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            Can you handle it?
by Ethos

Best Atmospheric Experience 2010 – Riddles

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Limbo

Finally! Due credit can be given to this downloadable gem of a game. Mass Effect 2 and Heavy Rain both built dense, palpable atmospheres – but Limbo builds an atmosphere unlike anything seen before, through methods never used. It’s a game that truly stands in a class of its own, and it must be experienced firsthand.

With barely a backstory explaining it, Limbo throws you into a dark, uninviting wood, where you must search for your missing sister. Everything is black and white – the protagonist is a small, silhoutted boy with beady, glowing eyes – which always shine, even in the darkest surroundings. The pale white lighting flickers like a failing street sign, which adds a subtly bizarre atmospheric effect.

As you go forward, it becomes clear that this forest is the personification of a child’s nightmare. Night-shrouded woods, infested with bullies, gigantic spiders, and devious traps. In spite of its juvenile protagonist, Limbo has an unexpectedly brutal side to it – deaths are brutal and bloody, often involving beheadings or skewerings. Certain puzzles, even, display an unexpectedly macabre nature – at one point, you must drag the dead bodies of children to a lake, then use them as stepping stones.

Background and foreground layers fade and become more distinct to create different atmospheric effects. All the while, a minimalist sound design is utilized – Limbo has no musical score to speak of, and instead chooses to assault your ears largely with dead silence and footsteps. It works brilliantly.

I wish I could say more about Limbo, but I must remember that I’m here only to discuss its atmospheric merits. Limbo is unlike anything I’d played before it, and it’s easily the best atmospheric experience I had in 2010.

Runner Up: Heavy Rain

Well, anything I say here will sound a little tepid in comparison to Lameish’s recent gushing article explaining the game’s atmospheric merit. Oh well. Heavy Rain is a game that builds its atmosphere not through bizarre and fantastical fantasy worlds or heavily stylized aesthetics, but rather, through the gritty realism that permeates its world, characters, dialog, and graphical presentation. It’s well-written, well-acted interactive thrillride, but it’s real life –  and it’s impressive to see a game build such palpable atmosphere through such meager conventions.

Best Atmospheric Exerience 2010 – Lameish

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Heavy Rain

Every time I sat down to play this game, I walked away craving a stiff drink, a cigarette, and even the most remote sign that my actions had any consequence against the crippling omnipotence of a human propensity for the rape of innocence. No HUD, no score counter, just you and the most claustrophobic urban wasteland imaginable, where the broken make their homes and the naked hide from light. You’ve failed as a father and a man, allowing your life and the life of your one surviving son to sink in to disrepair, until he is stolen out from under your crippled hands, taken to a place that, in all likelihood, is better than the rickety tin-roof you’ve managed to raise over your head. The nights are black and the days are gray and the rain floats the sewage out in to the streets and its all you can do to bend to your antagonist’s will in the desperate hope that you might return your son to the bleak life you’ve carved out for him. Hookers, trench coats, and typewriters all decorate the walls of this grizzly jouer-noir. I’d sign a petition to get a surgeon general’s warning put on the box and little travel pack of Prozac placed inside. Gold star.

Runner Up: Mass Effect 2

Every planet, space station, and starship bears its own individual architecture, customs, and practices. Where other games struggle to assemble an effective atmosphere, Mass Effect 2 pulls off dozens. Just another brilliant example of the level of detail and creativity that went in to this game’s construction. Unfortunately, it suffered from being a jack of all atmospheres, master of none. In fairness, its hard to compete with a game that makes you take a serious look at dropping your un-paid, part-time videogame journalism gig to work the homicide beat.

-Lameish

Lazy Saturdays #06 – LOLWUT

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Yep, it’s been a lazy Saturday. Classically lazy, in fact. Although, I did have a random stroke of creativity, and proceeded to write a 3,000 word  short story. Weird, eh? I’m sure you’re all dying to read it, but unfortunately, it has nothing to do with videogames. So. It wouldn’t be appropriate, y’see.

By the way, I should mention the fact that I am still playing Alan Wake. I’m moving quite slowly through it because a) I’ve been working a lot, and b) I’m frankly not enamored with it. However, I still plan to finish it and review it for the site. Hint: I’m not as blown away as many others seem to be.

