Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Heavy Rain - The Plot

Part 2: The Plot

Heavy Rain suffers from some very short-sighted writing. Generally one would expect this from a video game. Hence things like Modern Warfare 2, Battlefield 2, Grand Theft Auto, Transformers 2 (wait that was a movie wasn't it?), and so on. But there are wonderful exceptions: Metal Gear Solid, Knights of the Old Republic, even the Halo series (and THAT'S a first person shooter)! So, knowing that it's possible doesn't mean it should be expected, except that Heavy Rain is a new type of game that dabbles in interactive story-telling and is on the border of creating a movie/game hybrid. Kudos for it trying something relatively (though not completely) original. I, personally, love the new type of game, but that's not relevant review information. What is: the story is essential to this type of hybrid. It's just like watching a movie riddled with plot holes, only in this movie the ending changes depending on what difficulty setting you put it on and how good you are with a controller. Plot is a foundational element to story telling. A movie without plot is just motion pictures following more motion pictures without any need for comprehension. Not even worth bothering. Heavy Rain has a plot, but there's so many issues with it I almost had to stop playing and eat bed bugs.

Let's start with the police, first. There's a lot here that makes me want to eat bed bugs. I need to start with their sense of due process. Okay, so, while Norman is actually investigating the Origami Killer, the rest of the police force is tackling the nearest guy and sitting back with their arms crossed, "Ah yes, this is the Origami killer." No due process whatsoever. Norman uses some "geoanalysis" to investigate two possibilities. Both of which are easily long shots, but one where Blake (his partner) eggs the guy to confess based on no evidence and gets a gun pulled on him, and another where we have a ridiculous chase scene because a guy was on parole. Yes, yes, this is all great. Of course, Blake assumes both guys are the killer immediately and wants to get them to confess by beating the shit out of him. When Ethan's ex-wife comes by and says, "I think Ethan's weird," the cops immediately start investigating him, which is kind of ludicrous as it is. A serial killer that's been active for three years now would then finally decide to kidnap his own son. Yes, this way the police are right at his doorstep all the time. This is a great idea. Aside from this, they are now finally investigating him because his EX-WIFE said he's weird? If it were this easy...so many ex-husbands would be so much trouble. Then they go and beat up Ethan's therapist to find out Ethan has problems since his son died. HOW STRANGE! Besides this, they found a circumstantial origami figure that somehow and conveniently "fell out of his pocket." One of the other major issues here is that the killings have been for the last three years. What about that year when Ethan's life was just dandy? Whatever. We now have "concrete proof" as Carter Blake even refers to in the next scene he's in that Ethan Mars is the Origami Killer. ...What?!

Still on the police force, let's talk about resources and power. When you find very vague circumstantial evidence you cannot do the following: get a swat team, get a large team of cops, openly shoot at him, search his home, or arrest him. Yet it seems like the cops are allowed to do all these things based on no evidence. Do you have a warrant for his arrest? Do you even have a cause to arrest him in the first place to bring him in for a couple of hours? Where's his lawyer? Isn't it strange that this man is covered in bandages with a missing part of his pinkie, a burned chest, cuts on his head and legs? Alright, so after we've got "concrete proof" that Ethan Mars is the Origami Killer because his ex-wife said he was weird and his therapist after being beat up said an origami figure fell out of his pocket, Blake and Norman are waiting outside a warehouse with tons of cops waiting for Ethan to come out because his car's parked there. They're allowed to question him, that's it. They have no other authority here. And yet they chase him down, shoot him (if he didn't cut off his finger), and have the ability to arrest him if you're not good enough. Let's talk about the scene if he's arrested. He doesn't really explain anything to the cops, not even Norman if you use the "sincere" option and tell him you don't think he's the killer. Why not? Why wouldn't he tell them everything and let them sort it out? Instead, he says without explanation that "he kidnapped his son" which he can't even honestly be sure of, despite possible doubts of his innocence. So after this stupid move, Blake exercises due process again and decides to start beating the shit out of another guy, this time Ethan. Norman can actually hit Blake to get him stop beating on Ethan, and then he pulls a gun on him. What? This guy would have lost his badge right here. People watching would have ran in fearing Blake would have shot an FBI Agent. Norman, especially, shouldn't have backed down but called a superior of his with a cell phone or those magic sunglasses. Instead he walks off to let Blake continue beating up Ethan and tattles on him to Blake's boss. Blake's boss shrugs, acting like it's a good thing that Blake's doing. Norman also doesn't mention that Blake pulled a gun on him. Then the boss implies that Norman might get taken off the case. Why? Does he even have this authority? Norman is an FBI agent! His superiors would have sent him here because these idiots think beating up every guy on the street and having a random man confess will get them the Origami Killer. So somehow they're allowed to hold Ethan in the first place, and then hold him for an inordinate amount of time, punching the shit out of him, and all Norman can do is break him out, rather than use basic laws to show that this police department doesn't make any fucking sense. With or without the arrest scene, the cops later discover the Motel Ethan is staying at and swarm it with a poorly organized Swat Team. So yeah, they're allowed to have a Swat Team for utterly no reason based on utterly no evidence to chase this guy down, but they're not smart enough TWICE to have the building he's in surrounded? So while this police department may have ridiculous resources and unlimited power, they don't have enough foresight to surround a building their prime suspect for the killings of thirteen children might be staying in? Right right, let's move on. Even if this was the Origami Killer and they actually had "concrete proof" they have no right to shoot him unless he seems like he's going to use deadly force. Still, depending on several endings, it's possible for Ethan to save Shaun, and then start walking out the building and get shot by a bunch of cops who (at least should by this third time) have the building surrounded. Why'd they shoot him? "He's not going to get away from us this time." You can't just shoot a guy because you're not smart enough to surround a building! You don't have limitless power. Blake would have lost his badge several times just within this story.

