Part 4: The Tone
Heavy Rain has a very horror film tone to it crossed with a murder mystery. As such, it's generally very interesting. The horror element is mostly with Ethan, as we go through these torturous trials that test and press his humanity. Horror has the wonderful opportunity to explore the human psyche, and although the game is limited as it's a game with choices, it certainly does the best it can, here. Depending on how you play the game, Ethan can go through with all of these trials, some of which are very intense, including cutting off a part of his finger, climbing through electric fences, and killing a man. When I played through the first time, I believed that Ethan would do whatever it took to save Shaun, especially after having lost Jason. So I went through with all the trials.
If you attach to a character simply by playing as you think they would act, it can really make some scenes dark or intense. When playing as Norman and Blake is being held up, I damn near shot the guy when he spun around. As Shelby before the piss poor twist of him being the Origami Killer, and having lost Lauren, I let Kramer die because in character, I was pissed. Unfortunately the game doesn't follow through on both of the tones.
The horror movie element is dropped once the trials are complete. You could argue that it's still a horror movie when Madison is breaking out of the apartment on fire, or when Ethan is trying to save his son, but I feel this is more like a culminating murder mystery. Shelby is uncovered by possibly any of the three other characters. At this point the story lines completely converge and we move to the final location: Shaun at the Warehouse. Shelby fights with Norman or Madison, Ethan saves his son, and of course the turn out can be any number of things. If we get the mind-numbing happiest ending ever, the horror movie element is extremely dropped. Ethan and Shaun are happier than they were before Shaun was kidnapped, which doesn't make sense for either of them. After Jason dies they are both distant, but after Shaun is trapped in a gutter for almost three days and has to be brought back to life practically by his father, and his father Ethan brought himself to kill another man, get in a car accident, burn himself getting through electric fences, cutting off a part of his finger, running from the police, jumping off a motel, and drinking what he thinks is poison, they smile and run around in a new apartment giggling. No. Not right. The tone is too happy and unrealistic here after the horror element. The most depressing ending that involves Shelby getting off free, Ethan being imprisoned, Norman giving up, Madison dying in the fire, and Lauren being left in the water, certainly maintains the horror tone, however. Ethan kills himself in prison, Norman OD's on Tripto trying to forget his misery, and Shelby just walks down the street nonchalantly. For the most part, however, the tone is well placed and maintained.