Alright, well. As you can see, this weekend’s edition of Lazy Saturdays has been brought to you by the LOLWUT Pear! And, if you read any further, you’ll find out why, exactly, that is.

Alpha Protocol dev snaps, claims that game should have been “cancelled”now this is definitely a lolwut. Perhaps you’ve read a few of the recently published reviews for the Obsidian-developed, Sega-published espionage RPG Alpha Protocol? Well, they aren’t terribly positive. The PS3 version of the game is currently holding down a 70.80% aggregate ranking on GameRankings, and the 360 and PC scores are both lower. Apparently, the game’s just a buggy, muddy, unfinished piece of work. In fact, it’s such a disappointment that even people who worked on the game are voicing their disgust. Commenting on Joystiq’s review, an apparent Alpha Protocol developer had this to say:

There was a ton of work put into this game. The problem is that it was a ton of undirected work, or work on things that were just stupid. The Executive Producer for the game, Chris Parker (also an owner of the company), seemed to think he was the world’s greatest designer ever, and created all these absolutely shitty systems and wouldn’t listen to any of the real designers or devs about things that just didn’t work. And you can’t exactly argue with one of the owners of the company when he doesn’t want to listen. He basically took over the game and dictated exactly how everything would work (or not work, as the case may be). The other producers realized this early on and just gave up, leaving Parker to micromanage all the designers and programmers directly.

Sega also was a factor, because they kept changing the design requirements (yes they had heavy influence there), which never gave the producers and designers time to actually decide on one set of features to make and polish. The blame is still mostly Obsidian’s because the execution was absolutely terrible, and it was obvious 2 years ago that this game should have been scrapped. Instead, though, they focused on adding still more features and never fixed the ones they already had. That is a recipe for tons of bugs and no polish… as is obvious.

This game was just an absolute failure of production, and it’s no wonder that so many of the developers left the company, even after the 40% staff layoffs. I am still happy about some of Obsidian’s other current projects, New Vegas included, because they are going pretty well. Their big unannounced project is looking great and is already much better than AP ever was, and that may end up being the game that everyone was looking for with AP.

Sega should have canceled AP instead of Aliens.

Ah… man. I’m almost unsure if I should be laughing at that. But, I already proclaimed it a LOLWUT. And, in truth, we can’t know for sure that this wasn’t just posted by some nobody. But, uh… it sounds pretty legit to me.

Cliff Bleszinski: the children in Heavy Rain are “hideous” – this one has LOLWUT written all over it. Know why? Because it’s true. Now, Cliff Bleszinski is a bit of a jackass in my opinion, but he hits the nail on the head with this little quote from an interview with GameReactor:

“Yes, [Heavy Rain] really grows on me. But, even if I feel it’s a really good game, I don’t think they have done enough to avoid the ‘uncanny valley’ problems.”

“The children in the game are some of the most hideous I have seen. Ever”

Ba-hahaha. Yes, Cliff. Yes they are. They also sound awful. Particularly in a certain, highly pivotal scene near the end of the game. People who’ve played through the whole thing know exactly what I’m talking about.

Let’s take these complaints to heart, eh Quantic Dream?

Man stabs other man to exact revenge for Counter-Strike deathNow, if this isn’t a LOLWUT than I don’t know LOLWUT is! Ha! Ha! See the pun? No? Good, because it’s fucking awful.

Anyway. Julien Barreaux is a 20-year old man living in Cambrai, France. In late 2009, Julien was killed in a knife-fight in Counter-Strike by a man named “Mikhael.” Enraged, Julien set out to find “Mikhael” and bring him to justice. He spent six months searching, and finally ended up on Mikhael’s front doorstep with a knife in hand. When Mikhael answered the knock at his door, Julien attempted to drive the knife into his heart – and he missed by an inch. Mikhael’s still alive, and Julien’s going to prison for two years.

Wait, only two years?

This guy meticulously hunts down and attempts to kill a man over a death in Counter-Strike, and he gets two years?

Goddamn French pussies.

