Release date: 2010
Heavy Rain is more like an interactive movie than a game, and it is mostly excellent. It’s a game about choices and living with the consequences. I played it through twice myself, just to see how different decisions affect the story and its ultimate conclusion, but to say that my first try was emotional would be the understatement of the century. This game almost broke me. I’ll tell you how soon, but first I want to recount the story of one of my friend’s choices… Like I said, watching Heavy Rain is just like watching a movie, but watching your friends play Heavy Rain gives you an amusing bit of insight into their psychology. The results can be hilarious.
For example, early on in the game, you end up in a standoff with a murder suspect who is aiming a gun at your partner Blake, who is a bit of a dick. Playing as FBI agent Jayden, your job is to resolve the situation in whatever way you can, be it peacefully or otherwise. Me and my friends all handled this very differently.
I managed to slowly calm the suspect down with choice words, opting to talk to the guy multiple times, carefully picking my words and eventually convincing him to lower the gun. My friend Andrew on the other hand, pressed the “shoot him” option as soon as it appeared, and blew the guy’s brains out. No hesitation. Another friend, Adam, did something very unique… He first spent a good deal of time slowly talking the man down, just as I had. About 5 of us were watching the whole scene unfold, the tension heavy in the room and everyone on the edges of our seats. After some lengthy effort, Adam managed to convince the guy to lower his gun and everyone watching let out a breath of relief. Then just as the guy was finally lowering his gun, Adam shot him in the face.
We were stunned into silence. “Why did you do that!?” I eventually asked, holding back a hysterical laugh.
“I thought were going to have a gun down,” Adam explained, as if it was obvious. He was referring to his final choice, a floating bit of text assigned to the X button that simply read “Gun down.”
“That meant you were telling him to PUT THE GUN DOWN. What the fuck even is a ‘gun down‘?”
Everyone fell about laughing at Adam’s misunderstanding, and we have never really let him forget it.
*Spoiler alert – this next part is all about my ending. I want to tell you about my specific ending, because until I played this game, I never truly understood the concept of devastation… *
It all started to go wrong for me when FBI agent Norman Jayden was thrown under the tracks of a moving industrial digger and crushed to death. I only had a couple of seconds to comprehend what was happening because the chapter ended and the game moved swiftly on. There’s no Game Over screen, no Retry option in Heavy Rain. If one of your main characters die, then you have to play the rest of the game without them. And Norman happens to be capable of rescuing another character later on, so without him, I was suddenly in for a slightly tougher time.
Then Madison, the insomniac journalist, burned to death in Scott’s house, immediately after learning that he was the killer. I couldn’t manage to get her out of the bedroom inferno, and she flopped onto the burning bed, caught fire, rolled around in agony screaming before the screen finally put me out of my misery and faded to black.
So two down, why not haplessly kill another one? My mistake with Ethan happened at the motel during a daring escape attempt to flee the cops. Madison was still alive at this point, but she was left helplessly watching me fumble the controls and get caught before even making it to the roof. My Ethan ended up arrested and locked in a jail cell for the rest of the game. He eventually hung himself, because there was no-one left alive who could save his son Shaun (who consequently died alone, drowned in a sewer drain).
The nail in my coffin was having to witness Scott Shelby, a character who I had REALLY liked up until this horrendous climax, smugly stroll away into a crowd of people, quite literally getting away with murder. And it was all my incompetent fault.
I was so disturbed by my ending that I spent the entire next day totally miserable. Unable to accept that I could fuck up a game so badly, I started it over from the beginning with, I’m ashamed to admit, the difficulty set to “easy”. This time I saved Shaun, none of my main characters died, and I enacted sweet justice on the Origami Killer by chucking him into an industrial garbage grinder.
I was amazed at how much I had missed on my first play through and how many subtle differences Quantic Dream came up with to really let the player create a unique experience for themselves. But I will never forget my first play through, as horrible as it was.