The success of Heavy Rain hinged on its ability to pull you into its world. Deftly weaving realistic characters with memorable events and giving you control over how the dire situations played out, this crime drama was able to establish a strong emotional connection despite an abundance of dangling story threads. The addition of downloadable episodes should be the perfect way to stitch the seams of the sometimes tattered tale, but this first episode sadly doesn't add anything of worth to the original story. The out-of-context side mission in which you investigate a potential serial killer as the persistent reporter Madison Paige neither gives new insight to her motivations nor establishes a clearer picture of the story at large. The 30 minutes it takes to see everything Heavy Rain Chronicles Episode 1: The Taxidermist has to offer would be much better spent learning how to make your own origami animal instead.
The revelation that Madison Paige is a sneaky newshound came as a surprise during the course of the original story, and this piece of downloadable content gives you a taste of what she goes through to get a juicy scoop. Hot on the heels of the elusive Origami Killer, she finds herself outside of a poorly maintained house during a light drizzle. The run-down complex doubles as a taxidermy workshop, and Madison has strong suspicions that the man inside is drowning little boys in rainwater when he isn't stuffing dead animals. Of course, you can't just ask a man to his face if he's a soulless psychopath, so she forces herself into this eerie abode to find out what secrets he's hiding. This mysterious man is not the serial killer who serves as the looming threat during the course of the main adventure, but he does live a sordid life in his own right.
After ensuring that the occupant of the house has left for a little while, Madison uses her years of breaking-and-entering training to force herself into this temporarily empty building. Once inside, you begin to rummage through empty drawers, barren cupboards, and sparsely decorated rooms. One thing is certain: regardless of what sins this man has committed, he is definitely guilty of being a lousy interior decorator. The dusty surfaces and creaky floorboards make the atmosphere feel oppressive and hostile, and you never feel safe as you creep silently through this dismal home. However, although this portion of the episode does establish a nervous mood, it doesn't do anything to flesh out Madison's character. Her exploits during the main adventure already showed her willingness to put herself in harm's way to catch a dangerous criminal, and the thoughts and analyses she offers as she investigates this scene are not particularly interesting.
Once Madison happens upon the occupant's dark secret, the adrenaline level rises, and the quiet snooping turns into a rabid fight for survival. The elaborate chase sequence that makes up the second half of this episode is thrilling because the context-sensitive controls are well implemented. Trying to find your way out is no easy task and one failed button press could end your game. But there is little emotional connection to make you care about the outcome. There is no doubt that the taxidermist is a very bad individual, but his personality has never been established, so the fact that he commits unspeakable deeds during his free time doesn't carry any weight. No one who grew to like Madison in the main game will enjoy seeing her violently murdered in this episode, but because her fate doesn't have any long-term repercussions, her death is not very affecting. Heavy Rain was able to establish a powerful connection with the player because every event that happened caused ripples through the rest of the story. Because this episode doesn't have any lasting consequences, nothing that happens actually matters.
The strong disconnect between the main story and this separate episode is the biggest reason why there is little incentive to play this downloadable content. Madison is not developed beyond what was already known about her, and there is no more insight into the world at large. Furthermore, even though the chase sequence offers some tension, because Madison already has been attacked by madmen on two other occasions, the sense of heart-racing excitement is lessened. And to top it all off, each of the five endings concludes with a lame newspaper clipping that gives you a perfunctory wrap-up of events you just played through. This fleeting episode is a disappointing addition to the great original adventure.