A dark LOLWUT, yes; but a LOLWUT nonetheless. And, with it, we conclude this special LOLWUT edition of Lazy Saturdays. Thanks so much for joining us, and might I encourage you to scroll down and have a look at some of the awesome content we’ve posted this week? Like, for example, Ethos’ gushing review for Super Mario Galaxy 2? (Actually, you’ll have to scroll up for that.) Or, my less-than-positive review for the Prince of Persia movie? And, last but not least, the birth of the Memetok?

Just scroll down. Or up. You won’t be sorry.

-Riddles

Games where the Sun Don’t Shine – #2: Heavy Rain

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

“Games where the Sun Don’t Shine” is a completely random, arbitrary, and pointless list of games that give off a dark and/or depressing vibe. What better way, after all, to celebrate the season of Spring?

Heavy Rain

While Ethos seems to be turning to titles of old for his Sunshine list, I’m (apparently) sticking closer to more current-gen stuff. Stands to reason, I suppose, since you don’t find many oppressive and/or dark 2D experiences. Or maybe you do, and I’m just not familiar enough with past classics.

Regardless, I have no shame in naming Heavy Rain my #4 game on Games where the Sun Don’t Shine. As you can gather from it’s apt title, you don’t see the sun very often in Heavy Rain. In fact, you see it for the first two levels and that’s it. The premise of the story is a psychopath who drowns his victims in rainwater – so naturally, rain is falling the entire time. Sure, rain is a cheap atmosphere buff, but it’s also effective – and, in fact, it’s more effective in Heavy Rain than most other places.

SPOILER ALERT

Aside from the somber premise and awful (beautiful) weather, Heavy Rain makes things even more depressing by requiring you to do (for lack of a better phrase) some fucked-up shit. In order to save his son from death by drowning, Ethan Mars must engage in a variety of dangerous and/or unpleasant tasks – from driving against traffic to killing a man begging for life. The latter, in particular, is one hell of a scene. I was re-thinking that one in my mind for quite some time afterwards. Sort of stunning, actually, for a videogame.

END SPOILERS

And now I want to play Heavy Rain again. Hrm.

Well anyway, stay tuned for my final entry. And hopefully two more from Ethos.

Hey! Look! Listen!

Friday, April 9th, 2010

HeyLookListenLogo1

OLIVER MOTOK IS WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING, ALWAYS.

Didn’t we just agree on the last award? Yes. Yes we did. I just wanted to start this off the same way he did. So Riddles and I are thinking about starting to officially split this feature. What do you guys think? Don’t worry, he’ll never get control of Scatter Storming again.

Anyhoo, a decent splooge of news on this fine Friday, and I’m pretty busy, so let’s get to it.

Heavy Rain Sells Over a Million

Woo.

I don’t really care, to be honest. I know Riddles and a bunch of people loved this game, but that “gameplay” really didn’t do it for me. Cool, intense, well-directed stuff, but I’m lukewarm on the – probably soon to be – series. Quantic Dream seemed surprised at the numbers, though. Founder David Cage admitted that he expected the Playstation exclusive to sell closer to 300 000 units at best, so all those Quantic Dream people are probably having a bunch o’ parties right about now.
(IGN)

Portal 2 on the PS3?

Now here’s some surprise PS3 news I can sink my teeth into.

It’s a surprise, of course, because Valve isn’t really known for giving the consoles – and Sony in particular – much love. The Orange Box was the worst on the PS3 and Valve didn’t really seem to care. But more importantly, when Portal 2 was announced in early March, only Xbox 360 and PC versions were mentioned. Now, this is still just a rumour because Valve still hasn’t commented, but UK Playstation gaming magazine, PSM3 has a cover story that reads “36 Must-Play PS3 Game” and as you can see below, Portal 2 is listed. This would be fantastic news as Portal – short as it may be – is easily one of my favourite games this generation, and Valve hasn’t been secretive in mentioning that they are loving the way the sequel is shaping up.
portal2
(IGN)

Pokémon Generation V Named. RACIST?!?!

Bah-ha ha ha.
Obviously not racist, but the newest games have been revealed to be titled “Black” and “White”, so I thought I’d try to stir up some controversy. No other details out yet, but the official site says that the wait won’t be long. Until April 15th to be exact.

I’m not sure if Nintendo was running out of ridiculous ways to name their games, or if Black and White are trying to indicate some sort of “back to the basics” mentality. Which wouldn’t make any sense because other than expected upgrades alongside handheld progression, the games haven’t changed at all. Oh well, we’ll see.
(IGN)

Gears of War 3 Announced. Oops.

Good ol’ 360 Dashboard. I don’t think this is the first time details about a major game have shown up there before they were supposed to. Anyway, while it’s down now, there was an announcement up for a time on the 360 Dashboard revealing an April 2011 release for Gears of War 3.

Now, I’m a mild fan of these games, but the timing of that date in conjunction with Natal’s holiday release, and the weird comments about RPG elements entering the gameplay that have drifted from Microsoft have turned me off a bit since polishing off Gears 2. Also, the match-making really sucked. So much for Gold subscription costs going to a unified, stable, and reliable online service. Anyway, now that the cover is blown, I’m sure we’ll hear more about this game very soon.
(IGN)

Hells yes

Hells yes

Because I Can – Green Day: Rock Band Track Listing Revealed.

I fucking love Green Day. Another one of those rare things that unifies Riddles and I is our shared love for this band that seems to split audiences into being a rabid fan or an extreme hater.

Whatever the case, I like the direction they’re taking with Green Day: Rock Band by including (almost) three full albums right off the bat. I say almost because all of Dookie and American Idiot will be available right from the get-go, whereas a third of 21st Century Breakdown will be day one DLC. Which actually makes a bit of sense because most of those tracks are already available for download, and knowing the way Rock Band works, you’ll likely be able to carry those tracks over to play with the new disc seamlessly if you already own them.

There’s more DLC planned, and a few other tracks from other albums so head over to IGN if you’re interested in perusing the entire track listing. I’m excited, I haven’t played music games in ages, and I kinda miss them.

Well! There you go! Do I do the job well enough? I have a billion other things to do today, so there won’t be much of an outro.

Out!

Hey! Look! Listen!

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

HLLfinal

Day #2 of unemployment. So far, it’s not all bad. That is, aside from the stunning lack of money being made.

Oh well. I remain optimistic. And, on the bright side, I have all kinds of time in the world for Riddlethos now! So, let’s HLL like we’ve never HLL-ed before, eh?

EH?

I know I’m not Canadian, but I can dream. Eh.

dsiNintendo Announces DS Successor in Form of “3DS”

In a surprise move (to me, at least) Nintendo president Satoru Iwata announced that his company will be releasing the “Nintendo 3DS” (working title) sometime during the “fiscal year ending March 2011.” Reportedly, the 3DS will display three-dimensional graphics without the necessity of glasses.

It’s worth noting that Nintendo is specifically calling this thing the “successor” to the massively popular DS. That’s reason to believe that it’ll be more than just a regular DSi spruced with 3D capabilities.

Various Japanese publications have leaked some specs for the device. Japanese newspaper Nikkei reports that the screens will size in at approximately 4 inches diagonally; 2 inches smaller than the DSiXL. (Not that anyone cares about the DSiXL). Fellow newspaper Asahi states that the screens will be a “parallex barrier LCD” manufactured by Sharp.

This strikes me as both an odd and predictable move from Nintendo. That may not make sense at the moment, but allow me to explain: It’s odd that they would announce plans to develop a system based entirely around a cutting-edge technology – that doesn’t seem like their style. But then I recall that, 95% of the time, 3D is still little more than a gimmick. And gimmicks are absolutely Nintendo’s style.

But, I’ll wait until I see the actual software, and how titles will utilize the 3D capabilities before I pass judgment. (VG247)

iPhone’s Share in Handheld Market Grows

…at the expense of both the DS and the PSP. Especially the PSP. According to a Flurry report, the iPhone’s share in the handheld gaming market went from 5% to 19% in the year 2009.

As a result, the DS dropped from 75% to 70%, and the PSP dropped from 20% to a mere 11%. Ouch!

iphoneus

This is a trend that I’m fairly sure will continue. I’m not ready to call it the “future of handheld gaming,” but the iPhone has its place in the handheld market. Speaking personally, the iPhone is where I do all of my portable gaming these days. I almost never play my DS or PSP, but it’s just so easy to whip out my iPod touch and, for example, play Final Fantasy I for ten minutes, five minutes, or 30 seconds. I mean, I guess I could do the same with my DS, but I’m not in the habit of bringing it with me everywhere. I think my example could be applied to a lot of iPhone gamers out there. (VG247 via Flurry)

The Witcher 2 Trailer Debuts

“Hey! It looks just like Dragon Age!”

Now, boys and girls, it’s important to recall that The Witcher actually came before Dragon Age. Years before, in fact, but it didn’t quite get the recognition it deserved, because it was a PC exclusive. Even so, it sold well over a million copies, and received rave reviews across the board. A console port was in development for a time, but much to the chagrin of myself and many RPG fans, it was canned.

I don’t play PC games, but I actually downloaded and played a demo for The Witcher. It ran like shit, but it was actually a lot of fun. The Witcher 2 will be coming to consoles, so watch this trailer and get excited.

ff13_agito_logo

Yes, Final Fantasy Agito XIII Still Exists

This is according to the game’s art director, Yusuke Naora. Speaking on Square Enix’s Japanese Twitter account, Naora didn’t say much – he essentially just confirmed that the game still exists, but it will probably be a while before we see any new information on the game, or any game in the Fabula Nova Crystallis compilation.

Final Fantasy Agito XIII was originally intended to be released on Japanese cellphones, but has been re-tooled as a PSP game.

I have no problems waiting. I’m still only twelve hours into Final Fantasy XIII. (VG247)

Holy Shit: See Heavy Rain’s Scott Shelby in Real Life

So apparently there was some 2005 movie with Clive Own called Derail. Also in this movie was Sam Douglas, the man who provided the voice and face of Heavy Rain’s private investigator, Scott Shelby. Now, in this movie, for the thirty seconds or so that he appears, he played the exact same character. Like… down to the grey trench coat and haircut. It’s fucking weird as hell. And strangely awesome at the same time. Take a look and see what I mean.

QUICKIE: Little Big Planet 2 Confirmed, With PlayStation Move Support

Huh? Oh, PlayStation Move? It’s their new-fangled motion controller. Or whatever. And according to some Dutch site called Tweakers, it’ll be used for Little Big Planet 2. I don’t really care, but I figured some of you people might. (VG247 via Tweakers)

That Tweakers link is in all Dutch, by the way.

Well that’s enough for now. Look for some God of War III stuff later today, and if you’re unlucky, some more Pokeyman-related garbage from Ethos, since everyone REALLY wants to hear about what monsters he has in his little band. Of monsters.

Ahem. Goodbye for now.

Heavy Rain Review – How Far Will You Go?

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Heavy Rain boxartLIKED:

-Fantastic, gritty mystery drama told from multiple angles

-Character-driven, emotional drama told from multiple angles

-The ability to alter the story dramatically, and the emotional weight your decisions carry

-Control scheme that makes the actions on-screen feel like an extension of the player

DISLIKED:

-Some awful voice acting

-Lacking facial animations

-Walking

Heavy Rain is a difficult game to review.

This is because it’s almost a stretch to classify Heavy Rain as a “videogame.” These days, videogames are often referred to as “interactive films,” but Heavy Rain takes this concept to the extreme – it’s literally a ten-hour long movie. Thankfully, Heavy Rain is a pretty damned awesome movie – and its interactive nature makes it an experience you can’t quite find anywhere else.

Heavy RainGAMEPLAY

There isn’t much to say here. Heavy Rain features literally no gameplay conventions or mechanics that can be critiqued. The gameplay is the story – they’re one and the same. You’re just there to enjoy the ride, direct the characters, make important decisions, and occasionally engage in a quick-time event.

It’s a good thing, then, that the control scheme is so tightly done. Heavy Rain succeeds fantastically in making the events on-screen feel like a natural extension of yourself. For example, a very early part of the game requires you to shave. You perform this task by nudging the right control stick in the indicated directions. However, if you do it too quickly, poor Ethan will cut himself with the razor. In another example, a character’s hands are bound. How do you bust out? Shake the DualShock up and down. After a while, it becomes intuitive what controller actions are required for certain things. It feels so natural, in fact, that you’ll find yourself wincing in pain during some of the game’s more macabre moments. However, this review is spoiler free – so go play yourself if you want to know what I mean.

My sole gripe is that the simple task of walking in Heavy Rain tends to be something of a bitch. No, seriously: the walking mechanics are just bad. You walk by holding down R2 and steering with the control stick. This wouldn’t be too horrible if the control stick inputs weren’t such a crapshoot. Painfully often, you’ll find yourself walking in the complete wrong direction, missing tight corners, and other such disorientating nuisances. It’s just a very weird control scheme, and one has to wonder what possible advantages Quantic Dream thought it would have.

Hers does too.

STORYLINE

Heavy Rain is an incredibly well-written, suspenseful, and tightly-paced thriller. The scriptwriting is fantastic, with nary a sloppy sentence to be found. The world is deliciously moody and atmospheric – sure, rain is pretty much the cheapest atmosphere buff in the books, but because of its context and importance to the plot, it really, really works in Heavy Rain – more so than anywhere else. Rain is always falling, and it’s beautiful to see.

Heavy Rain tells the story of four people and their respective struggles in the mysterious case of the Origami Killer. The killer is a psychopath who drowns his victims in rainwater, and adorns their bodies with an Orchid flower and (naturally) an origami figure. Ethan Mars is a desperate father trying to save the life of his one remaining son. Madison Paige is an insomniac journalist who meets Ethan by chance. Scott Shelby is a private investigator, looking into the case of the Origami Killer on his own. Norman Jayden is a triptocaine-addicted FBI profiler, sent to aid the police in their official investigation. The four separate narratives are weaved together perfectly to form the story as a whole.

The cast is one of Heavy Rain’s strongest points. Some characters are weaker than others, yes, but they all serve a purpose in the story, and they have strong, believable personalities. My only disappointment was in the female lead, Madison Paige. She’s a strong character, yes, but by the end of the game, I felt like I still didn’t know enough about her. Ethan Mars, on the other hand, is an extremely strong and well-developed lead protagonist – you’ll feel emotionally connected to him, and his desperate quest to save his son.

scott shelbyA lot of recent games have been about “choices,” but no game executes this concept like Heavy Ran does. Sure, it may not have the cross-game world-changing decisions that, say, Mass Effect does – but I guarantee you, few other games out there will make you doubt yourself and your actions the way Heavy Rain will. This review is spoiler-free, so I can’t go into details, but I will say this: I always thought the tagline “How far are you prepared to go to save someone you love” was cheesy and melodramatic – until I played the game. Then it made sense. While playing Heavy Rain, you’ll feel like a part of the story – and you’ll feel the weight of your actions.

But Heavy Rain’s narrative isn’t perfect. In fact, it has a few rather glaring errors that keep the game from garnering that coveted perfect score. (A perfect score on Riddlethos IS coveted, right…?) My main complaint, ironically enough, is with the voice acting.

I say “ironically” because most of Heavy Rain’s voicework is quite strong. The four main characters are all very well acted, and the actors are all refreshingly new to the medium of videogames. There are no Yuri Lowenthals or Nolan Norths to be found, which helps set Heavy Rain apart, and lend it a more believable, movie-like persona.

However, Heavy Rain contrasts these strong performances with some absolutely god-damned awful performances. And, when trying to tell a story as deep and involved as Heavy Rain’s is, you cannot afford that. You just can’t. It’s okay to have a few “mehs” here and there, but Heavy Rain has entire (very pivotal) scenes ruined by voice acting that belongs to some shitty anime dub. For example, there’s not a single acceptable child actor in the entire game. Not one. Nobody expects a child character’s voice acting to be fantastic, but in Heavy Rain, it’s downright painful. And since some of the game’s most important scenes revolve around children, this is unforgivable. Also, many of the game’s characters sound like they’re either trying to imitate or speak through some sort of accent. It’s really noticeable, somewhat obnoxious, and always annoying. At the end of the day, Heavy Rain is still a well-acted game – but that’s why the parts that aren’t are so offensive.

