Sunday, January 8, 2012

Video Game Assessment: Heavy Rain (2010)

After my experience with the disappointing Indigo Prophecy (or Fahrenheit everywhere that isn't where I live) I was dubious about this game. Doubt barely explains the menagerie of emotions I could feel when I looked at the box, wishing and hoping that it could end in a better way then the aliens and crap that ruined my Indigo Prophecy experience. And I've heard everything from reviewers on this one, ranging anywhere from this game being brilliant to this game being the worst thing that has ever existed.

Now, taking into account that around the same time this game came out, so also did two other games that I've also reviewed that have very similar ideas and themes to them. Deadly Premonition and Alan Wake were the two others that I'm talking about, and if you don't remember or don't know what I thought about those two games, go check out my reviews to get my full thoughts. But in hurried terms, I loved Deadly Premonition, seeing that game as one of the quirkiest games ever, and also one of the best games I have ever played. And Alan Wake, to me, was a derivative mess that did almost nothing that I was happy about besides some of the more meta things and all of maybe the endgame level, which I thought was clever.

Well, now on to Heavy Rain. This game has an FBI agent, just like the other two, but unlike the other two games that took a lot of inspiration from Twin Peaks (as seen heavily in both), Stephen King (in Alan Wake), and crap (see also Alan Wake), Heavy Rain feels very heavily more original. It's not, in my opinion as great or as surprising as Deadly Premonition, even though this game did surprise me.

It's supposed to play out like a mystery, and the story and characters are incredibly compelling, but... and there are some buts here... in the end I can sum this whole game up in a collection of words: Fan-service, Se7en, Indigo Prophecy, Beautiful, Uncanny Valley, and Interactive Story. The other things about the game are great, the music, the voice acting mostly, the sounds of the game, the realism, the characters, and the plot itself (for the most part). But I want to get into those words and what they mean for this game.

This is pretty awful. It's wholly pretty painful to watch. I don't usually go out of my way to play video games full of nakedness and boobs. I mean, I can't even think of that many that have boobs smacking me in the face. Yes, Indigo Prophecy has the pixelated breasts, and the Dragon Age  games get pretty close with the desire demons, and, of course, the God of War games. I guess there are others games that show them boobs too, but I haven't played them. I guess my point is that not too many games I've played have a sexy dance for basically a mini-game... or a strip-tease, or showering. I mean, seriously? It's a little weird and makes me feel like a neck-bearded creepy shut in. I mean, I'm not that creepy, I think...It's just weird and basically involves the same female character throughout the entire game. There's a lot of fan-service here. I guess they know their audience? Well, they would except there's man-butt here too! I'm being kind of silly here, but it's all very strange. I don't really care that much, it just feels sleazy, and I have to say, I actually like the sleaze. It makes this game feel a certain way. It gives it a heavy-handed, dark feeling to it, and I love it all the way around.

Well, besides being one of my favorite movies, Heavy Rain seems to take some things out of Se7en. Maybe I'm wrong, but both things just have such similar feelings to one another. I mean, it's the themes, the ideas, hell, even the characters somewhat. I don't think Heavy Rain is anywhere near as dark as Se7en, but I think it does have some very similar elements.

Indigo Prophecy
Heavy Rain is basically a spiritual successor to Indigo Prophecy. It shows except for the supernatural elements, I think, and the crazy endgame crap that was terrible for Indigo Prophecy. I say this, and then I see the extras for the game, showing how much more supernatural and meta it could have been before they decided to scrap it and I see the similarities even more fully. And I love those similarities. Even though I wasn't the biggest fan of the pretentious crapfest that was that game, I feel that Heavy Rain learned from its Indigo Prophecy origins and made a better and more compelling game because of it.

This is a game that looks so good that it's impossible to say it doesn't. The facial models, although sometimes appearing in the next phrase in our list here, are generally very good. The eyes look real, and that's superb. The environments, again, look kind of sleazy, kind of skeevy, and kind of greasy all at the same time. Yes, there is the problem of most of these next generation games, in the fact that there is too much gleam at times, but for the most part this whole game takes place in the realm of the dark visuals and depressing atmosphere. If this were a movie I would absolute love this. Movie like this are few and far between and I've never seen one that I didn't like. The whole game takes on a kind of grim look to it and it's fantastic.

Uncanny Valley
The character's facial models sometimes look like they're wearing skin masks over their faces rather than actually having faces. Oh man, it's true especially when they open their mouths. I have to point it out because wow, it can look really strange and really off and it comes up fairly often, especially with Scott, the Private Investigator, and Madison, the chick. Simply showing their teeth makes their entire face look like a mask about to split off revealing another face underneath. It's really strange and a little disturbing in a way that shouldn't be disturbing at all. Some faces are better than others, but the teeth always seem a little off, and it's jarring when the eyes and the rest of the faces are really spot on. The Mass Effect games have much of the same issues, and I wonder if it's something inherent in the system rather than a flaw of this game in particular.

Interactive Story
This should probably be the tagline of this game, if it isn't already. It's not so much that you play the game as you push buttons and decide the game. You decide, mostly, what the characters say, do, and decide. It's fun, in a way, maybe not at first. Hell, at first the game is almost kind of boring, then it's incredibly depressing, then it gets hardcore and awesome. It does take a while for it to get going, but once it is going, it's gone, a true hit for the ages. And it's really good, better than I would have expected in almost every way.  I'm not the biggest fan of this type of game or this type of gameplay, but I do really love the idea of it. I love how the story unfolds and how the characters interact and interplay with one another. It's an interesting premise and it works, in my opinion, as this mysterious story about a serial killer proceeds.

Now, the game does, in my opinion, fall apart towards the end even with the fantastic middle and slow beginning. I don't like the ending and I don't like who turns out to be the Origami Killer. It feels stupid, and it really doesn't work. I played through this game twice. It's not very long in general. And I didn't like the ending in either of my playthroughs. The killer is not well foreshadowed, and, in general, it is impossible to guess the killer's identity from the information given almost until the reveal itself. So stupid. And when it is revealed, it is done well, certainly, but it feels unbelievable with what you know about the game and the characters.

Anyway, this review is all over the place, but my ultimate opinion is that this game is different, very story and character based. It has good voice acting, although I doubt any of the actors are actually American as their accents are all different kinds of strange. The music is good. The look is fantastic, and I really enjoyed it for the most part, barring the very end and the slow beginning. The trials themselves that the father, Ethan, has to go through are visceral and fantastic, as are the follow-up meetings with Madison and her little side-adventures, as well as the adventures of Scott and Norman and what they go through. Anyway, I recommend this for people who like stories and characters over gameplay and take it as it is, a movie in video game format. I liked it, and that's about all I can say about it.

1 comment:

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