story by Mike Gas

Let's talk about a game that came out 27 years before Heavy Rain titled, ポートピア連続殺人事件.

If you can't read basic Japanese, that's Portopia Serial Murder Case in English.

This is a game that boasted the same sort of experience Heavy Rain shilled so hard during its marketing campaign: a dramatic, adult, interactive adventure. The difference is Portopia Serial Murder Case actually delivers on that promise without completely embarassing itself. The game plays rather simple compared to Heavy Rain, you are presented with a picture of an environment and are then given 7 choices on how to interact with said environment.

Despite how archiac this format looks by today’s standards, from the beginning to the end you are in the driver's seat the entire time. There is not one point where you can sit on your ass and the story keeps moving, with every action there is an equal reaction.

You can choose to investigate deeper into a picture frame hanging in the background, there could be something written behind the picture, it may be attached to a weight that opens a secret door, or there could be nothing out of the ordinary about it. The point is you don't know. In Portopia Serial Murder Case, every item and every person is a mystery. You have to actually be a detective to progress, creating a really solid feedback loop between you and the game world. There’s even points where the game might end early if you don’t have good intuition and are too eager to wrap the case. The player at all times remains an active agent in the story with every single choice they make. The curtain on any event or situation doesn’t close unless you do it yourself, whereas in Heavy Rain, no matter the decision, you know you’re still at the mercy of a bad director/writer and the high fidelity dollhouse he wants you to play in.

In Heavy Rain you press buttons when the game tells you to, or you sit and watch the game happen to you. Instead of offering you any interesting choices, the exciting conflicts you deal with are things like: kissing your wife or not kissing her, fight a big scary criminal or die, watch a dirty cop beat someone up unwarranted or do something about it.

The tagline Heavy Rain frequently used for its marketing campaign.

Cage wants to fool you into thinking he’s asking tough questions, but at the end of the day, you go to any parent and ask if they’re willing to die for their child, 90% of the time they’ll say yes.

I had Heavy Rain hyped up in my mind for years before playing it. I was ten years old during the marketing campaign of this game and I fell for its promises of being a “ground-breaking and dramatic interactive adventure” even though it’s barely interactive and barely an adventure game. It’s a game that has almost nothing to say and is constantly running away from that fact.

The game's minute to minute controlled and orchestrated releases of emotion are only there to cover up the fact that David Cage either doesn’t have the faith in himself or the player to actually engage in a story that doesn’t rely on constant waves of instant gratification. I’d hate to play armchair psychologist with such a mediocre game, but if Heavy Rain were to be a reflection of David Cage’s worldview, I’d say it’s a very black and white one. The politics in Heavy Rain drive this point home clearly.