Let's also talk about Norman's disconnect from the police force. Somehow Norman is the only one doing actual research to discover who the Origami Killer is. And he goes out on several of his investigations completely alone for no reason that I can fathom, especially "Mad Jack," a man known to be extremely dangerous. If he shared his information with the police department and the FBI, they'd be moving in on "Mad Jack" and then Paco in groups, to do proper research. Besides, Norman is actually following leads that have actual evidence supporting them. Even if it does lead to Ethan, this way they have proof to actually keep the guy in prison and tie him to the murders. Instead, they go off on a circumstantial hunt with unlimited power and resources and Norman, THE FBI AGENT, goes around powerless despite his super sunglasses to do dangerous research with Mad Jack, getting him nearly killed, and then to Paco where he has an actual encounter with the Origami Killer and again, is nearly killed. Where's everyone else? Shouldn't they be in the loop? Why wouldn't they follow his lead? Don't they have a obligation to do so because he's FBI? Wouldn't they want to since he's actually gathering proof? And again, at the end, Norman discovers (or can discover) who the killer is. Instead of informing Blake and everyone else, he just runs off on his own to the likely destination of Shaun Mars, the missing kid. Are you serious? You're an FBI AGENT! Did we forget this somewhere? YOU'RE WORKING WITH THE POLICE! BRING THEIR RIDICULOUS RESOURCES along with ACTUAL REASON FOR THEM to stop this madness! You have a right to, now! You really do! Show up with a ton of people, go in, hold up Shelby and say, "the place is surrounded, idiot. You're under arrest." Then help Ethan get Shaun out of the gutter and do your piss poor CPR technique. This also raises the question that when Madison, if getting out of the fire alive, wouldn't have the third and best option: CALL THE POLICE. Nope, she can only call Ethan or Norman (which we don't know why she knows him). We also don't know why she can't call them both, or all three. NO THERE'S NOT ENOUGH TIME TO MAKE THREE TWO SECOND PHONE CALLS. "Hi, the Origami Killer is Scott Shelby. He has Shaun Mars here. K bye." Okay, that's like ten seconds. Thirty seconds sooner to the warehouse will do very little, okay? I promise.

Also, I have to mention more about "Mad Jack." Norman is doing research, and can actually discover remnants of blood that lead to the acid bath where he can see parts of a skeleton still remaining. He then holds up Norman and says that "one of your cop buddies" was asking too many questions and had to be taken care of, so to speak. Wait wait, before we get to the part where he's now holding up and planning on killing an FBI agent, he killed a cop? Do you know how big of a deal the media would have made of a missing cop? And you know how cops have those cars, radios, computers, etc.? All this stuff would have led them to his final destination: Mad Jack. This would have given them a lot of reason to investigate the crap out of this idiot, and they could have easily found crushed remains of the cop car, as well as the blood and skeleton that Norman discovered himself plenty of time later. Aside from all that nonsense, this guy plans on killing Norman, now. This isn't just some run-of-the-mill cop. This is an FBI agent. I don't know how many times I need to stress this: FBI AGENT. This game seems to think that an FBI agent is the opposite of what it is. They imply Norman hasn't likely seen a lot of real action, with Blake even asking sarcastically if he's ever actually shot a gun or just "seen it in movies." All the while, Norman is fighting this uphill battle with the police department and seems more like he's just a tag-along annoying little brother than an FBI AGENT. Finally, Mad Jack seems to think he can just kill Norman and no one will care. Now, I've never played through the game letting Norman die here, but you can. He can die here, getting crushed in his car. If this happens, I presume the police department doesn't even notice. This is ridiculous. They'd be getting reamed by...oh, I'm not sure, the FBI?! Norman would have had a lot of experience with investigations and possible action in the FBI, he wouldn't be tagging along, he'd be calling the shots, and Mad Jack wouldn't dare try to kill an FBI agent, unless he's a moron. And if that's the case, than his ass would end up in prison for life within seconds.

