Sunday, August 8, 2010

heavy rain (conclusions)

Finally beat it despite being hairy and lazy. This will be laced with spoilers, so read at your own risk. The first thing that comes to mind after thinking about this game is that it follows Indigo Prophecy's bell curve of awesome, meaning it really peaks in fun-factor somewhere near the middle, then drops off until it ends. It finishes just before it stops being fun, so it's all good. This game was more entertaining in general than IP, and comes with a ton of possible endings for you to explore. ON that note, let's do a little breakdown, shall we? These are neither positives not negatives, just points.

1. Branches
It's not a problem, really, but the identity of the killer does not change depending on what you do as a player, which was kind of disappointing to me. However, I can't really fault quanticdream for going this way because it's not like in the real world I could change the identity of a serial killer by choosing cheerios over frosted flakes. No foul there, but a bit disappointing. The game does change the ends of the stories for the main characters depending on your successes and failures, though, and this was a tad annoying to me. There is a "perfect" ending to this game, which basically means you completed every part of the game successfully. Any other ending is found by failing some challenge or multiple ones. In order to find the kidnapped boy, you have to just not screw up royally. The game is so easy that to find any other ending you have to screw up almost deliberately, overlooking a clue as the detective or giving up as ethan. I'm glad there are different ways for the story to end, but any ending but the 100% one just feels like a long "Game Over" screen. I would have preferred the endings be achieved according to ethical choices or play style instead of just failure.

2. Acting and GFX
As stated, because this is a realistic game and because of the current state of graphics, the game is a tad on the uncanny side of things. Not too much, really. It's within tolerance, but there are a few instances in which it would have been easy to compensate and quanticdream didnt do that. There is a scene early on in which ethan kisses his wife. If you've ever seen a kiss in videogames, you know that it's a tough thing to pull off. Actors in games look realistic nowadays, but there are too many subtleties and small facial movements in something like a kiss for it to be easy to do. The game fixed this problem by simply showing the kiss from behind ethan's head. Fine. I totally bought that ethan had kissed his wife.Spoiler now, kay? A few years, one divorce, and one kidnapping later, Ethan kisses Madison before they have them a sex. What we see is a cinematic kiss scene, off to the side of the faces and about 3 inches away. It didn't look right. What I saw resembled pressing a Ken doll into a Barbie at best and a mother bird feeding her young at worst. If you want to see it, just google heavy rain sex scene. It's not an ethical thing I'm just lazy and don't want to link hunt. The scene is done, to quote classy people like Playboy, tastefully. It's a well-done scene, and it handles sex in a mature fashion. Once they get into the more graphic parts of it, its actually easier to buy as realistic, but for a few seconds the kiss just totally broke my disbelief. I know quanticdream is doing their best, but this was something that they could have easily fixed with some angle work.

3. Sex and nudity
While we're on the topic, I was really glad to see how Heavy Rain handled this. Unlike, oh, EVERY other game I've seen with nudity in it, this game handled it just like a good movie would: with class. I think that's the word anyway. Basically what I'm saying is it wasn't gratuitous, used for laughs or pornographic value. It was a part of either immersion of the game or a necessary piece for telling the story. Actually, the only real thing you could call nudity in this game was Madison's nipples and the occasional bumbum. Naughty-bits are not included and are always covered up with convenient angles, but sexual material is included. I was really glad to see this in a game (let me explain first). Like Daniel Floyd in his awesome series of videos, I really want to see videogames recognized as a viable medium for storytelling and art. Part of this process is going to have to involve sex. Like the film industry, in order for videogames to resonate better with players, developers are going to have to be able to explore sexuality because it is a facet of humanity as a whole (That's mostly Daniel Floyd talking. Watch his whole video here). Any time nudity or sex are included, it's necessary and is a part of character development or plot. Spoilers again in 3, 2, aaaand - As Madison you have to go to a dance club to get information out of a sleazy rich guy. Madison winds up being forced to strip at gunpoint, and the player has to decide between stripping for the sweaty guy or risking getting shot. Even though this was just a game with no real-life consequences, I wasn't going to strip for him, so I knocked him out with a lamp. See that? Excellent choice system in a game, great multi-branched storytelling and  a use of sexual material that isn't stupid or inconsequential. God of War threesome, anyone? Sex does not need to be treated with kid gloves (if that's the phrase). In America, I think we're a lot more conservative about sexual material than other places (in Europe, for example, they treat violence the same way) and for no good reason. Maybe it's got something to do with the immuaturity it's been treated with in the past. However, it's not really a bad thing, we just need to do it better. 

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