[Spoiler Free] Heavy Rain: How And Why It Hurts So Good - ejronin Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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[Spoiler Free] Heavy Rain: How And Why It Hurts So Good

There is a saying: The most dangerous place in the world is between a mother and her child.

Perhaps this is because people unfortunate (or dumb) enough to place themselves been between a father and his child never survived.

People may prefer to think they’ll get all ‘Law Abiding Citizen’ or ‘Taken’ on someone in that situation. And, people may fancy themselves as the type who can adamantly abide by the Thomas Paine level of principality and consequences, or if the situation called for it, would gather up their “people huntin’ hat” and carry their own personal copy of Catcher in the Rye. The reality of it is very, very different, however.

The reality is that people often espouse the concept and practices of pacifism without considering that pacifists don’t make pacifism possible. They would rather forego their principles for the sake of societal appeasement.

There comes a time in certain situations that we stumble upon an internal switch that doesn’t turn on, but turns off. The effects of that disconnect is as unique as it is unknown, for anyone affected.

Heavy Rain, pushes to redefine, or at the very least question, how the manner of storytelling in video games will impact players. Nobody should say  there’s no replay value in the game and even though players will know how it starts and generally how it ends after they play it to finish one time, what happens in between is the bigger part of the mystery because a variance in those events shape the end in a number of ways.

In Heavy Rain, the impact of the events flip these switches in a moment. Not in a slow series of pushes and pulls, in an instantaneous irregular fracture of the moral fibers in each of the characters and their resolve to do what they feel needs to be done.

Enter the question: How far would you go to save someone you love?

One of the stronger underlying points in the game is laid before players in the birthday party prologue for Ethan’s son Jason. After being called inside for dinner, Jason’s younger brother Shaun runs upstairs and finds their pet bird, Merlin has died. Shaun blames himself for the death as his father consoles him by stating “Sometimes things happen even if we don't want them to." Shaun states that he feels, “It’s not fair”. Ethan holds him and says “I know… I know…”

It is here massive appeal for the game lies, waiting to make a calculated pounce like a hungry pride of lions on baby antelope too weak to keep up with the rest of the panicked herd. Things happen quickly and players are forced to commit to their choices through the entire game no matter the path chosen or resisted.  The entire game is a proverbial ‘point of no return’ from start to finish.

Perhaps the greatest advantage Heavy Rain has over many other games is that it rests comfortably within a niche genre using strong story devices, familiar yet fresh control mechanics and does this all without making itself obscure or abstract.

Dubbed “Interactive Drama”, Heavy Rain uses controls based on context sensitive quicktime events. The approach isn’t new; take for example the classic and obscure coin-op “Space Ace” and “Dragon’s Lair” games. Both games required input from the user as the story progressed automatically. The objective was to enter commands on cue in the order given; a really advanced and entertaining “Simon Says”. Heavy Rain builds upon this mechanic by adding extreme diversity in the form of more than a single vantage point and avenues of approach within each vantage point while consistently working each character to the same goal along a cohesive and gripping story.

QuanticDream applied the same methods within Indigo Prophecy successfully but Heavy Rain contains a more somber chain of events and doesn’t focus on the characters so much as it focuses on the events in their lives that shapes the characters.

This is another theme in the game that resides outside of the game itself – a silent breaching of the 4th wall by example. Through the course of the game players will undoubtedly feel as though certain actions no matter how they’re played out, make little sense if any at all.

Why don’t characters see this, feel that, or act a certain way when it would seem normal to the player for them to behave differently? Because things only have to make sense for the particular situation and to the characters themselves; players aren’t controlling what their cards are, only how they’re played. Remember that these are ordinary people in an extraordinary situation, thus the rules of 'normal' do not fully apply.

The success of this concept is in the succinct manner the players' mind is taken off how mundane the actions truly are. Heavy Rain offers more than one way to complete a task without revealing beforehand what tasks have an effect on another or without laying all actionable options on the table; players have to think about things rudimentary and ubiquitous, evidenced important later.

Eschewing traditional concepts of ‘win’ and ‘lose’, Heavy Rain grants players the ability in the course of the game to shape defining climactic moments. If at any point one of the characters die, there will be an unanswered question, but it doesn’t constitute a ‘loss’ nor a ‘win’ – only a version of the ‘end’.

The bird in the opening act is an important device. Birds are regarded as free creatures – ‘free as a bird’. Sometimes the phrase ‘like a caged bird’ is used to describe imprisonment (a motif in the classic novel “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin and "Ethan Frome" by Edith Wharton). In the case of Heavy Rain, the bird dying alludes to the idea that while that bird was relatively as free as it was caged, invisible and external forces effect an outcome. A cage is a controlled environment and as such, controlling it requires some responsibility of the controller.

When the bird died, what makes it unfair? Should the dead bird now be considered free? It was unfair because Shaun didn't want the bird to die and while he knew that he didn't directly cause the death, he felt responsible because like most people, things make sense when they can account for what is around them. If players take time to notice, the pet bird and the Spanish Pajarita on the game case cover are representative of one another.

To take this a bit further, the Spanish Pajarita with the four characters in the backdrop also symbolize a unified imprisonment. Each character is in some way controlled by their own vices. Madison and with her insomnia can only sleep in low rent motels, Jayden with his addiction to Tropacaine (a cocaine derivative with higher toxicity but less effect), Ethan and his depression and anxiety, Shelby and his drinking, and even though Lauren and Blake, while not a main characters, were slave to certain lifestyles or mindsets.

The title “Heavy Rain” is important to understanding the game as well and goes a bit beyond the situations that gave the “Origami Killer” motive.  Events happen as tiny drops that add up over time. At first there’s not much to them and each event happening to a different person they would be easy to handle. But the events happen to a small handful of interconnected people and build up pressure over a short amount of time and the characters become more entangled. With each passing day these events occur harder and faster. 

The characters' survival isn't essential to the ending, or at least an ending. They're merely vessels for the “who” and “what” and the depth of ending hinges on them to some degree, but will the end be ‘good’? The answer largely depends upon a subjective definition of terms. “Good” and “Bad”, particularly in the ending isn’t definable in a way that most players would assume to look for them or cast an opinion of them without having experienced the game.

“Good” can be manipulated in a fluid sense (not dissimilar to a sense that water and air are fluid), and take the shape of what contains them; character actions are influenced by the events, their environments, and the depth of explorations allotted by time which are in turn directed by order of operation. However, all of this is circular and complex, rich in the unfolding and very hard to calculate as things happen. 

If the player wants to have a certain outcome, they must shape the container and not the contained – once there’s an understanding of what events effect another, the challenge to recreate a process of the story and obtain an ending that the player would like to see instead of the one that simply ‘happens’ as is the case with the first play of the game. 


Not long ago, debates were held across blogosphere concerning video games and art, and classic literature or poems and use of as source material. Heavy Rain poignantly evidences that games can contain a high degree of genuine literary art without having to resort to the use of borrowed material that gets bastardized for the sake of overlapping mass appeal and an ‘all mighty’ temporary industry divisive dollar. While everyone may not enjoy the macabre story, it’s not going to rest in the ‘grey area’ of opinions either. 

[note - this is a repost due to some issues with the title and validity of the link resulting from it]

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