Heavy Rain was one of my personal favorite games of this generation, despite looking back and seeing the chinks in its storytelling armor the more I play it. Yes the voice acting wasn't a strong suit and the plot could end up getting in silly situations, but the emotions put in certain scenes, graphical detail and many other small realistic touches over a very serious moral issue made it truly stand out. There will still never be another game like it, and for better or worse stands as David Cage's magnum opus. When I heard he had a new game with Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, I had my anticipation for this game skyrocket and it only got higher as I played the demo! As fantastic as it looks, playing it has led to be the biggest gaming letdown of 2013.
Jodie (Ellen Page) has been psychologically linked to and protected by a mysterious entity named Aiden her entire life with many strange and often deadly abilities such as possession and choking his victims, and other abilities including healing, telekinesis, and physically shielding Jodie from attacks. Nathan (Willem Dafoe) takes her in at a young age to be a spy for the CIA for a paranormal assassination and espionage division. After a few deadly encounters she decides to learn the mystery behind her link to Aiden and potentially prevent Armageddon along the way. Now while some of this sounds unique and entertaining in theory, it unravels itself as a complete mess early on, and its non linear plotting doesn't make it any more engaging, interesting, or just plain good.
Heavy Rain had skeptics because of the lack of focus on gameplay, and more or less having quick time events or certain prompts drive the action. By about 30 minutes into it, it felt completely natural and a signature of the game because it actually had available things to interact with at almost every turn, and interacting with the environments actually wielded some purpose later on that would affect how the story would unfold. Here, that element is nearly complete stripped out and the prompts to perform certain actions are completely confusing at best. Fights in Heavy Rain also worked because it clearly laid out what to do in that situation and how to strike. In this one, time slows down and you can be put in certain angles that make it nearly impossible to correctly throw the stick to attack or dodge in combat. The game is damn near impossible to die in or fail in any situation, making any of the little "tension" Cage was going for nonexistent throughout and the plausibility of certain situations are so contrived and idiotic, you can't take any of the action as seriously as the game wants you to. The "co-op" of the game is just having another person control Aiden, damn near completely useless seeing as you can't make them both move together.
Putting Ellie through dire situations only for them to not matter is failure on the game's decision to have a nonlinear plot, a la Memento. Whatever traumatizing experience she is put through has the emotion fizzle away completely by the next chapter. One minute she will contemplate (and attempt) suicide that will make you stagger and wonder why, the next she'll be at a bar while David Cage tastelessly puts Jodie in a teenagers home so she'll show off her Carrie audition to the adolescents that were just demonstrated supernatural abilities by this girl less than 8 minutes beforehand. No emotion sticks because you won't know how the story unfolds the first time and it's so pathetically predictable that playing it a second time would prove you're a masochist for tasteless, misogynistic plot devices. And I emphasize that strongly because it seems that in David Cage's eyes, throwing your female protagonists in as many disgusting rape scenarios as possible makes him a great writer with some of the most laughable stock stereotypes in a video game (the Native American sequence is only the half of it). I applaud him once for making me see through the eyes of a woman in such an uncomfortable, frightening situation but doing it more than that is just tasteless.
Graphically, it's quite an achievement and makes these characters expressions come through realistically. Ellen and Willem give their best to this game with their voices and movements and in the hands of a proper writer and director, this could have been one incredible experience. Each of the different locales in the game feel and look believable and show that there is still amazing graphical prowess on the Playstation 3, even as its little brother is now on the market.
(I suggest those reading to watch the Super Best Friends Play of this game as it unfolds as to get a better understanding of my gripes with the storytelling.)
However, Gamespots rating of this game is completely laughable and is shameful if this is considered to be an evolution in videogame storytelling. This would be given to the pet chimps of a Hollywood film producer if it were ever considered to go out as a movie and is still ludicrous and pathetically written as a video game story. When you come out the same year with games like Bioshock: Infinite, The Last of Us and new installments of The Walking Dead, you had best bring your A-game out there. As much as TLOU seems to take from Children of Men, that game's story and characters were not only more engaging and better developed, but still told you a great story and put you through a marvelous experience the whole way through and still had gameplay as a main focus. I can see that David Cage is passionate about what he does,and I have no complaints to him for that, and if actually got focused and sat down for a rewrite, he could make the incredible game he's dreamed of. But in clear conscience, expecting more than a good laugh from this pretentious slog of a game is asking too much at this point.