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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.