Home » General » I hated Heavy Rain before I even played it. Now I’ve finished it and…

I hated Heavy Rain before I even played it. Now I’ve finished it and…

I hated Heavy Rain before I even played it. Now I’ve finished it and…


There might be spoilers in this, if you didn’t already guess that.

Last night I finished Heavy Rain and later today I will be writing a J’Accuse on it. Regular readers of Play magazine will know that J’Accuse is a regular feature in which a widely celebrated game gets a kicking at the hands of someone writing under a bizarre pseudonym. It’s a just a bit of a fun really, and is no way intended to undermine the positive review we’ve given the game. Plus, it can be a chance to vent.

I’ve been wanting to vent about Heavy Rain ever since I heard it existed, and believe me I will. But I thought I might also write up a more balanced, reasoned, even-handed opinion here on the blog too because, love it or hate it, Heavy Rain is a game that begs to be discussed. There’s a lot I could say about it, but I’m going to try and control myself and keep it reasonably brief.

First, the gameplay. I hate it. I hate following prompts because, far from making me feel more involved, it’s a constant ‘middle-man’ between me and the on screen action, not to mention a reminder of the artifice of what I’m seeing, and a distraction from and obstruction to what’s going on. Give me a good, intuitive control scheme and I feel more involved because I see my intentions played out on screen immediately without me having to think about it. In Heavy Rain, I very rarely felt that my actions on the pad even corresponded to what the character was doing, never mind that I was really in control, and that distanced me from the experience.

Still, I realise that Heavy Rain isn’t about the gameplay. It’s about telling a mature story in a new interactive way. But is it really? Is it really mature? Is it really new? It’s much more mature than your average videogame story, no doubt about that, and there are moments of genuinely effecting drama. But then there are some very adolescent moments too. For all the attempts made to distance Madison from the ‘sexy, in kind of a dumb way’ girls at The Blue Lagoon, she’s still essentially treated as eye candy and as someone for male characters to cop off with either against her will or, inexplicably, very much according to it, depending on how your own particular version of the story goes. She might have a little more depth than Lara Croft, but she’s no Alyx Vance. Not by a long way.

Then there are the two ‘other’ serial killers. The Doc and Mad Jack. While the Origami Killer turns out to be a reasonably complex, just about believable character, these two are two-dimensional comic book villains with novelty gimmicks and maniacal laughs. They’d be at home in pretty much any other videogame, but not this one. Definite low points for me.

So I’d dispute the idea that Heavy Rain is entirely mature, and I’d also dispute the idea that it’s an entirely new kind of storytelling experience. The thing is that, at its best and at its worst, it mostly just apes the storytelling style of cinema. That’s not new, it’s old. Games can tell stories in unique ways that aren’t possible in other media – see Half-life 2, which doesn’t feature a single cut-scene and has a main character who never speaks – so I see no need to celebrate a game that seems almost embarrassed to be one, and seems desperate to be a movie instead.

That said, if Heavy Rain raises the expectations of what audiences expect from the stories, settings and characters in games then that can only be a good thing, even if there is room to get much better still. And while I still don’t really get the point of Heavy Rain and still find it annoying and pretentious and flawed in a great many ways, in the end, I didn’t hate it. It’s not one of my favourite games ever and I don’t even think it really deserves to be seen as a benchmark, but it is an interesting curiosity that, despite myself, I do want to play through again. If, at the very least, Heavy Rain shakes up a medium that is almost constantly threatening to stagnate completely, then I guess I’d have to give David Cage and Quantic Dream a reluctant pat on the back for that.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep it brief.

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  • Dave Moore

    i agree but for me the biggest flaw was after you find out who the killer is the story just falls apart.

  • johhny

    Sorry mate i just finished playing the game yesterday and loved it. i thought the story was engaging. i thought the gameplay besides the akward walking system was fantastic and had me on the edge of my seat. I thought Madison was great in the sense of the story and wasnt looked at as being just eye candy. but i guess i saw things alot different then you did

  • chanskie

    i find it sad for someone like you become a game journalist. Not because you don’t like Heavy Rain as such. I feel sad, because you can’t write an article objectively. You hated an idea before you even tried it, maybe you should consider changing your job. Because gaming is an ever evolving industry. Yes there would be failed and success….but, your attitude is not right for an journalist.

  • Gavin Mackenzie

    I can write an article objectively, but this is an opinion piece and is therefore supposed to be subjective. This piece also shows that I can form an opinion of a game prior to playing it, then change that opinion after playing it. I think that’s the right attitude for a journalist – I don’t believe my own hype or, in this case, anti-hype. Do you disagree?

  • R.A.C.

    i really don’t know why people like Gordon Freeman so much. having played both games ages ago (when they came out) I AM a fan, i mean HL1 was one of my very first video games, but seriously – can you really call Freeman a character? we never hear, or even see him. he has absolutely no depth whatsoever. don’t get me wrong, i love the games, i still think HL2 had one of the best physics engines to this day, but Gordon Freeman is a name on the disc cover. that’s all (and yes, i know they say his name a million times in the game). I’m not one of those new-to-games kiddies who worship Master Chief – no he’s just as one dimensional, but at least he’s more than a pair of disembodied arms. Alyx Vance, too, was nothing special. not to me. she was there to open doors for you and point you in the right direction. chemistry? a random wink on a buggy and non-requited adolescent flirting isn’t chemistry. Half Life 2 was a great game, but the only reason the characters are remembered is nostalgia. that’s just my opinion

  • Renan

    The Game is perfect, you suck.

  • Gavin Mackenzie

    I don’t so much like Gordon Freeman as a character because, as you say, he has no personality, but I think the idea of having him not speak works really well. I like how you learn about the character you’re playing by the way other characters talk to him and about him.

    And I honestly think Alyx Vance is the best, most believable, most likable character in any game ever. Her relationship with Eli is better, more emotionally engaging than any of the relationships in Heavy Rain.

    And it’s not nostalgia. I only finished Episode 2 less than a year ago. The characterisation was what impressed me most about it, and I usually don’t give a monkeys about that kid of thing in games as it’s almost always so bad.

  • Rbl007

    nice blog gavin, and in some ways i share your points of view. but what i like about the game is that it will open people up to new ways/ideas for gaming.

    @Renan, the game if far from perfect, with the bugs and movement controls