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Heavy Rain's BIG plot-holes

Heavy Rain was supposed to change things. It was supposed to elevate video game story-telling above the badly-written, poorly-acted dirges we currently put up with, and give us a groundbreakingly mature, gritty, intelligent and cleverly constructed, branching storyline. It absolutely didn’t. In fact sweep aside the surface gloss of stunning looks and moving score and Heavy Rain’s plot is a shambles.

Not everyone has a problem with that. My arguments over it with certain colleagues often come up against the caveat that "all games have crap stories". But that's really not the point. A game whose sole purpose is serious storytelling is a very different fish to the likes of Gears of War, and crap storytelling here is like a CoD game with crap shooting mechanics. A CoD game which claimed to change shooting mechanics for the better.

Above: Ethan looks lost and confused, and there's a good reason for that

Heavy Rain looks and sounds like a classy movie alright, but if it was a real film, it would be one of those cheap, no-name crime thrillers you drunkenly catch on TV at 3AM. Enjoyable if you don’t think too much, but utterly nonsensical. And here’s why. But first, a brief warning:

 

Not just spoilers, you understand, but immense spoilers, covering a large number of the game’s major plot points, including the identity of the Origami Killer. Don’t say you weren’t warned.


Plot hole 1

Above: No wonder she's an insomniac if she freaks out over literally nothing. 

If you make sure that Madison survives to the hospital scene near the end, she (but not you) is told the identity of the Origami Killer. Understandably, she is shocked and aghast at the name she hears being associated with such atrocities. Not understandably, she and said killer have never met in the game at this point, and in fact are completely unaware of each other’s existence. She’s reacting to nothing, which becomes even more face-palm-worthy when she scoots immediately round to his house.


Plot hole 2

While investigating the Origami Killer, private eye Shelby interviews several parents of murdered kids and collects key evidence and messages sent to them by said mysterious child-offer. Question: Why the hell have these parents still got hold of this stuff? Why didn’t give they these clues to the police during the investigations? Did they want their kids to be killed? And if they did hand them in, why haven’t the police still got them in the (still open) case file? Did they give them back as souvenirs when the bodies were found? No wonder they can't catch the killer if they keep giving evidence away.


Plot hole 3

If Ethan is captured and taken in for questioning by the police, a potential set-piece opens up that's so ludicrous that you'll scratch your head 'til your brain bleeds. For evidence of its stupidity, try the following in real life. Go into a police station of your choice. Find a really important, high-profile suspect in a holding cell. They’re bound to have one knocking around. Help him escape, but make sure you have a conversation with a third-party immediately beforehand, and make sure that the content of that conversation will tie you to the crime without question. Then see if you get away with it.

 

Above: "I never broke the law! I AM THE LAW!" Oh okay, off you go then... 

If you do, get a job at said police station, make yourself unpopular to the point that the corrupt powers-that-be are desperate for an excuse to get rid of you, then try it again. If you’re still working in your office, completely uninterrupted, a few days later and the police have started a second huge manhunt without once even questioning how said suspect escaped in the first place, congratulations. You are Norman Jayden.

Plot hole 4

Speaking of manhunts, the whole case against Ethan which takes up much of the second half is a farce. The evidence that makes him the definite, absolute, couldn’t-be-anyone-else, number-one suspect in a high-profile murder case? Nothing more than some highly circumstantial hearsay and tittle-tattle about black-outs and bad dreams, from his ex and his psychiatrist (tittle-tattle that in that latter case has to be beaten out of the unwilling source). We know that the cops are looking for a scapegoat, but making public claims of guilt and holding a press conference to celebrate the capture of a notorious serial killer without ever bothering to build any kind of a case against him is the simplistic  and lazy thinking of a nine-year old. Even bad movie cops wouldn’t do that.

Plot hole 5

 

Above: It's either bullshit writing or he's a replicant. Your call

Ethan’s blackouts can be explained as a sympton of the trauma he suffered when hit by the car, but what’s with all the false-lead origami models he keeps waking up with? Was the killer following him 24/7 the whole time with a copy of his medical history, just waiting to pop one in his hand whenever he dropped? Including that time he passed out in his own house?

Does he really have an undiagnosed case of ‘Making-paper-models-in-your-sleep-at-topically-suspicious-times’ syndrome? It’s as sensible an explanation as any.

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152 comments

  • KurtisC93 - November 10, 2013 4:39 a.m.

    So what? Of course there's going to be massive plot holes - it's a fucking crime drama, for God's sake! When are they ever realistic?
  • uriel.mafess - October 23, 2013 8:42 p.m.

    Shelby didnt even clean his fingerprints from the clock he used to kill manfred. Unless we asume that was cut out as well as almost all the other 50% of the game that should explain all the plot holes. 8 families getting strange letters with keycards to storages the day before his son kidnaping? Thats just spam not even worthy of mention to the police. The fathers of the kids that "dissapeared" supposedly some of them trying to save their sons but failing or giving up. Nothing to investigate there either. A police going missing when following a lead on a dangerous suspect that disolves his body in his own office? Nahh just the usual everyday life on the city. smell from a disoluted body on chemicals? Its raining a lot im sure everybody has nose congestion. It was a decent game, bad and cheated storytelling with lots of missing content. I this was a movie the leading role would be Christopher Lambert. Thats its league. Anyway for all those fanatics plotholely blinded get yourselves a ockham razor.
  • KozmikPariah - October 14, 2013 11:39 p.m.

    These plot holes suck: a reporter will often seem shocked at learning a perps nome; it's established in game that the pd is corrupt hence mist of these plot holes; jaydens addiction seems based upon his. fbi.provided gear so duh they know he's addicted I'm sure; we know through ethan the reasons the other dads never told cops; you see laurens husband's body during the butterfly mission or what is implied to be; etc Sadly mistaken author.
  • michael-allen-winkie - June 27, 2014 2:45 p.m.

    So a journalist is trying to find a name and she hears the name. She has never met the man before, the name should mean nothing to her, and she takes it so personally and she over reacts, storming out of the room in a deeply distressed way.. That is not how it works.
  • duane-cotton - March 24, 2013 8:38 p.m.

    The only thing I first thought was a plot hole was when Shelby killed Manfred, because we were controlling him when we found the body, I over looked this since the overall game was so enjoyable for me. I then replayed the game and realised that Shelby actually had time to kill Manford during the cut scene when Lauren was looking at the music box and return back to where he was when we were controlling him. He also looks suspicious afterwards which is more apparent after replaying the game with the knowledge of his identity.
  • duane-cotton - March 24, 2013 6:53 p.m.

    The only plot hole I identify in the game is when Shelby kills Manfred, because we are controlling him when we find the body. I can overlook this since the overall game was so enjoyable for me. As for all of the other, so called plot holes listed, I can’t help but think the guy listing them is being pedantic and extra. Unexplained scenarios like the figurine in Ethan’s hand are conventional techniques used in thrillers, particularly in noir cinema. These so called plot holes, in my opinion keep the game in tone with the genre the game is based on. These devices are used to throw off the audience/gamer and most of them can be explained with the use of one’s imagination. Is it so hard to believe that the killer abducted Ethan after his black out, took him to the place he awoke and placed the figurine in Ethan’s hand? Is it so hard to believe that the killer had a slimmer person set up the tunnel trial and killed them afterwards? Looking at how Shelby funded Paco's business or how he could afford the ware house complex is simply looking to much into things. If we sat and questioned how Gerard Butler’s character was able to do half the things he achieved in The Law Abiding Citizen movie we would spoil the whole movie experience for ourselves. The term suspension of disbelief comes to mind. I enjoy The Law Abiding Citizen movie for what it is and I enjoy Heavy Rain for what it is. One is an enjoyable movie, one is an enjoyable video game.
  • RemyBlas - March 5, 2013 5:59 a.m.

    You call this plot holes? I think you need to research what that means. Only number 5 is a serious plot hole in my opinion, and there are deleted scenes that explain it, but even without that, it CAN be explained. Just because the game doesn't show or explain absolutely every tiny irrelevant detail it doesn't mean it is a plot hole. That's ridiculous.
  • ZombieGirly - December 27, 2012 11:32 a.m.

    Great article, I know I'm late but I just got a PS3 and finally got to play this long-anticipated (for me) game. I couldn't help but notice all of these flaws within the game, and I'm glad I'm not the only one because all I hear is praise for the game everywhere. BUT that said, I really did enjoy the game, I do think it has heart and it is quite original. When I can really enjoy something in spite of so many flaws then it shows it's really something special. It could have been even better, though, which is what makes the plot holes so frustrating.
  • You What? - May 23, 2012 3:49 a.m.

    I'm glad that there are SOME mainstream sites that are willing to point out how vacuous Heavy Rain's story is. It's simply not an answer to say "well what games were YOU playing with better storylines than this?" because the entire conceptualisation of Heavy Rain was to bring videogame storytelling in line with the best that film and literature had to offer. It failed miserably. For places like the Official Playstation Magazine to continue to ignore this blatant fallacy in their own reasoning and simply say the criticism of the plot is "wrong" without backing it up is evidence that the ONLY people this story could possibly relate to are those that are either incapable of or unwilling to analyse it properly - in short, the very people that ALREADY PLAY videogames and don't give a damn about continuity. But hell, it gives pretentious idiots a chance to pretend they're 'artistic' by praising the lowest common denominator simply because it looks pretty.
  • faton-maliqi - March 3, 2012 8:33 p.m.

