Moments: Heavy Rain’s Finger Dilemma

by Kimberley Wallace on Sep 10, 2013 at 10:30 AM

How far are you prepared to go to save someone you love? These haunting words meet you at the opening of Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain and stick with you throughout. The question is pointed at Ethan Mars, whose son Shaun goes missing, while he confronts the Origami Killer's trials if he ever wishes to see his son again.

You switch through three other perspectives throughout the game, but Ethan's thread is by far the most intense as he has the most at stake: his son's life. Ethan is presented with trials to get clues to where his son is being held. These trials have Ethan speeding down the wrong side of the road, crawling through shards of broken glass, and forcing him to choose if he wants to kill a man or drink a vial of poison all in the name of his finding his son. But one trial sticks with me more than the rest and that's the lizard trial, where Ethan is ordered to cut the upper section of one of his fingers off.

As soon as this choice was presented to me, I recalled the words from the opening. If I were Ethan, would I cut off my finger to lead me one step closer to my son? You bet I would, so I didn't even hesitate. I knew that's exactly what was going to happen; I was going to cut off Ethan's finger, but what I didn't realize was how agonizing it would be to do it. This is a scene where QTEs enhanced the agony. The frenzied music starts when you're presented with choices about what's going on in Ethan's mind. All I knew was I needed to cut the finger off, but I had to be smart about it. I found the disinfectant, grabbed the saw, and went to work.

As I lifted the saw though, I was shaky and tense. Ethan takes deep breaths as you start to initiate the first cut. And as you make the initial slice, the agonizing scream Ethan lets out is so startling that all I could think was, "I wish I didn't have to do this." But if it means helping Shaun, I have to endure the agony of watching someone lose a digit, even a pixelated one. Ethan's now on the floor crying hysterically, but I still need to continue. I flinch and cringe as I press down once more to make the coup de grâce. It doesn't get any easier to watch Ethan, but this scene fully encompasses what this game is about: love and sacrifice.

I still find it tough to watch, replaying the sequence to write this piece. I shuddered, wanting to close my eyes and turn away. But this is exactly where it succeeds: It shouldn't be so easy to watch a man slice off his own finger, especially when you're behind the wheel. Ethan's sacrifice has stuck with me since I played Heavy Rain because of its impact, to not only put me on edge, but to feel for a fictional character. During this whole time, all I could think about was all the pain I'd endure if I cut off my own finger. But something told me, if it was for my own future child, I'd do it anyway. 

Big thanks to Youtube user Bf2stunts for capturing the agonizing moment: