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The 10 most distracting things in Heavy Rain

It’s been a week since Heavy Rain’s release, and in that week, we’ve had a lot of time to mull over what worked about the game and what didn’t. Overall, it’s a positive experience; the gameplay is surprisingly fun, the visuals are impressive, (some of) the characters are relatable and interesting and the game handles its most suspenseful moments incredibly well. And while the plot has its problems, it’s fair to say that Heavy Rain tries to raise the bar for interactive storytelling.


Above: Storytelling!

If you’re going to try and raise that bar, though, you’re going to fall under more scrutiny than games that don’t (because hey, they’re not claiming to deliver anything more than simple entertainment). And in a game that’s as methodical and detail-oriented as Heavy Rain, which asks players to immerse themselves in its narrative, it’s easy to fixate on the design decisions that, for various reasons, do little apart from add an extra layer of detachment between players and the story. They’re distracting, they’re unsettling and while you might have forgiven or even dismissed them, odds are you at least noticed them.


1. “American” accents

If you’ve ever watched Bram Stoker’s Dracula, you might remember that Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder were so busy trying to get their faux-British accents right, they forgot to act. Heavy Rain has a similar problem, in that the game is set in the US, but a good chunk of its cast is made up of British and French actors trying to affect American accents. Now, we’re not suggesting that non-Americans can’t do our accents convincingly – Hugh Jackman and Hugh Laurie manage it all the time – but when Heavy Rain’s actors try it, something seems… off.


Above: “Saihriously, Oi’m an Amairracun!” 

Leon Ockenden as Norman Jayden affects some sort of weird, quasi-Boston/New York accent that includes such pronunciations as “ennethin” and “figger.” Pascal Langdale as Ethan Mars starts out with convincingly flat, unremarkably American diction, but backslides repeatedly into something that sounds more like a Dublin accent. The four little boys in the story, meanwhile, are voiced by two French-speaking child actors, Max Renaudin and Taylor Gasman, and sound bizarre because of it. Here, we’ve compiled some of our favorite examples. Fair warning, though: there’s a (relatively minor) spoiler in there.

To be clear, the complaint here isn’t that some of the actors simply have accents. Accents are nothing unusual in the US, and in fact, the characters that have deliberate accents – like Lauren and Hassan – come off as more believable because of them. But when non-Americans attempt to “speak American” imperfectly – as Langdale, Ockenden and some of their fellow European castmembers do – it’s easy to hear that something’s not quite right. And because of that, there’s something off-putting about the characters themselves. Something that jars us out of the experience and reminds us we’re just playing a game.


Above: This is by no means exclusive to American accents or to Heavy Rain 

This is something that may not matter to, or even be noticed by, our UK readers. But given how much we were hyped on Heavy Rain’s immersiveness and realism, it seems strange that developer Quantic Dream choose to add another layer of separation between the player and the narrative.

And while we’re on the topic, why can nobody decide on a single way to pronounce “origami?” It’s only the nickname of the game’s central villain; would it hurt to be consistent?


2. “Wasteland”

It only adds to that separation when the script introduces weird terms that nobody would ever use. Example: for whatever reason, Heavy Rain’s characters continually refer to children’s bodies being found “on a deserted wasteland.” Scott Shelby says it, Lauren Winter says it, even the cops say it.

For the record, here’s what most people think of when they hear “wasteland:”

For Americans, at least, “wasteland” conjures images of vast, inhospitable landscapes devoid of life or civilization. The Sahara is a wasteland. Borderlands and Fallout 3 take place in wastelands.

This, meanwhile, is what Heavy Rain thinks qualifies as a wasteland:

That’s not a wasteland any more than a lemur is an ape. It’s a goddamn empty field by some railroad tracks. You know what we call those? Empty fields by railroad tracks. Not wastelands. Not ever wastelands.

Couple weird gaffes like that with the accents, and it comes off sort of like… I don’t know, this:

79 comments

  • madmikev2 - May 2, 2014 11:35 a.m.

    Oh gosh, im going to be a jerk but, this is the kind of review a hardcore, blunt atheist would give. Look theres a difference between "plot holes" & "human mistakes". The difference is you dont bitch about mistakes as much because the actually story is so good its believable, as if it could actually happen. Heavy Rain falls into the same category of "awesome shit to experience" as LOST, Legend of Zelda, Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, Infamous (1 only, 2 kindof screwed up the story), How I Met Your Mother, Eminems work, Yu Yu Hakusho & Ozzy's work. If you havent watched / listened to half of those shows / songs, consider looking in to them before you judge Heavy Rain so harshly.
  • Benno94 - August 9, 2010 12:33 p.m.

    You seem to have condemned this game on this site. In fact, you were the only review I've seen that gave it an above average review, and not a 'great one'. And also, in your 'super review', why did you positively compare this PS3 exclusive, to two PS3/PC/XBOX Games games much like it, and then negatively compare it with an XBOX360/PC exclusive that was an 'action/shooter rpg' (I am talking about Mass Effect 2), and not an 'Interactive Drama' which Heavy Rain is?? I sense a case of 'xbox fanboy marking down the great ps3 game out of spite'. And please, by no means am I a 'Ps3 Fanboy', I think Halo, Fable etc are great games, but save the game reviewing for someone without a Biased view next time. Because quite frankly, all I've seen from this site is article after article seeming to say 'Heavy Rain is sh**, get an xbox, join us....' And also, the comments on here saying 'Heavy Rain is crap meh meh' by people who haven't even played it (and I'm guessing can't because they dont own a playstation) are nothing short of laughable. [/rant]
  • philipshaw - March 8, 2010 6:47 p.m.

    The accents were fine for most of the game but those kids were bad. I love the "FUCKIN ASSHOLE" bit because it's so out of context
  • egregious - March 8, 2010 1:58 p.m.

    I think 'Distracting' should be replaced with 'Awkward.' I guess I'm the only one who isn't annoyed with Jayden's voice and accent because when I hear him and see him, I see Edward Burns.
  • teke367 - March 5, 2010 10:14 p.m.

    Totally agree. I liked the game, but I did notice the characters are "toothy" and not just the accents, but the phrases seemed a bit off, I think when Ethan is being questioned by the cops early, the word "Carousel" was used 20 times, I don't think I've said carousel 20 times in my life, and I worked at a them park.But the biggest point I agree with is the kid, and how annoying he was. I wanted the kid to die so bad, I even hoped there would be DLC where you save the kid, only to beat him with quick time events.
  • GoodGuyWithACrappyJob - March 5, 2010 12:09 a.m.

    You know, for a game that sold itself by claiming to be a step forward in the depth to which a video-game story could go, you think they would have gone all the way on this thing. I have studied literature and film (incidentally, the best thing to do after returning from a long shoveling) and everything about this only goes about half-way. The characters' back stories, only some are tangible and that one can relate to. The mise-en-scene, the apartment mentioned is the best example, it tells us nothing about him other than a few plot points. The story itself is full of holes (pointed out in another article, I know) and I could go on, but I just think that they could have done better. All the way next time, guys!
  • DriveShaft - March 4, 2010 8:55 p.m.

    It seems like when they made this game, they did it with absolutely no input from North Americans, how hard would it have been to get American actors, or just set it in Europe? I don't get why they have 3 out of the 4 protagonists using fake accents, honestly >_>
  • DriveShaft - March 4, 2010 8:53 p.m.

    You picked up on all the good points, when my friend was watching me play it for like the seventh time we both pointed out these and some others x] I remeber in the beginning when you're supposed to pick which son to play with first, after I put Jason down and Shaun says 'it's my turn!' I said GOD YOU ARE THE NEEDIEST KID. Also, anyone else noticed that the Origami Killers twin brother is born in 1967, but in 2012 he is supposed to be 48?
  • toastedmilk - March 4, 2010 8:17 p.m.