    To be honest, I don't agree with all your plot holes, but I do with most of them. Only one thing I have to add. When the police are chasing Ethan, they don't have magic bullets that don't travel 3 stories down. They just don't have clearance to shoot an unarmed suspect if they haven't been fired upon first.
  • hugh-hefnerr - January 8, 2012 2:54 p.m.

    It didn't irritate me so much that I couldn't overlook the plot holes, because I still enjoyed playing it. I understand why someone would feel differently though. But this guy has a lot of unjustified points too. Like this one: "There is no logical way anyone could fill a complex tunnel system (comprising miles upon miles of chokey-tight crawl-space) with broken glass without painting themselves into a corner and getting cut to ribbons trying to get back out." Yes there is. You could easily map it out to go down every tunnel, only dropping glass behind you when you know you don't need to use that tunnel again. Some of his other points have to do with people not acting rationally. There are two ways of thinking. Emotional and logical. The more you think emotionally, the less you can think logically, and vice versa. If you're extremely upset or angry, a lot of your reasoning is directed towards accommodating for your feelings, and logic goes out the window. I get more annoyed by things like unrealistic dialogue and character motivations though. Not sure why. It takes away from the realism more for me I guess. I had more fun trying to figure out who the killer is, and what Maddisons motivations are, and things like that, rather than the plot holes. There's a lot more to a movie than plot. The characters were still good and believable with realistic motivations. The voice actors were excellent for a video game (I even got a real kick out of seeing what they really looked like in the extras). The music was very well done. It was really kinda dark and depressing. I liked it. Also, when was the last time they had an orchestra do a full score for a video game? I thought the visuals were great too. Plus there was that whole movie/interactive video game novelty which added a lot. So yeah, you can shit all over the plot, but give them credit for what they did well. It's more about whether you had fun playing it at the time. Not about what holds up to scrutiny in retrospect.
  • goup16 - November 11, 2011 9:41 p.m.

    I still love this game but plot holes yes,bad accents check, but what was unforgivable and i still don't know if it was intentional or not but when Shelby goes to hassans store you can tell him shuan mars was abducted by the O.K to try and get help, only 2 hours after ethan goes to the police,,,,,,, IT WASN'T REPORTED YET!!!!From then on I thought it was him, and when it was i was pissed that was like the 6th chapter that damn early... still love this game though.
  • SpecAgnt Jayden Columbo - September 27, 2011 8:18 p.m.

    You ready, guy? You almost make it too easy.... 1. Nothing suggests an investigative reporter has NEVER heard of a local PI who's also a retired cop.. Not too hard to find someone who's business is in the paper... 2. We cannot know why some parents who've lost their children, do things they do. It's very possible they themselves wanted vengeance and kept said items to hopefully achieve it. Also, the envelop contained no letter, thus no evidence. The phone was broken and given the circumstances a cheating husband isn't a far stretch. My explanation here is as vague as your plot hole accusation, there is no solid reasoning b/c the human psyche is unpredictable. 3. Just b/c we don't see whatever interactions between the police following Ethan's escape doesn't mean they don't exist. It's quite possible that Jayden could postpone the blame as (in my experience) a beat cop and corrupt detective might suspect me but I'm F-Fu@#in-BI! I'm above their jurisdiction. Haven't you ever seen any of the millions of other police movies these days?! 4. Ethan openly admits kidnapping his son, then escapes the jail. You saying you wouldn't start a manhunt?! That's the most laughable...but wait, there's more! Nobody said it couldn't be anyone else, just that the police have no other leads...Do you know how this works?... 5. If you kidnap and murder kids, for years now, you saying you don't take the time to monitor every little detail? That's how you become a serial killer, you DON'T GET CAUGHT by taking care of the details. Following Ethan is just common sense. It's convenient for OK that he experiences blackouts and oppurtune to place the figure in his hand, it's never mentioned that OK has done this every single time Ethan has blacked out, therefore he doesn't need to watch his every move, just the ones that matter... 6. You don't even have an argument to stand on. Investigative work shows OK 'may' be a cop or ret. cop b/c the watch, upon further investigation it's possible to find that one who matches the build and has suspicious land ownership, as you said (on a cop's pension!) fits a possible profile and is worth investigating further. Just b/c we don't see all these pieces go together doesn't mean they don't occur off-screen. No, you don't get to see every little detail or the cinema would last about 5 mins. *Geez, you beg for solid police work then bash it when it appears? 7. a. Huge explosion occured seconds after entry (anyone can hold their breath for around atleast 30secs, right) b. extreme heat from flames and explosion could have melted air tight rubber seal common on frigerators or even caused the seal to break somehow, c. you should have mentioned how huge the blast was and less likely it would be to survive in such close proximity to it, that's more implausible, but nothing here is actually impossible or different from any cinema to date.
  • SpecAgnt Jayden Columbo - September 27, 2011 8:23 p.m.

