I have always avoided these David Cage games because I had vague memories of trying this game out back when it originally came out and there being some kind of really awkward scene in the beginning where David Cage literally walks into the restaurant you start the game in and starts talking to you directly about his game before it even starts. It just struck me as a really horrible, and more than a little pretentious, way to set the scene for a story and it just immediately put me off of the whole thing. Later there was all that hype about Heavy Rain and it looked pretty similar and I didn’t have a PS3 at the time anyway so I just ignored it. All this time I was under the impression that these games were just standard over-dramatic murder mystery thrillers that people just liked because of their advanced graphics. One day, not long ago, I saw an article on the interwebs about a remastered re-release of this game coming soon. I don’t even know why I clicked on it, but I did, and went to browse the comments section for some reason. One of the comments said “Only in a David Cage game can you have sex with a dead person and fight the physical form of the internet…”, and for some reason that suddenly made me really want to play this game. What does that say about my state of mind? Who cares, I’m talking about a game here!
So anyway…the game DOES start out with a murder mystery, with a mysterious supernatural twist. The character you start out with, Lucas, has apparently just been temporarily possessed and stabs some guy to death in a bathroom. He comes to his senses again and you have to quickly clean up your mess and escape before you’re discovered. After this first scene you switch to two police detectives that you can usually switch back and forth between at will and naturally, you are investigating this same murder. This is what you will spend the majority of the game doing, switching back and forth between the murderer and the detectives. This is pretty unusual, playing from both sides at the same time and often at cross-purposes, but it does work pretty well at building up the suspense. During your various investigations you will undergo a lot of standard point-and-click-adventure-type exploring and many various mini-games, mostly made up of quick-time events. There is almost too much to explore, in fact, as the game is packed full of utterly useless interactive objects and overly mundane forced actions. I really don’t care that the hand dryers in all the bathrooms actually work and I really don’t want to be forced to use the toilet, take a shower, put on clothes, pick up my keys, etc. etc. every time there’s a scene where a character has just woken up. What the hell is with this game and bathrooms for that matter? The game starts in a bathroom and you visit a hell of a lot of bathrooms throughout the game, all with way too much detail put into uselessly interactive items. On top of his bathroom fixation, Cage also seems to have some weird issues with sex. There are some REALLY awkward sex scenes in this game. Not just from a writing standpoint, but also from a “why the fuck did you make this part loosely interactive?” perspective as well.
I can only imagine what kind of painfully awkward conversation occurs if you don’t keep pressing that button until the end…
Anyway, the game also keeps track of each characters’ mental state, which various actions will raise or lower to various degrees. Supposedly if your levels drop enough there will be some kind of consequences, the game even claims that there is a possibility of your character committing suicide, but it never seemed to have any effect on my game. I guess I never let them drop low enough for anything serious to happen. Oh well. Despite all that, as the supernatural elements and Lucas’ mysterious psychic powers are slowly explored more, things start getting weirder and weirder anyway, and Lucas seems to just get crazier and crazier no matter what you do.
Speaking of QTEs…this is where they really start increasing in frequency and difficulty. These sequences start getting longer and faster the further you get into the game and can get pretty frustrating. You might even want to turn the game down to Easy, because these things are really unforgiving and you can easily end up losing a whole long sequences just from one little misstep. At this point the game was actually beginning to annoy me and I was starting to consider quitting, but I just couldn’t help pressing on to find out what was going to happen next in the story and I ended up being glad that I did because the story just goes completely insane after about half way through. I can’t even begin to talk about the outright insanity of the second half of the plot without massive spoilers, in fact I am going to spoil the shit out of just about everything that happens in the rest of the game, so you’re going to want to stop reading right here if that’s a problem for you.
Alright. So it turns out Lucas is not only psychic, but also suddenly has superpowers and it turns out that the guy possessing you is part of some ancient Mayan death cult that are trying to gain godhood and are about to cause the apocalypse via the rapidly dropping global temperature (GET IT? FAHRENHEIT??!?) and he also has superpowers…
Oh, and also Lucas dies, but is brought back to life in some kind of undead state by the mysterious old mystic lady who has been helping you, who also died, who turns out to not be a lady at all, but actually the leader of a secret faction of sentient internet AIs.
At this point, the female detective finally decides to believe your story and joins up with you instead of continuing to try to arrest you. As weird as everything has gotten so far, the weirdest part for me was that the detective not only suddenly sleeps with undead Lucas, but tells him she loves him after only having exchanged about 5 total sentences with him. Given the circumstances, where they thought it was possible that the world might end in a day, I could have almost understood if she had decided “even though you seem to be a walking corpse and we’re currently in some ratty secret hobo base, the hell with it, let’s get laid one last time before Earth dies”, but “I love you crazy zombie Neo that I just met yesterday!” just felt really uncomfortably out of place to me. I guess they were running out of time to finish the game by this point, as everything happens so fast, and after a quick final battle with Mayan wizard man and Mr. Internet, the game is all over. There are supposed to be multiple endings, but I got what seemed to be a pretty standard everyone wins and is happy one. I even somehow got the detective pregnant, despite the fact that I was some kind of mutant demigod corpse guy, which surely could never go wrong.
Anyway…I would say that I enjoyed the experience overall. There are some pretty bad controls and some really rough edges, but the crazy plot and the slick direction really did suck me in. I felt like this was not so much someone’s vision of a good video game, but more like someone’s vision of a good story that they chose to attempt to tell using video games as a medium, if that makes any sense, which seems to me to be the root of all the game’s issues, negative and positive. It was equal parts unforgettable and frustrating, and while I don’t regret playing it, and definitely want to check out Cage’s other games now, the amount of near-broken and rushed content in this earlier attempt by him can only earn 3 out of 5 murderous sentient internets from me.