Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Heavy Rage

It's all over the net now, but a day or two ago Joystiq brought us this:

David Cage, director of the soggy serial killer interactive drama Heavy Rain, has already said there won't be a sequel to that game, telling the PlayStation Blog, "We're going to be exploring a different direction, which will still be very dark and still for adults, but completely different to Heavy Rain" for Quantic Dreams' next project. That game's specifics may be a secret, but it may have a title: "Fiv5" ... yes, in the style of David Fincher's film Se7en.

I would indeed like to see them branch out of the Serial Killer genre, but I have a feeling that's not going to happen.  Here's what I think will happen:
  • It will be billed as the next iteration of cinematic gaming / interactive film
  • And it will look great
  • And it will look exciting
  • And everyone will get it, and play it
  • And it will feature: more dumb choices by characters
    • More plot holes
    • More exploitation and victimization of reason for no reason whatsoever
    • More horrible violence
    • More serial killing
  • And I will want to punch David Cage in the face.
 I mean, I'm sure we'll end up playing and owning it anyway.  But that's what I think will happen.


  1. Oh dear...this is disappointing to me. At least for what it implies about Heavy Rain. I'd read/heard enough about it that I was finally considering giving it a try, that maybe it had a good story and not just a "good story for a video game" sort of thing, but that list isn't aren't just flaws, those are some of my biggest pet peeves. Ah well.

  2. Honestly, Heavy Rain is worth a try at least once. It's really compelling, and somewhat innovative, and I love love love that it tells a smaller-scale story (individuals, families) rather than some kind of bombastic "save the world" or "win the war" kind of scenario.

    Plus, the way it plays with choice is interesting. There really are something like 12 different available endings, and the choices you make along the way will indeed change the outcome of the story. In our household, my husband wanted to see what it took to get the platinum trophy, and I wanted to see what the full limits of the game were, so we've actually seen / accomplished pretty much every single iteration, both positive and negative.

    Obviously, that changes your perception of the outcomes a bit. But I really do recommend the game, despite my bitching above. It's just that the one female player character (out of four PCs) is the worst-written and the biggest waste of time.

    But it was also really interesting, to me, to see how different people chose to play her. My father-in-law and a gamer friend of mine (female) visited on back-to-back weekends, and Husband & I had them each play the game -- and the different stories they got fascinated me.

  3. I'll keep it mind, at least play through sometime to see how it handles decisions in the plot. My personal blocks are mostly that I find I typically play a pretty straightforward stick in the mud and can't other types (annoyingly, not that I'm not interested in what the creators do, just that I don't seem to enjoy even roleplaying certain types), and since decisions typically operate in the if you are nice you'll get the nice ending, I'm afraid of gameplay being reduced to going through motions--a bit of why I didn't like Dreamfall as a game, even though in another medium I might've enjoyed the story or the game itself with more "obvious" puzzles. Zoe felt likea set character, and so I'd play long stretches where I felt like I'd only make one or two meaningful decisions. As a game, it felt interactive and my input mattered rarely. Come to think of it, this is probably where it isn't a "save the world" scenario with obvious decisions because of my playing style (I choose not to slaughter civilians for 500 extra credits) can be ignored because of the smaller story...

  4. without getting into spoilers, i will say this about heavy rain: there are at least two scenes that do things with a game that i'm not sure any game has ever done better. both will make you sweat through your clothing.

    on the other hand, there are some extremely problematic parts to the game, and when i say problematic i mean genuinely disturbing in not even a thrilling way. as in, i'm disturbed that they thought it was a good idea to do what they did.

  5. *laughs* Hi, I think you're me. ;)

    I actually wrote about that whole "make the good choice" problem / perspective not too long ago.

    Heavy Rain is a narrative game-on-rails from a certain perspective: the overall setting of the beginning, middle, and end are pre-determined. A child will be abducted, and the investigation will occur, and the child either will or will not be rescued in the end. The who and the how of the middle and end are where all of the flexibility comes in; all four player characters join the story at pre-determined times but how long they stay in the story, and what they do in the story, has to do with the player's guidance.

    I'd actually agree with you about Dreamfall; although there's a lot of interesting writing in it and The Longest Journey, player input has absolutely nada to do with how those games play out. They're a different beast.

  6. I will agree with both of these assessments. And pretty much all of the, "No, seriously, why would you even storyboard that sequence, it doesn't even fit into this game" moments involve one character. Though it's worth noting that some (not all, or enough) of those sequences are optional / can be avoided.

  7. Ah, that's great. I sometimes feel like I'm the only one whinging about this kind of thing.

    Heavy Rain sounds more promising now. Part of the trouble normally, I think, is that game developers in the quest to offer good and jerk moral options feel the need for equal outcomes, and write awkward decision points, structurally and narratively. The way the "fairness doctrine" trips up journalism. I think I mentioned my preference for railiness on TNC's blog--I find myself more immersed in rails playing someone else than in some more open gameplay's current limitations because of that--that is, when I hit something in an open game that bugs me, I'm more bugged than a bug in rails. (I'm thinking of you, elves in Dragon Age Origins). My decisions can feel more consequential (I helped you get here, protagonist), even if they don't direct plot/affect the world more.

    The unique thing to video games, though, is how the success of mechanics and gameplay can affect people. Because I saw solutions to puzzles that the story hadn't even introduced me to in Dreamfall, the gameplay just felt more boring than TLC's, even though they're the same. Alright, I also think the technology vs magic is overdone. I bet a lot of magic fans would like technology if they were introduced to indoor plumbing, nobody makes up spells for that. And narratively, gameplay can reinforce or undercut story--there's an powerful item in Fable that you can get from a big bad by beating him, but you have to do something evil for it. But I beat him in minutes, so how tempting could the item be, even if I was inclined to play evil?

    Ah, I should stop, or I'll babble on until I run out, and what will I talk about next time?

  8. i think you will enjoy the way heavy rain works, then. the choices in it are seldom on the good/jerk binary. more often, too, the choices also depend a certain amount on your ability to actually perform the tasks necessary to complete your choice: one slip up, and you may have just changed the course of your game irrevocably.

    and, like i hinted above, there are a couple of scenes in particular, but a lot of scenes in general, which utilize the mechanics of the game to great storytelling effect.

  9. To me, the funniest part of the whole game was when one character has the opportunity to change, feed, and rock a baby. My husband could not manage to get the feeding and rocking correct, and watching him tensed on the edge of the couch, as if for a boss fight, muttering, "I'm going to get that damn baby to sleep" was just amusing as all hell. For that alone I'm glad we had the game. ;)

  10. i may have asked you this before, but have you ever played indigo prophecy/fahrenheit? it may be somewhat less rage-inducing than heavy rain.

    also, on a somewhat related note, what is your stance on the horror genre in general? i was very disturbed by parts of heavy rain, but i don't remember being at all bothered by the "things that always feel obvious to the viewer / reader / player". i don't know if that's because i just assume that horror narratives will often turn on stupid mistakes (fortunato, why would you keep drinking, keep going down into the damp cellar, with a nasty cold?!) or if it's because i'm too jaded by the genre to notice. but i'm curious--do you tend to like good horror stories? good horror movies?

  11. blah. finished the game. the last, like, half an hour or so is just terrible compared to the rest. i don't want to be spoilery, but you just can't skip a month ahead in time and expect us to be okay with character changes that took place off camera. sigh.