I've made no secret of my love for Heavy Rain, and I'm looking forward to writing a positive review of it for the paper. Still, I can't argue with most of the flaws that people are pointing out. They are there. So in the interest of balance, I thought I'd list just a few of the the things that don't quite work.
-We're told that the Origami Killer has claimed 8 victims in 3 years, and done so every time there has been a storm with at least 6 inches of rain. Maybe something got lost in the conversion from metric to whatever the hell we use in America, but six inches of rain is not a common occurrence. It's practically biblical. My local weatherman uses his excited voice every time we get more than two inches. A city that habitually gets that much rain in a single storm has bigger problems on its hands than a serial killer.
-The accents are terrible. This is the first thing most people notice, and there's no explaining it away. The problem isn't not that the characters have distinctive speech patterns -- I'm still discovering regional American dialects that I had never heard before. It's that English sounds like a second language for most of the performers. Sometimes it's charming, other times it's jarring. I can't live in a world where "been" and "bean" are pronounced the same way. Especially bad is the FBI agent's accent, which sounds like a hybrid of Bronx and Boston, by way of Sweden. It's just weird.
(On the other hand, how many times have you seen a Shakespeare play that takes place in, say, Denmark, and all the performers sound British? Nobody seems to mind about that.)
-Diction. There are some strange word choices here, not least of which is the repeated references to the "wasteland" where the bodies are found. This is not a huge problem, but occasionally a word will be off slightly, and it sounds like a musician hitting a flat note.
-So many of the details of the setting are, if not necessarily European in nature, not American. In Ethan's house, the toilet is in a different room from the shower. In the hospital, the electrical outlets are slanted. The supermarket sells live animals. Somehow, these details detract more than the accents do.
-When Ethan takes a shower at the very beginning of the game, it's in the context of a normal day. When Madison takes a shower in her introductory scene, it is creepy and weird. The camera leers at her. I felt like I needed a shower after that scene. Madison is the weakest character in the game, and is needlessly sexualized more often than not, especially when she's threatened. I recommend Denis Farr's post on the subject at the Borderhouse.
-The game is easy to break. I started a second playthrough with the intention of screwing around with it. Things came to a head when I got to the part where Agent Jayden is tying the police captain's tie. Instead of holding R1, to make him grab hold of the tie, I started tapping it. The police captain kept talking like nothing was happening, while a blank-faced Jayden kept reaching out as if to caress his tie, only to pull back at the last moment. The camera angle changed every time this happened, too. It was hilarious, and also totally at odds with the point of the game.
For all this, I still think Heavy Rain is a terrific achievement. For as much as I started this second playthrough with the intention of breaking the game, I couldn't stop myself from getting sucked in. It's a game of highs and lows, where pacing does mean slowing things down to a crawl at times. You sort of have to commit to it, like a method actor to a role.