Also, the game’s plot does teeter out near the end. Or at least, it did for me. You can get multiple endings in Heavy Rain, and mine had to have been the worst. Play it and judge for yourself, but in a nutshell: Heavy Rain spends a little too much time building up the tension, and proceeds to break it in a rather hurried, anti-climactic fashion.

Norman JaydenGRAPHICS

Heavy Rain is a pretty game. But it’s not as pretty as was promised. Remember during this year’s CES when that rep from Sony said that “graphically, [Heavy Rain] blows Uncharted 2 out of the water”? Yeah, it doesn’t.

Still, it’s a pretty game. Environments are moody, evocative, and covered in some very well-done rain/water effects. In fact, the water is some of the best I’ve seen, rivaled only by the illustrious Uncharted 2. Character models are extremely well-detailed, and in fact, Heavy Rain may rival Uncharted 2 in this regard. Animations for the characters are also very well-done, for the most part, but this brings me to my next complaint: Heavy Rain’s facial animations are very lacking. I really wish Quantic Dream would have taken the time to tighten them up a bit, because the effect of certain scenes is dampened by facial animations that lack any noticeable emotion. Again: not really a mistake that such a story-driven experience can afford to make.

SOUND

I’ve already gone over the voice acting, so there isn’t much more to say here. I suppose I can give a shout-out to the game’s soundtrack, which is very solid, though not exactly memorable. Heavy Rain is saturated with somber piano melodies, which fit the mood very well. Aside from that, there are some bombastic orchestral cues for the more high-energy sequences, and not a whole lot else. It’s more or less what we’ve come to expect from a high-profile Western release. But it is very good.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Heavy Rain is an easy recommendation to any gamer patient enough to sit back and enjoy a good yarn. It’s an emotional, character-driven experience that makes a damn good argument for videogames as a legitimate and unique form of storytelling. The game has a few imperfections that stand out, but none of them are deal-breakers. It’s one of the most unique gaming experiences in recent memory, and it’s thoroughly engaging from start to finish. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take Quantic Dream five years to release another game.

Heavy Rain - 9.0/10

Scatter Storming. Issue #022

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

ss022Silly Paranoid Riddles. We all know Scatter Storming is better.

Although I do have to thank him for giving me his camera as a parting gift. Let’s get to it.

Hey, guess what? I played Heavy Rain! -
It’s true! Thanks Andogo for the loner copy. I’d even consider buying it myself, but you know I’m broke when I trade in two games (one of them Darksiders which I know I’ll re-buy) just to afford Final Fantasy XIII next week. Anyway, I think I have to slightly disagree with Riddles and say that Heavy Rain really is Quick-Time Event the game. But they are more forgiveable in this case. They branch out, and there is a degree of decision and influence in Heavy Rain that doesn’t exist in the QTE disasters of God of War. Still, after a time, although I’m thoroughly enjoying the story, I get sick of just tapping on-screen cues. But I’m sure I’ll trek my way through it if I still have a copy after I’m done with Final Fantasy XIII, God of War III, and Pokémon Soul Silver. So…hrm…that doesn’t look so optimistic anymore, but there is the added bonus of Heavy Rain looking to be relatively easy to Platinum, so we’ll see. But all that brings me to my next point…

Theme Week War -
There’s no debate that Final Fantasy XIII gets next week. Despite all the mixed buzz about it, I’m just as hyped as ever. Final Fantasy IX isn’t a fan favourite and its obviously my favourite, so I’m reserving final judgement on this one until I play it. And honesty, the big complaints about this one (linear for a long time, no towns), don’t scare me in the least. But, that leaves the following week. Riddles the Moronicus wants it to be God of War III Week. Boo-urns, who the fuck cares? I’ll play it, yeah, but he and I both agree that it’s a fun, yet vastly overrated series. Maybe not vastly, but notably. Anyway, my vote is for Pokémon Gold & Silver Week. Riddles argues that God of War is the bigger release, but I call bullshit on that! Pokémon is fucking huge and he just wants God of War because he’s never cared about handhelds or the PURE AWESOMENESS that is Pokémon. Whatta douche, what do you guys think?

Oh dear -
I have no idea why any woman has ever had any interest in me after writing a paragraph like that.

