Video game project

The game I chose for this assignment is called Heavy Rain and runs on Playstation 3. The reason I selected it is that it offers an experience quite different from the great majority of consoles’ games. It allows you to play four different characters (as far as I have played it): a detective, a fbi agent, a dad and a young woman. They are involved in the chase of a serial killer that drowns his victims thanks to extended period of rainfall.

If I try to summurize the concept behind this game, I would say it is an “interactive story telling experience” that borrows a lot from movies. The most conspicuous cinematographic element in it is the camera. You have a very limited control on it as it is very often set at given place and you can only switch to a different one by pressing the R1 button. The interface is almost non-existant, by this I mean that in most games, the character you control has a health bar, an inventory, a quest log etc… But here you do not have any of this. You just walk around and as soon as an interaction is possible between your character and the environment, the button with which you can perform an action will be represented on the screen next to the object. To illustrate this point, I captured a part of the introducing sequence of Heavy rain.

This choice shows that the developpers wanted the players to be immersed in the story as an interface can be seen as a tool highlighting the feeling that you are playing a game. Overall I would say that this part of the gameplay works rather well except the camera. Indeed, the fact that it is fixed actually gives a cinematographic touch to the sequences but does not help the gameplay. The explorations of the places you have to visit is sometimes made difficult as you bump into objects or change direction without willing it when the camera changes point of view in a shot reverse shot way.

The different characters played offer the same gameplay except the fbi agent that has a special attribute as he benefits from a cool pair of sunglasses that enable him to analyze a zone to find DNA traces for instance. It also serves as a kind of inventory as it stores the clues you find while inquiring. The gameplay experience while playing this character is the one that I preferred thus far and it is the one that is the closest to “regular” games.
The game sometimes offers sequences filled with “quick time events”. When this happens, you do not control the character but you have to hit a button when its symbol appears on the screen. They are used during action sequence and here is an example:

So, does Heavy Rain’s concept offer an interesting experience? Well, to tell the truth, I am not entirely convinced. The scenario is more interesting than in a lot of other games but it is inspired by many thriller movies and it does not do it as well, this by the simple fact that it is a game! A nice aspect though is that you have to make choices that permanently change the story and there is no way to go back as the game autosaves at specific points.

The problem of Heavy Rain is that it borrows from two different media grammars: cinema and video games. All the cinematographic elements can have bad consequences on the gameplay (ex: the camera) and sometimes, the developpers chose to make you play sequences that could be agreable when watched in a film but definitely horrible to play. The best example I have is this sequence when you have to cradle a baby.

Also the whole introductory sequence that serves as a tutorial is boring. You are literally meant to make him brush his teeth, have a shower, eat a piece of cake, wait in the garden until the kids come home, in a word it is useless as you understand how to play the game in no more than 15 minutes. My point is that video games cannot do well when using movies’ attributes to tell a story and they have therefore to find their own way. Heavy Rain is an interesting attempt to make a narrative compelling through this medium but it lacks a clever understanding of video games themselves. If I were to quote a game that successfully integrates strong storytelling and good gameplay it would be GTA IV or even Bioshock.

note: I figured out how to have the videos in my article but there is no sound which is weird because I think I had it on the quicktime videos saved on the computer in Axxin….

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