But the frustrating thing, the really really frustrating thing, is that it initially gets away with a lot of this for exactly the same reason games have always got away with duff storytelling. The interactive elements pull you through the experience regardless of all the crap. The way in which Heavy Rain presents its story makes it an undeniably engrossing and involving experience in the same way that shooting your way through Gears of War makes you forget all about the knuckleheaded bravado attached.
And that’s just ironic. Because instead of eliminating the traditional evils of and excuses for video game storytelling, Heavy Rain simply repeats them in a classier-looking way. And despite its gloss, style, genuinely affecting moments and pervasively dense atmosphere – actually because of them – those failings become more obvious than they’ve ever been.
Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy? Yes. Quantic Dream's previous foray into branching interactive drama was an intriguing and much-loved left-fielder last generation, but lost its mind towards the end by turning a mystery thriller into The Matrix. Heavy Rain is messy, but it never goes as batshit as that.
Mass Effect 2? No. Both games have player choice and epic storytelling as their raisons d'etre, but BioWare's game is by far the more satisfying. More coherent, less pretentious, better acted and with choices loaded with more real consequence that Heavy Rain's, it's easily the more heavyweight and affecting game.
Dragon's Lair? Yes. Heavy Rain is arguably a descendant of the old interactive cartoon, but it's a far more accomplished and deep game all round. In fact it only falls down on its lack of actual dragons. DLC please.
Heavy Rain is an admirably ambitious creation capable of engrossing the mind and engaging the emotions like few games that have gone before. Visually and aurally it's a decadent feast for the senses, but its frequent descents into ham-fisted schlock and downright broken storytelling ultimately make it a clumsy case of style over substance. It's a likeable mess if you don't think too hard, but nevertheless, a mess it remains.