Etrian Odyssey! -
For long-time fans of Ethos (I’m sure there are many), I used to write reviews for RPGamer.com. The first one I wrote for a new release was Etrian Odyssey II. This was a game I never would have played otherwise, and a game that literally everybody I talked to on staff warned me about. I ended up loving the game and almost bought a used copy the other week. In fact, I only didn’t because of the previously mentioned broke situation. But after going for my occasional browse of RPG-related news, I stumbled upon art for Etrian Odyssey III. Huzzah! I didn’t even know it was coming. This is now officially on my radar. If they can keep up all the awesome without making it dissolve at the end like last time, then it could even be on the top of my lists for the year.

That’s all. Go home.

Impressions: Heavy Rain

Monday, March 1st, 2010

heavy-rain-1Heavy Rain is one hell of a ride.

I couldn’t think of a better way to start, because Heavy Rain is somewhat… unique. That being the case, it’s hard to discuss it and/or critique it through traditional methods. As you all know, there is very little actual “gameplay” in Heavy Rain. It’s one big interactive movie that you control through contextual button-presses and quick time-ish events.
That may sound utterly unappealing, but Heavy Rain is never dull -  it just requires a more open-minded player who is ready to experience a deep and involving storyline. Those who seek ball-to-the-walls action need not apply.

So, what is it that makes Heavy Rain so much fun to play? The storyline and the characters, and the way that you, as a player, affect how things unfold. Heavy Rain is a first-rate thriller that mixes gritty detective drama with more personal, human themes that run deep. Four separate story threads are woven together seamlessly to create a cinematic and emotional adventure that you won’t be able to tear yourself away from.

Caution – minor spoilers may follow. (And I promise they are indeed minor.)

This guy's life sucks.

This guy's life sucks.

Heavy Rain opens very slowly, introducing you to the character Ethan Mars and his family. You literally spend the first two hours or so performing mostly mundane tasks, such as setting dinner tables, helping your son with homework, and reheating pizza in the microwave. As dull as this sounds, you’ll soon realize how important this leisurely introduction is to connecting us with Ethan Mars and his trials throughout the course of the game. And this is true for all similarly “normal” or slow portions of the game – it’s all for the sake of developing a strong cast of characters, and Heavy Rain succeeds brilliantly in this regard.

But you certainly don’t spend all of your time in Heavy Rain nuking leftovers. There are more intense scenarios to be experienced. For example, there are fight scenes which can end in a variety of different ways, depending on your performance. There are detective sequence that see you piecing together clues left behind by the enigmatic Origami Killer. There are sequences that will make you perform decidedly painful or disturbing tasks – such as crawling through a maze laced with broken glass.

Hers does too.

Hers does too.

And yes, a lot of these scenarios are laced together through quick-time events. However, these are far, far more forgivable than they are in, say, God of War. (See Ethos’ Sunday Soapbox below). For one, most actions in the game aren’t done through “quick-time.” Slower, more deliberate actions require more deliberate contextual actions, simply requiring you to hold down certain buttons or clicking the control stick in the right direction. So, to call Heavy Rain “QTE, The Game” isn’t an accurate statement any way you slice it. The actual quicktime events feel appropriately integrated and fun, instead of random and out-of-place. Also, when you miss a cue in one of Heavy Rain’s QTEs, you aren’t presented with a messy death animation and a loading screen. Instead, the events play out differently depending on how well you follow the button prompts. Heavy Rain’s control scheme succeeds brilliantly in making you, the player, feel immersed in the role of each character. Certain sequences will, for lack of a better term, make you feel their pain. Literally.

Heavy Rain is not a game to be missed, so long as you’re the type who can enjoy a slightly higher-concept, story-driven adventure. I’ll be completing the game and reviewing it with my full thoughts soon.

WEEK EXTENSION NOTICE

Monday, March 1st, 2010

heavy-rain-1Loyal readers,

Let it henceforth be known that Riddlethos.com’s Heavy Rain week will be extended by ONE (1) day. A new theme week will debut Tuesday.

I will NOT let Andogo outshine me on the Heavy Rain about-writing this week.

I will not.

Thank you, that is all. Heavy Rain impressions coming later.