Let's talk about Shelby for a moment. Why does Shelby investigate the rich kid? I'm sure I could concoct some ridiculous justification, but are we ever given a good reason? You may be thinking: he's investigating the murders of the Origami Killer! No no, we know after the twist that he's under the pretense of doing that so he can gather evidence he's left behind. So there's no reason to "investigate" this guy. Maybe he's just trying to give the impression to everyone, including Lauren and those back at the police force. Oh, okay, but once it becomes obviously dangerous when the rich guy's daddy (Kramer) threatens him, why does he tell him off? Why does he turn down being bought? Why not say, "I'll leave your son alone if you give me a position, but you have to let me finish my investigation aside from your son, first." Then he could go collect and burn the evidence, then get an awesome job that pays real well and live happily ever after? Instead, he tells Kramer off, and then after running into the guy at the cemetery, gets himself in mortal danger. Why? Why go to that kind of trouble? Oh, I know, so that we the audience are confused as to who the killer might be, just like why Ethan has those blackouts in the beginning and then they're gone. Forever. Forgotten just like rich kid Kramer. I think the writers started this story without deciding who the killer was first, then went back and tried to throw in little hints later, ignoring enormous plot holes. Plot holes that remind me of pot holes in my home town that open up to hell down below because they're so awful. Not to mention if he decided not to bring Lauren to talk to Daddy Kramer when being bribed, why didn't he not bring her along when going to the shop owner's place? And how did he manage to kill him, call the cops, and get back behind the desk and look casual in five seconds without Lauren noticing? Good grief this is getting too easy.

How about Madison, you might ask. Isn't she perfect? Well, aside from Hell No, I might say you're an idiot. We won't get into the feminist part yet. That's part five (I can't wait). Madison's first scene is utterly useless. She runs around half-naked fighting about ten men (because they pop up out of nowhere) to keep from getting raped in her own apartment. Then she wakes up! Then she goes to stay at the Motel where Ethan stays (for what seems like no reason until we learn she's a reporter). Conveniently, the attendant gives her a room a few doors down from Ethan, for no reason other than that I think he read the script. She then "stumbles" upon Ethan who "happened" to be outside suffering from his car accident. Then she plays nurse for her next two chapters. Then she follows Ethan to the "The Lizard" trial, and decides she's going to help him run from the cops. Why? Why do this? For all you know this man may really be the Origami Killer! You're going to help him escape? Please explain yourself, now! Then she does actual investigative journalism which impresses me. She finds out who owns the warehouse, who he rented it to, and discovers the Origami Killer has been going by the name "John Shepherd." This would all be great if she didn't also "happen" to be sexually exploited by a drill going towards her vagina, being slutted up to then have to strip at gun point, etc. The sexual elements to her investigation are very forced and I almost rolled my eyes right out of their sockets.

Aside from all this, the rest of my issues are more nit picky. I could dive into all of them, but I'm not as patient or committed as RedLetterMedia's Plinkett reviews of the new Star Wars Trilogy. Perhaps why I'm just a blogger and they're getting thousands of hits on their youtube videos. *sigh* I will mention a few right here, however, just to make you happy: why can't Ethan try and cheat on some of the trials? There are wires hanging over the entire set of electrical fences, USE THOSE ALL THE WAY ACROSS. Why not smack the guy upside the head, then make it look like you shot him dead and take his picture? Why not drink the poison, get the address, and then go vomit? How does Ethan get up from that three-story drop with just a limp? Why don't the cops chase after him after all that? No, stand there amazed, dumb Blake. Why did Shelby work a decent life as a cop for years upon years only to finally retire/quit/get fired/become a PI so he could become a serial killer three years ago if the traumatic event happened when he was a child? Okay I'm tired of this section.

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