A second playthrough: Heavy Rain

(spoiler warning)

Heavy Rain was an anticipated title despite the lukewarm reception that the latter part of Quantic Dream’s previous game, Indigo Prophecy, received. After finishing it, I came away impressed, but also feeling that any subsequent playthroughs would lower my opinion of both the story and the presentation. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to watch a friend play through Heavy Rain. I didn’t instruct him in the slightest – he made his own choices, and those choices resulted in consequences significantly different from those I had.

David Cage recommends against playing through Heavy Rain more than once, and I understand his reasoning:

“I would like people to play it once…because that’s life. Life you can only play once…I would like people to have this experience that way.”’

I’ll come back to my thoughts on this recommendation in a moment. First, I’d like to bring forward my overall thoughts on the presentation and gameplay some six months after having played the game the first time.

A couple of scenes in and it becomes apparent that the graphics and animation haven’t grown old gracefully. Not playing for myself meant that I noticed a larger number of graphical glitches and imperfections. For a game that is trying to tell a story, sub-par graphics make it less believable.

For the most part, the character animations in Heavy Rain are much like the graphics: good, but by no means excellent. They might even be mediocre, but poor voice work steals too much of one’s attention for it to be that noticeable. Quantic Dream is capable of creating a character that is nicely modeled, animated and voice-acted: private eye Scott Shelby is a perfect example. It’s just a shame that none of the other characters received this amount of care.

In terms of gameplay, the only gripe I have is that the game doesn’t effectively communicate what is a “significant” action. I understand that a big “what you do here will impact how the story unfolds” warning doesn’t fit into the nature of Heavy Rain, but it’s sometimes unnecessarily hard to judge if a simple button press will lead to something irreversible. When Scott Shelby’s car was sinking with him and Lauren in it, my friend kicked in the car window and escaped, leaving Lauren to drown despite having no intention of doing so. Breaking the window filled the car with water, leaving no time to untie Lauren and save her from death. It’s undeniably a predictable outcome, but in a tense situation with a time constraint, he did exactly what I did: followed any and all of the button prompts, unaware that any number of them could have a dramatic effect on the scene’s outcome. When I played the scene, I untied Lauren and then broke the window, thus saving her. However, this was completely by chance – I could have performed the actions in the same order as my friend, and have an outcome that I really didn’t want.

The overall story in Heavy Rain is still engrossing. I thoroughly enjoyed my friend’s version of the story and was genuinely interested to see what choices he would make. Some scenes were slightly different, some significantly different. Others were the same.

Despite enjoyment, I’m afraid that watching the story unfold for a third time will reveal plot holes. It’s the illusion that anything could happen at any time that makes the story of the Origami Killer better than perhaps it really is. Do I still like Heavy Rain? Absolutely. Will I play it again? Never. David, from this point on, I’m taking your advice.

The killer is no ordinary murderer. He is intelligent, organized and methodical. You won’t find him by patrolling the streets.

Norman Jayden