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Heavy Rain - Initial Impressions
I actually had no intention of playing Heavy Rain. Even though critics were gushing about it before it even came out, I was well aware that is was the successor to Indigo Prophecy (or Fahrenheit, if you're a European), a game that I hated. And none of the gushing really encouraged me or made the game seem any different, either. "This is so incredible," the critics raved, "you're forced to choose which one of your kids to talk to first! You later put him to bed, and then brush your teeth, pee, and shower!" My response: what. It is with a small degree of surprise, therefore, that I admit that (upon having been loaned a copy) I do not hate the game. Yet.

I didn't hate Indigo Prophecy at first, either. The initial scene is actually pretty neat and well done, and there's a solid murder mystery hook. Then the quick time events (QTEs henceforth) come to the fore, the "gameplay" (haha) becomes highly annoying, and the plot goes batshit. In Heavy Rain, the intro was boring family shit -

Diversion: apparently the early showcase scene in which you're looking for your lost child in a crowded mall was so hard for some parents to take that they had to take a break from the game after that, or what-the-fuck-ever. While it was tense, largely due to the music and graphical presentation, it certainly wasn't a genre defining moment for me like it apparently was for others. They would say that "you have to be a parent to understand," I suspect, but I tend to hold the view that anything that you have to defend by saying "you have to be a [XYZ] to [ABC]" either isn't really that powerful after all, or wasn't well conveyed, as, for example, a movie about the wrongly imprisoned (Shawshank Redemption) is still highly emotional without me having been wrongly imprisoned. Anyway:

- that finally gave way to a more solid, long-term plot: another murder mystery. So far so good on the plot, too, but it could always go apeshit like Indigo Prophecy did. Hopefully there are no space aliens or zombies or ancient Mayan prophecies in this game. I may well have reached my turning point from tolerable-and-vaguely-entertaining to cursed-at-and-hated a few nights ago, when I /ragequit. I tried to do the same "action" (read: QTE) four times in a row, and I swear to fuck that I got it right at least twice, and the game told me I failed. It was, with each failure, ramping up the highly stressful music and graphics, which only served to make me more angry. At that point, thoughts of killing of each of the four main characters so I could finish the game without playing much more crossed my mind. Eventually I just told the game to go fuck itself, shut it off, and haven't been back since.

There are a few things that lead up to this, really. Like Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain isn't a game so much as a barely interactive movie. There really is no game, here, there are just ways that you can choose to alter the story. The only steady controls are the ones to walk (the control for which is horribly awkward for no good reason), think, and turn your head. Everything else in the game is a context-dependent QTE. Everything. This means several things. First of all, not only can you drink orange juice in this game, but since most of these QTEs are not simple button presses, as would be nice and convenient, you can also fail at drinking orange juice. And brushing your teeth. And using a towel, for fuck's sake. Second, there is no real game here. There is no system to learn and get better at and eventually succeed at. There is no real learning curve, it is simply flat. Press the button the game tells you to at the time it tells you to. That is the game. The end. There's no sense of skill, or improvement, or learning, or mastery. Just press the goddamn buttons it tells you to.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there are too many fucking buttons to press. You can press X, square, circle, or triangle, or you can press them rapidly, or you can hold them. You move the control up, or down, or left, or right, or you can shake it left to right, or up and down, or you can tilt it right (like a steering wheel), or left. You can press R1, or R2, or L1, or L2, or you can hold them. You can press up on the right controller stick, or you can hold it up, or (here's the real fucking killer for me that I fail basically every single fucking time) you can slowly push it up. Or down, or left, or right, or in a circle, or a quarter circle, or a half circle. I am sure that representing these 101 options graphically is a bitch, which is why it's often extremely difficult to tell in the middle of a fast-paced, tense scene that oh hey you were supposed to hit up slowly not fast. This leads to rage. And while most of the time they don't throw those curve balls in there, they do. The event I /ragequit on, after two failures and two - I fucking swear it - successful attempts that the game failed me on, I had done about four QTEs of "hold this button then this one then this one" in a row. On the one I failed on, it was hold this, hold this, hold this, hold this, ohwaittapthisasquicklyaspossible. You can, perhaps, understand my anger.

I'm not sure what I'll end up thinking about Heavy Rain. The plot is actually pretty interesting, and I rather want to see where it's going. There are some places where I enjoy directing the story. Then there are some places where the "gameplay", or the lame excuse for it that the game foists on you, really fucking pisses me off. I suppose that with the option to kill the four characters and "beat" the game that way, it's unlikely I won't at least finish in a fit of anger. It does have that going for it.


 
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