    a few comments on the list 1,4,5,6–agreed, the accents and some of the voice acting could be annoying and there was a definite uncanny valley factor going on 2–you guys are making way too big of a deal about the whole wasteland thing 3–outside of madison's apartment, too nice and spacious for a young, single freelance reporter, i liked the art direction, it had a classic noirish feel. as for the house at the beginning, i thought that the open rooms with light pouring in felt very warm and happy, which created an excellent visual contrast to the depths ethan fell in his grungy home later in the game. But yeah, I couldn’t find that cupboard either. 7–agreed, it would have been nice if they did just a little research in mental illness if it’s going to make up a significant plot point 8–weren’t you guys bitching about how boring the beginning of the game was on your podcast? now you want another half hour or so to connect with jason? he’s your son, you love him more than anything in the world, and he died while you were watching him. this is further emphasized by the actually accident which you criticize: ethan throws himself between his son and the car, essentially sacrificing himself to save jason, and he still failed. 9–i assumed it was an asian market and i was too caught up in the game to analyze those assumptions 10–i don’t know if anyone else did this, but i kept trying to do things like using the toilet as much as possible because of indigo prophecy. in that game urinating, washing your face, etc would give you extra life. i thought there might be a behind the scenes stress meter and i tried to increase my chances of survival. 11–how did you miss the most unrealistic and distracting thing: there was no line for the bathroom at a busy nightclub. and it was the women’s bathroom. and there wasn’t even anyone inside it. outside of that, i loved the game and rank it as one of the best this generation.
  • suicidali - March 4, 2010 7:17 p.m.

    Yeah, I picked up on some of those... I'm british btw Lauren's voice actor was the most obviously French-sounding one, though mostly in the first few scenes That damn cupboard! I was also expecting it to be fixed to the wall, not the floor The wasteland thing was a bit odd too, but I got the jist The chickens threw me the most though... I literally shouted out loud "Chickens?! What?!", then more QTEs appeared and shut me up
  • Auron - March 4, 2010 4:20 p.m.

    Wow, French people really don't give a shit whether the toilet door's open or not.
  • ranivus - March 4, 2010 2:18 p.m.

    Yeah i agree this game is full of awesomeness but for sure i really REALLY hated the english voice acting. I mean im used to bad american voice acting from JRPGs but this takes it to a whole new level. I only kept the english dubbed on for the first play through. The rest of my other playthroughs, i just kept the french dubs as the acting sounds much more believable considering its the developers native language. Its obvious some people havent been to a farmers market or a local corner store, but locale wise it felt like a normal suburban area of New England. But yeah i was perfectly fine with everything else except the voice acting was just atrocious. Was it Origami, Origahmie, or Orrygami?
  • AVATARMAN - March 4, 2010 1:02 p.m.

    Man Scott Shelby is an asshole, but hes alright in a fight against that guy troy, but i reckon Ethan and Norman are awesome, so is Norman's ARI system
  • Samael - March 4, 2010 8:20 a.m.

    While I agree with everything on this list (especially the wasteland thing, that just utterly perplexed me in the demo), I think this should be the last Heavy Rain article, at least for awhile. Just to shut the haters up for a bit. Or do an article on the good things about Heavy Rain. Like the fight sequences and other tense moments.
  • salcruz - March 4, 2010 6:38 a.m.

    Why isn't Madison's ass in this article? I found myself constantly losing focus on the gritty and winding story and stopping to stare at her ass as she walked, etc. In the Paco scene, i kept letting him get mad and point the gun at me just so i could strip down to panties. Fanservice to the max. Shameless!
  • Whizkid103 - March 4, 2010 12:59 a.m.

    Also, has anyone thought that MAYBE just MAYBE Jason's neck snapped, killing him instantly?
  • Whizkid103 - March 4, 2010 12:57 a.m.

    Jesus Christ, would you guys stop bashing the game? If you don't like it fine, but why do you keep picking on it? If you don't like the game, stop talking about the game.
  • JackSkellingtonsSkin - March 3, 2010 10:40 p.m.

    You really tought Ethan displayed no emotion? I really have to disagree with that. I tought he was the only character who showed enough emotion for the player to care about him. I would say the other characters aren't that great in particular Jayden. He was the stupidest and most boring character in any game for a long time. Whenever I was playing one of his levels I hated the game a little, his ARI levels basically devolve into walk slowly and press R1. And hs voice acting was the worst and because of him Blake had to be in the story. Jayden was really just a plot device Cage used to break Ethan out of jail. He foresaw the problem early on and realised 'I need another character'.
  • Pocotron - March 3, 2010 9:05 p.m.

    I'm tired of seeing the words "Heavy" and "Rain" in the same sentence. AH! F**KING ASSHOLE! I DID IT AGAIN!
  • wkdtkd - March 3, 2010 9:02 p.m.

    Why couldnt they have just set the game in Europe in the first place? Personally I would find that more interesting. I hate the way games/movies/music videos always have to appeal to the American market. (Especially when its New York *rolls eyes* I could almost find my way around 'real-world New York' just from playing videogames at this stage...)

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