With Detroit: Become Human finally coming out soon, it seemed like a good time to finally play these games, especially with them having been re-released on PS4.
Heavy Rain is a David Cage game alright. It’s cut out almost all the weird sci-fi and supernatural elements of his previous games, in favor of a more “realistic” approach. It feels a lot like Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy in many ways, but without all the really crazy bits, sticking to a more standard crime thriller that bears a lot of resemblance to movies like Seven and the first Saw.
While for the most part the visual design and direction is top notch, and you can see why this game had so much hype surrounding it when you see how well-produced and truly cinematic it looks and feels. There are times where it looks like a AAA game from the current generation instead of one that’s almost a decade old now, but…this also serves to make all the strange little quirks and faults stand out even more.
Look at this clip below and keep in mind that these two characters have only had a single interaction before this and that it was 100% friendly and normal, then the next time they meet it’s suddenly this out of nowhere:
It’s a bit jarring to be pulled out of this otherwise highly compelling story by sudden moments of atrocious acting/directing, characters acting very strangely for no apparent reason, and other generally out-of-place-feeling weirdness and unexplained/unresolved red herrings and plotholes. It feels like a game that wasn’t quite finished, and apparently they have since confirmed that this was the case. Scenes were cut out quickly and sloppily without removing still-existing references to missing scenes and some scenes that made it in were VERY clearly just thrown together at the last second just to make a deadline.
Still, these weird bits are the minority. Overall it’s a pretty compelling story that, aside from a few slow bits where you just kind of wander around brushing your teeth and other such nonsense, is well-paced and keeps stringing you along with a series of well-timed cliffhangers and reveals as you switch back and forth between each character.
And then there’s Beyond – Two Souls. Wow, what happened between these two games? All the pacing and tension of Heavy Rain is gone here. Instead we’re treated to a seemingly random selection of different time periods in the life of the main character, which is fine and all, except for the fact that most of them are horribly generic and boring.
After the first few scenes set the tone, everything else that follows is just predictable and redundant. Ok, here’s a scene where Jodie goes to a teen birthday party filled with people she doesn’t know. Shockingly, they don’t like that she’s “special” and treat her terribly and it all goes horribly wrong. We’ve all seen this kind of scene play out many times before, and it just kind of recycles this same moment over and over again.
Hey, here’s a scene with a younger Jodie going to play with some neighborhood kids in the winter (one that you’ll need to do about 20 minutes of wandering around your house doing absolutely irrelevant nonsense before you can even get to, by the way). Gee, I wonder how it will turn out? Ok, how about a section where Jodie is homeless and she meets some hobos, who are the only people who are nice to her. She stops one of them from being beaten up by some thrill-seeking kids who swear revenge and also one of the hobos is pregnant with a dirty hobo baby. You can probably instantly imagine how that’s all going to play out. Throw in nearly an hour of intense panhandling simulation and trite conversations with hobos and you’ll be absolutely right.
There are so many ultimately pointless sections like this that just had me rolling my eyes and yawning over and over again to the point where I didn’t really want to continue. I got up to a scene about half way through the game where Jodie is suddenly an unbearable goth teen who throws a tantrum because she wants to go out to some party with “the girls” (what girls? the game has been beating me over the head all this time about how she has no friends!). She sneaks out and gets dropped off at the place she’s supposed to meet these mysterious girls and it’s this incredibly sketchy looking roadhouse bar with only one car in the parking lot and I just said to myself “are you fucking kidding me?”. Shockingly, “the girls” aren’t there and things play out pretty much exactly how any rational person would expect given the setting, and I just gave up right there.
It’s strange too, because for all this “character development”, I found that Jodie actually had very little personality of her own. Sure you feel some sympathy seeing her go through all this bad shit, but you’d feel that way seeing almost anyone go through these things. She doesn’t really have any relevant character traits outside of being traumatized on a regular basis. I just didn’t care about her or the seemingly directionless over-arching plot, when they could be bothered to remember that that even existed, or any of the pointless cardboard cutouts that were the supporting cast.
There are some great looking environments, especially in the action scenes, but even those end up being kind of annoying since they decided to “streamline” the UI to be less obvious than it was in Heavy Rain. Instead of the unmistakable direction arrows there are now little white dots on the screen that are often placed in ambiguous-looking spots, as well as removing all overt visual cues from the action scenes and replacing them with sudden moments of slow-mo and a weird color filter and expecting you to press in the right direction that Jodie is moving in. Thing is, sometimes the scene is so muddled that you can’t tell what direction you’re supposed to be pressing, and other times the game will switch between when you’re supposed to be pressing towards an enemy to attack or away to dodge, and you can’t really tell which is which because they both look pretty identical. I could still get enough moves right to survive most of the time, but it sure didn’t make things feel smoother, like I’m assuming it was meant to.
So, like I said, I just ended up turning it off half way through and I just don’t seem to have any interest in continuing. Why force myself to be bored for 6 more hours when I can just move on to something fun? I certainly hope Detroit: Become Human isn’t like this either. I’ve now gone from excited to worried on that front.