I powered through Heavy Rain today.
Let me start by saying that this game is an incredible ride. In scene after scene it creates tremendous tension and delivers real, nail-biting thrills. The individual elements work spectacularly. I was totally engaged in the game moment-to-moment as I was playing it, and found myself constantly yelling at the screen in terror or exhaling in relief. I think Heavy Rain demonstrates that storytelling like this is legitimate and can be engaging and moving.
When you take those individual elements and think of them as a whole, there are some problems. There are definitely some significant issues with the plot, some major questions left unanswered and some simply misleading aspects to the narrative that seem designed solely to string you along and don't seem plausible within the overall story of the game. An effective but not exceptional Hollywood thriller might be forgiven for one such plot problem over the course of its two-hour running time. At around five or six times the length of such a film, Heavy Rain also features around five or six such plot problems. They certainly don't ruin the experience, because the game is so good at delivering thrills that while you're playing it, you're probably too caught up in the excitement of the moment to let them bother you too much. But they're there.
The environments in this game are exceptional. The architecture of the motel feels completely authentic. The old-fashioned design of the refrigerator in Scott's apartment is beautiful. So many wonderful details like these work to really pull you into the world of the game.
And the ARI stuff didn't bug me the way I thought it might after playing the demo. I like how they decided to have a little fun with it, letting you do stuff like bounce the virtual ball against the virtual wall while waiting for the police captain. It worked for me.
Do you think love can bloom, even during a murder investigation?
The big question: To play it again or not? I probably will at some point. But not right away. Going back in and deliberately making different choices just to see how it affects the plot would be fun on one hand, but it would also reveal the machinery behind the game's storytelling, the THIS ACTION = THAT RESULT formulas, which might, as David Cage said in an interview, "kill the magic" a bit. Right now I'm content to live with the way things played out for me.
And now a few specific details about some of my issues with the game. If you care about this sort of thing, I strongly suggest not reading the spoilers unless you have completed the game yourself. I do reveal the identity of the origami killer and go into detail about some aspects of how the game played out for me. I don't want to hear any whining!
The biggest plot issue for me is probably...
Another huge story issue is...
And a question about Scott...
One other minor factual slip-up I encountered:
And now a quick run-down on a few of the major points of how my game played out, and the ending I got.