Wednesday, March 03, 2010

To be fair, there are a lot of bad things in Heavy Rain

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.


Anonymous said...



'been' and 'bean' are pronounced the same way.

Do you pronounce them strangely in American? 'been' as 'bin' or something?

Mitch Krpata said...

No, people in other countries pronounce it strangely.

Gary A. Lucero said...

Mitch, I think what you are saying is it's not a perfect game, a 9 or 10 maybe, but it's flaws don't keep you from REALLY enjoying it?

Dragon Age: Origins on the Xbox 360 has graphics that range from horrid to brilliant, but that never keeps me from thinking it's just about the best RPG ever made.

I would rate Dragon Age: Origins a 10 while Eurogamer and Edge both hated it. Some would rate Heavy Rain a 10 while others will doubtless find the flaws too annoying.

In other words, all of this is very subjective, and that's as it should be.

I know there will never be a time when everyone realizes reviews aren't fact, they are opinion, but if they possibly could, this world would be a little better place to live.

Julian said...

The problem isn't people pronouncing "been" and "bean" the same way, it's that the pronunciation is inconsistent. They're attempting to speak a dialect where you expect "been" to sound like "Ben," and then they say it a different way and it's jarring. At least, that's the problem for me.

And Gary: people still argue over opinions. The people that get riled up over review scores do so because HOW DARE SOMEBODY HAVE A DIFFERENT OPINION.

Nels Anderson said...

I wonder if the voice acting is better in French. Europe has been getting terrible dubs of English games for years. Maybe now the shoe is on the other foot.

(Granted, given how much Sony spent on this, there's no excuse for crappy localization)

Kirk Hamilton said...

A commenter on Melodico suggested doing my second playthrough (and yes, the anger has subsided, and I'll be playing it again) with the French language track and English subtitles.

I'd imagine that could do a lot to alleviate the language issues, which I, too, felt were myriad and bizarre.

Tyler said...

sHuFFLeZ said...

haha i've never played this game.. but now that you've mentioned it, it looks pretty good after I googled it.

Fraser said...

"English sounds like a second language for most of the performers. ... I can't live in a world where "been" and "bean" are pronounced the same way."

Yeah, you already live in that world. It took me a good ten seconds to think how else you could pronounce it.

I sympathise, though! I recently found out that the accents in Team Fortress 2 weren't intended to be a joke...

Mitch Krpata said...

Crazy! I've only ever known "been" to be pronounced as "bin." I think we've all learned something from this thread.

Bad accents certainly aren't unique to this game, but they're unique in the way they are bad. This is the first time I can recall that a game was demonstrably supposed to be taking place in a milieu so familiar to me, and it's really interesting to see how it flails at some of the details. I doubt they would have bothered me so much if the characters were space marines fighting an intergalactic war tens of thousands of years in the future.

On a barely related note, I'm curious how Bayonetta sounded to my friends across the pond. Hers seemed like an awful British accent to me, but maybe it was spot on!

Sinan Kubba said...

No, Mitch, it wasn't a very good British accent at all, but I'm not sure it was trying to be either. I'm not sure anything in that game was trying to be convincing.

Julian said...

I want to say they should have just gone ahead and set it in France, or at least in Europe somewhere. A place that's more intimately familiar to the people at Quantic Dream. Then all those little details that seem out of place now could be endearing quirks, and it neatly solves the problem of trying to fake accents.