If you're the kind of gamer who slaughters the idea of Quick Time Events (QTEs) then, quite simply you're not going to enjoy David Cage and Quantic Dream's PS3 exclusive detective game.
That said, you're also not going to have enjoyed Uncharteds
or Heavenly Sword
or Dante's Inferno
, to name a few other games that use QTEs.
Given that you've got an open mind however, Heavy Rain
will both immerse you and quite possibly test a few reactions along the way.
Quick plot rundown – a difficult job without giving away spoilers but I think I've done it: HR
is a detective game written and designed by French people, well acted for the most part by Brits, and set in the United States around about now-ish.
Unlike most games, you control four (okay, five) characters: a father, a female journalist, a male FBI profiler, a male private eye and someone else. You do this in different parts of the game, not simultaneously, so calm down.
The basic premise is to save someone from death and to catch the person who put the victim in the position whereby they could die. Oh, the perpetrator happens to be a serial killer. He or she is "The Origami Killer". You achieve these tasks by conversing (if you hate the Mass Effects
and the Monkey Islands
leave now) and by QTEs.
Also, as the FBI agent – Norman Jayden – you've also got a nifty pair of specs and a glove that enable you to play a Steve McQueen from The Great Escape
game with a baseball and sift through evidence. This includes files, video, geo-analysis and more. Oh, Norman's got a bad habit as well.
Immediately for old folk and James Elroy fans such as me, The Black Dahlia
springs to mind, as does Mulholland Drive
. What doesn't are the books and movies of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett; it's not that kind of noir.
There you go, largely unspoilt plot.
Now, the motivation for the game. Apparently David Cage wanted to create an 'experience' (I call it a game) that would test gamers emotionally as well as in terms of hand-to-eye coordination. Most of us are aware, however, that games such as Final Fantasy
, GTA IV
and the BioShocks
already achieve this.
Next, Cage wanted to achieve something cinematic and mature. He and his team also wanted to create a title that different players could experience in different ways. This invests the game itself with a number of ways of playing. This results in a number of resolutions.
These are all laudable ambitions. I also think that Quantic Dream has come as close as anybody to achieving them. My personal take on Cage himself is that – like Denis Dyack with Too Human
, he should employ a 'Life Editor'. Someone to follow him around and just occasionally shut him up. There is, you see, from the reviewer's perspective, the problem that you could confuse the often grandiose, inconsistent, pompous and pretentious ejaculations of the creative force with the creation itself.
Fortunately, the game does a reverse Frankenstein with the monster actually being less wearing to spend time with than the creator.
Now, this 'mature' element. By this, I take it to mean 'sexual' and 'emotionally mature'. On the first point, well, it's a bit of a damp squib. Yes, there's booooobies! There's botties! Yes, there's clinching sex. Yes, there's coping with loss. Frankly, though, all of those have been seen elsewhere. The nature of the video gaming industry, however, sadly means that this is more tepid coffee than hot.
The nature of the noire genre in detective fiction also means that the main characters are all emotionally strangulated and unable to really get to grips with anything but the most obvious responses. That's the way it is with films and books in the oeuvre. That's the way it is with Heavy Rain
. Guess we'll have to wait for Quantic Dream to move into Milan Kundera or Haruki Murakami territory before we achieve that.