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Heavy Rain, and a death that matters

7. März 2010

Before I forget it:

This post contains spoilers for Heavy Rain. You should only go on reading, if you have either played it already or don’t care about spoilers.

It’s not easy to find the right words for describing Heavy Rain. I also don’t exactly know how I should feel about it, which doesn’t make it any easier. As this is not going to be a review I won’t lose many words about its technical aspects. Graphics are great, sound supports the atmosphere, I like the voice acting and the (walking) controls are sh*t. The game also froze twice for me, which I consider a terrible sin for a console game. Now that we have console games freezing, mandatory installs and patches almost on launch day, what’s the advantage of a console compared to a PC? But I digress. I think I can see another post coming up here.

Back to topic. I finished Heavy Rain within 3 Days in 3 not too long sessions. And while I was playing it was great. It really got me. I was immersed in the story and I could really connect with the characters on screen most of the time, something that only a few games have managed so far. Thinking of it, Silent Hill 2’s James Sunderland is the only other character I can remember I’ve ever felt near as close to as to Heavy Rain’s Ethan. However it was neither losing Josh nor my desperate search for Shaun which touched me the most, it was the moment the drug dealer was showing me the picture of his daughters. It didn’t take me long to pull the trigger, I shot him the moment he finished saying something like “please, I’m a father”. I had to pause. I felt bad, really bad. I’ve seen many horror or action movies, I’ve played shooters since ’96 and probably shot millions of “people” on screen, but this was the first time it really mattered to me. There was lump in my throat and maybe I even felt some small tears rising. Maybe other people have other feelings about the game; maybe for them other decisions were harder. But for me this moment stands out as one of the most important in my gaming life. Because it was the first time there would be a victim. The First time, that someone might care if I pull the trigger and end this life.

I don’t care much about plot holes like Ethan’s blackouts, his visions and the origami figures in his hand afterwards, though it was really disappointing not to get any kind of explanation for that. I don’t care if Heavy Rain is just one big cut scene with quick time events. It has its flaws, and the more I think about it afterwards, the more they become apparent. I don’t even care about the story maybe being a mess, as I’ve read someone say elsewhere. Heavy Rain has succeeded in at least one way and that is establishing an emotional connection between the player and the events on screen like no game has done before. For me that’s the contribution of it to the medium.

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