Self-proclaimed prodigies are destined to disappoint. James Cameron thinks he is the second coming because of his ability to retell a tragic shipwreck and a book about a desert planet written in 1965. David Cage thinks he is revolutionizing a medium he outwardly slights as naive and childlike when so much of his vision is just that. I applaud the entertainment I derived from Heavy Rain these past few days. It is a marvelous technological achievement (more groundbreaking than Avatar, I'd argue, in its potential to inspire truly interactive cinema). But it is not a solitary beacon that has spun to light of its own free will in absentia of influence to become the one true image of our future.

In fact, the Mass Effect series is already telling more complex, human stories that make me seriously fret over my in-game decisions and actions. That, however, is a tale for another time...

Aren't my opinions genius?

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  1. Blogger qualler | 11:09 AM |  

    I'm still excited to play this, Doktor. I'll leave the video game reviewing to you, though.

    I do admit to being a little concerned with how wildly the voice acting seems to differ -- the grizzled detective is fine but the FBI guy sounds like a worse, slightly French version of Tommy Carcetti from The Wire. Of course, part of the charm, to me, is how pretentious the French are, to think they have reinvented video games. If there's one thing The Blogulator was founded on, it's pretentiousness. I hope to get this in the mail tomorrow or Monday.

    Do I need to have played Mass Effect 1 to enjoy Mass Effect 2? Or is that even on PS3?

    Also, I played some Uncharted 2 last night and realize how excellent the voice acting is in that game all-around. And that brown-haired chick also has a smart and beautiful pair of CGI tits.

  2. Blogger qualler | 11:13 AM |  

    Also, one comment and one question regarding MLB 09 and MLB 10:

    1) Last night I made my third major league start with the Kansas City Royals. While I was one out away from a complete game shutout in my debut vs. the Tampa Bay Rays (before Carl Crawford hit a solo shot and Pat Burrell hit a two-run dinger, knocking me out of the game and giving me a no-decision) and got myself another no decision at Kaufmann Stadium thanks to my putrid offensive support (despite throwing 8 Ks and holding the ChiSox offense in check), I got knocked around good in my third start at my hometown Metrodome. DJ Cuddles hit two homeruns to left field off of me, and Mauer kept knocking singles and doubles everywhere. I never hated the Twins as much as I did then.

    2) Will I be able to bring my Road to the Show Me along with me to MLB 10? That will ultimately make or break my decision to buy the new one now or wait until the price has dropped.

  3. Blogger Dave | 11:38 AM |  

    Heavy Rain looks cool, but I'm afraid I've discovered that I no longer have the patience for point-and-click games. That really disappoints me, because I loved them just ten years ago.

    I would love to play the re-release of Monkey Island on Xbox, the episodic Sam & Maxes and Heavy Rain, but I'm afraid I'd be bored out of my skull inside of ten minutes :(

  4. Blogger DoktorPeace | 4:55 PM |  

    Mark - I found the FBI agent to be alright, although there is no middle ground between him talking and yelling. His accent is def weird, but I chose to interpret that as an eccentricity.

    Mass Effect is still console-exclusive to XBox. If it does ever expand to PS3, though, I vehemently promote playing the first one first, despite its comparative drawbacks. The decisions you make in the first game affect the story of the second, making the series a true personal epic.

    I've not heard about transferring your Road to the Show, but I'm pretty sure it is NOT an option. I doubt it would match up technologically. I preordered MLB 10 anyway in order to acquire 6 classic stadia, and I need to upgrade the Orioles roster so that I can look upon the true face of Wieters.

    Dave - If you had a PS3, I'd say Heavy Rain is the perfect rental for you. There are no puzzles to stumble over, so the playtime is pretty set at x hours for one playthrough. There are also CGI boobs.

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