    8. The drug could be prescribed to counter the side effects of prolonged AVI use. He may very well be abusing his dosage, but I didn't when I played the game all the way through... He could just have been fighting the side-effects of the AVI as well. Nothing states that taking Tripto is causing these effects, honestly the number of possibilities are endless, thus unnecessary to continue. 9. I dont' even need to discuss the psyche of a serial killer, nor the orders of officers not to shoot into public areas from great ditances. Also, it's a cinematic feature; people miss, and if you did what I did to Nathaniel there was no hesitation or misfire there! Believe it or not, most police protocal want the suspect alive... As for the guy robbing the grocer, he's more scared than others in the scene, obviously by his diologue. 10. Depending on what's in the "soup" those bones would be gone in a few days as well, therefore no evidence. The yard is near, nothing with loud machines running all the time and if anyone works for a guy like Mad Jack, they more than likely never question what he's doing, and are probably repeated criminals just like him. Just use a little common sense here, this cop came alone, and he's about half your size, and you're MAD JACK! You don't scare easily... 11. I don't even need to address this as too many have already successfully, it's quite childish when you think about it, how many nameless "bums" would he have at his disposal? Countless... 12. Since Ethan believe's his "other" persona is testing him, it is possible there is another involved who arranged everything with him, thus just more info he's not privvy to since he can't remember where he hid his own son... 13. a. others already gave a clear explanation, b. we don't need to see him reload to know it could happen before the stairs, c. it was on page 11 in the paper, pity you only saw the headlines... 14. Ha, just see others posts. 15. a. just b/c you have a "better" idea for a scene doesn't degrade it's credibility, b. He could be using a tactic to scare Lauren away from further investigating. Also, if you get caught and go for questioning you learn that he has friends in high places within the department, obviously. And as you said, it's a justifiable scene, that "attempts" to through you off the scent... You telling me you knew SS was OK at this point without a doubt, and even after this scene you were 100% sure it was him? Hell, where were you when we needed to catch Hussain and Osama?! Heh, I digress, but notice my rant isn't filled with blastphemy...
  • You What? - May 22, 2012 5:39 p.m.

    Heh. Were you being serious with this, or were you just taking the piss? Because I can safely say, if you were being genuine, that you have achieved the exact opposite of what you were intending. You've actually proven, more than even Houghton managed to, how bad the plot of Heavy Rain actually is. The very fact that you have to attempt to explain plot holes with EVEN MORE PLOT HOLES utterly reinforces everything that people have been saying about this narrative travesty since its release. "He could have used bums to do the work for him" implies that others are in on his crimes - so why don't we see them? "Jayden could have postponed the blame," so why didn't we see him do this? Because they didn't think of these as possibilities - you have formulated these facts to suit your opinion, instead of forming your opinion around the facts. You don't have any evidence to support any of what you're saying, the closest you come is saying the police don't have any leads other than Ethan then arrogantly suggesting that police ALWAYS chase down their only potential suspect with the entire weight of their force even when they haven't got enough of a case to secure a conviction. Other times, you don't even bother. You just deflect the issues by claiming that you "don't need" to address them - in other words, you are unable to. The idea that we should just accept the rationale of some of this crap simply because Shelby is a psychopath is laughable - you still need to have continuity and consistency within the story and the characterisation, both of which are not present in Heavy Rain. And don't forget - we're actually LISTENING TO SHELBY'S THOUGHTS! That is the most blatant cheat of all - we're supposedly able to hear what Shelby's thinking, and yet it can't possibly be accurate otherwise he'd constantly be revealing his crimes. In short, you've not only failed to disprove any of these plot holes - you've actively unearthed more of them, and definitively proven why Heavy Rain is a complete mess. Well done, that takes a special level of ignorance.
  • RemyBlas - March 5, 2013 7:33 a.m.

    So, you think because the game didn't show or explain every little detail, those are plot holes and the story doesn't make sense? Well, that's logical if you've only seen documentaries in your life and have never watched a movie...
  • michael-allen-winkie - June 27, 2014 2:52 p.m.

    Everything you just said is an assumption.
  • mattwang - January 6, 2012 7:06 a.m.

    Shelby was only posing as a PI.
  • OMGmyFACE - May 22, 2011 10:27 p.m.

    However, I would've added to number 5. Aside from the origami figures, he also has nightmares about drowning bodies. This isn't explained or attributed to being scared of the OK's modus operandi (which wouldn't make sense anyway since his son is kidnapped a day AFTER he mentioned this, according to his ex's police statement). It's not trauma related to Jason's death either since he was hit by a car, not drowned.
  • OMGmyFACE - May 22, 2011 10:03 p.m.

    So I'm playing Heavy Rain right now and thinking "wow, I'm so glad this article exists so I don't have to write it." Those who are mad about this don't know what makes a good story. Deal with it, people.

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