Part 1: The Characters
The hard part about judging characters in a game like this is that you make a lot of their choices. Still, there's a certain amount of given and forced characterization worth breaking down. (Spoiler Alert)
A good dad that hits some tragedy and becomes a divorcee fail/beard dad. After Jason dies, Ethan has these blackouts but only twice before the plot decides they don't feel like following through with it anymore. Instead, it becomes a sort of confusing part for himself and he doubts his own innocence. He's a confused character, but he loves his children and whether or not you play him a certain way, he clearly really cares about them and would do a lot for them. You can attach to Ethan the most as he's the most normal and relatable character. Yet again, perfect that he be the protagonist of the story. His internal conflict and doubt in himself because of his blackouts adds a certain mystery to whether or not we can trust him, but when he's conscious he's a good guy, so we like him all the same. Playing as him once the plot really gets moving, things can become really intense, especially since this is a game where you could screw up and he could die or not save your son from the Oragami Killer. And since you played him during the extremely dull Prologue, you saw his perfect family life before tragedy struck him...twice. The first time I played through this game, any scene with Ethan for me was extremely intense. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, the mysterious intrigue as to his blackouts and possible alternate personality or schizophrenia are completely abandoned once the plot really gets rolling. They never happen again (or we never see them happen again) and once everything is solved or failed we never see them again.
- Norman Jayden
An FBI agent on the case. For some reason Norman is the only character with technology beyond the nineties with these super Sunglasses known as "ARI" Sunglasses. He puts them on and gets super vision, and he can send little waves of readings to check out any and all forensic evidence. And then his magic ARI glove will give him all the information he needs from touching it. Also, it gives him a virtual office with all his evidence placed in front of him in this virtual world. It is a fun part of game play, but kind of strange that there's no explanation about this technology. Not even a mention that "oh it's state of the art FBI technology" or anything. And then suddenly in the game we realize he has a smack habit and you have the choice of taking a drug annoyingly named "tripto" or not. Obviously the amount of times you take this drug will affect your game play. Jayden is another approachable character, with the exception of his sunglasses and smack habit. He's genuinely searching for the Oragami killer, trying to save Shaun before he drowns. For whatever reason (and I'll really dig into this in the next part) he either doesn't share all the evidence he's gathering or the local police department seems to be ignoring it, which is additionally frustrating because it seems like Norman doesn't ever do much in the way of pressing his evidence or making people his bitch when, as an FBI agent, he does trump his "partner" Blake. Somehow, though, Blake gets away with doing stupid shit and completely ignoring any investigative technique in which his boss seems completely supportive of and Norman seems powerless despite his FBI status to do a damned thing. So it's frustrating to watch Norman at times. Still, for the most part, when the game stops suffering from the malady of extremely boring shit, he has some really exciting and intense scenes where you may lose him or not gather enough evidence to solve the case. Aside from playing the character, you attach to him because you can feel his frustration, understand his thought processes, and see his kindness and motivation.
A very boring private investigator with extremely dull scenes. Shelby goes to several different people of whom lost a child to the Origami Killer, slowly gathering evidence from each individual in hopes to find the killer. We can gather he's an ex cop, he lives alone, and until the twist, can play him as a nice guy who does nice things for strangers. Of course, once we realize he's the Origami Killer, he gets even more boring as a character. They were afraid to give him too much of a personality, I guess, in case they may have made him not serial killer worthy. Yet, they failed because in his thoughts we can hear him think nice things about Lauren, including "there she goes surprising me again, normally I don't like surprises," in a pleasant tone. This is at the graveyard Lauren drags him to, which would worry the serial killer and he wouldn't enjoy the surprise at all because it means she would be closing in on his trail. Also, there's this very forced added memory towards the end when we realize he's the killer. Apparently in some very brief time we weren't controlling him he went and knocked over a shop owner with something heavy and then called the police and left the phone dangling so that we could control him and walk him over to "discover" the dead body, etc. It was also frustrating that he's the killer when I replay the game and see him investigating some rich kid for absolutely no reason. All it does is put Shelby in mortal danger because the father is rich and powerful and threatening. It's a stupid subplot that makes no sense once we know that Shelby is the killer. He has no reason to be investigating this guy. Anyway, once we realize he's the killer, he becomes more boring and says very dully "you don't understand," and "so you've finally figured out my secret," and "I've suffered as much as my victims," and yawn yawn aneurysm yawn.
Okay, I really hate Madison, so let's get that information out of the way first. I'm going to hold back because part five is going to really tear her role in the game apart. Let's just talk about her character, shall we? Oh, wait, what character? We aren't really explained that she's a journalist until very late in the story and by then none of us care anymore, we just assumed she just happened to be wherever Ethan was, and then decided to start helping him for little to no reason. Seriously, though, we don't have any understanding as to her motivations until much closer to the end, and even then we still don't understand why she helped Ethan once he was being investigated as the Origami Killer, especially to help him escape from the cops. Why? Why'd she do this? Throughout the story I get the feeling we're supposed to take her seriously at the same time we find her attractive, but I'm just so bothered by her lack of purpose in the story aside from getting sexually exploited that any attempt is wasted on me. She is the first to find out who the Origami Killer is due to her "research," and I think this is supposed to make up for the fact that she's just a sex object in the story, but that doesn't really work. Besides, you think with all her information gathering that she should talk to the police before breaking into the possible real killer's apartment? LOL NOPE
I'm not sure if she really counts as a character. She's the first person Shelby visits. She uses a piece of evidence (an envelope) as an ultimatum to be Shelby's (a private investigator) partner despite her complete lack of experience in this field. And of course Shelby agrees to bring her along for what I can only assume is he REALLY wants that envelope, but that's really not going to lead back to him. Also, Lauren is a whore. Fortunately, she doesn't dress like one once shoved into the plot like a baby being shoved into a Pringles container, but she's utterly purposeless aside from one scene where she helps Shelby get upstairs, which I'm sure he could have found another way. Later on, of course, she's so smart that she comes up with an idea and is all excited and helps Shelby close in on who the killer may be, without any investigative experience or anything. Go her. The worst of it is, aside from sort of being a mother who lost her son, we don't really know anything about her. She's sort of a vague love interest crossed with a motivated mom, but we hardly see that and we're still not sure why Shelby thinks it's okay to bring her along--or why she even thinks she's capable of helping rather than just getting in the way, or even how she does have the investigative ability she does have. She's time filler, really.