The narrative impact of Heavy Rain

Warning: This post will contain spoilers for Heavy Rain, the adventure video game on PlayStation 3.

When I finished Heavy Rain, I had to take a moment to catch my breath. A moment to be able to take in what I had just experienced and digest some of the finer plot points. Regardless of the choices, mistakes or revelations that you make in the game, it is undeniably an emotional roller coaster.

I should probably provide a brief summary of my personal path in Heavy Rain. As Ethan Mars I managed to find and save the child – this was achieved by cutting off Ethan’s little finger and choosing to take the poison at the final trial. By refusing to shoot the drug dealer, I was left with three possible choices for the location of Shaun. Luckily, by listening to the mobile phone and deducing that some kind of ship(?) was nearby, I chose to drive to the warehouse closest to the river.

As FBI profiler Norman Jayden, I didn’t find out that the killer was Scott Shelby. Despite finding the gold watch in the clip of the origami killer, I didn’t want to accuse Blake and didn’t think of geo-analysing it for further evidence. As I rooted through the rest of Blake’s evidence, I was aware that Norman would soon die from the ARI and chose to log out. This meant that I ended his scenario with a rather unimpressive resignation.

Regrettably I left Lauren to die in the car, allowing Scott Shelby to escape to the surface. I felt a little tricked by this section; the buttons didn’t seem to correspond to their contextual counterparts and what I thought would wake Lauren up actually resulted in Scott leaving. Out of frustration I left Charles Kramer to die in the mansion (the man deserved it in my opinion) and I also missed cleaning the telephone in the typewriter store.

Although I was never particularly sold on the quick-time controls, the intriguing plot and deep characters really pulled me in. It was a great piece of storytelling and up there with some of my favourite crime novels. To make the experience ‘pure’ I never turned off the console to retry a section, nor did I spoil the story by looking it up in advance. As a result Ethan’s final choice was a very difficult decision for me. The revelation that Scott Shelby was the origami killer was also completely unexpected.

Hopefully Heavy Rain will spawn more video games with this type of mature, intelligent narrative. Although I was confused with a few of the minor plot points (what was Ethan’s blackouts really about?) these were addressed in some of the ‘Making Of’ videos and I agree with their decision to make the game less supernatural. Although I always felt a twinge of the fantastical in Heavy Rain (Norman’s glasses were always a little far-fetched) maintaining a sense of realism helped to focus my own personal theories throughout the game.

I’m not usually one to advocate video games as an art form, but Heavy Rain certainly fits into this category. The narrative is engrossing and will likely stay with me for many months to come. If you own a PlayStation 3 and haven’t played it yet, I heartily recommend checking it out.

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Unboxing inFamous 2: Hero Edition

Remember that preview of inFamous 2: Hero Edition that I was drooling over a couple of weeks back? Well, Sucker Punch has been kind enough to shoot some photographs that show all of those goodies in meticulous detail. You can find a full set of images here, but below I’ll show some of the most interesting ones:

This is a group shot showing all of the items together. There’s a whole lot of content on offer here, designed to please every comic book geek and inFamous addict.

First up is the replica sling pack. This is the exact same bag that Cole wears in the game, built to size and offering a considerable amount of room for all of your daily essentials. I absolutely love the attention to detail, especially the Sly Cooper patch knitted onto the main strap. I’m still a little dubious about the quality of this item, but it’s unquestionably a great way of showing off your love for the game.

Figurines rarely excite me. Still, at least this one does a good job of standing guard on your desk. The roof stand makes Cole look particularly bad ass, standing tall at an impressive 8.5 inches. It’s unlikely to persuade gamers to purchase the Hero Edition, but it’s a nice bonus all the same.

InFamous 2 is a story about superheroes. So why not create a comic out of it? DC has jumped on board and bundled in the first issue of the InFamous comic, offering a brief insight into the events that followed the previous game. The artwork looks simply stunning, so I think this is a worthy possession for any fan of the game.

The Hero Edition also includes a download code for the InFamous 2 Red Soundtrack and in game items such as character skins, power ups and amp variants. Sold yet? I’m drooling at the mouth.

(Aside: All images are owned by Sucker Punch and Sony Computer Entertainment)

Opening cinematic released for InFamous 2

The release of inFamous 2 is now less than a measly month away. Sucker Punch has decided to unveil the intro sequence, which brings new players up to date with the story and shows off some impressive comic book animations. I think it looks absolutely gorgeous, it fits the gritty superhero theme of the games and reminds me of DMZ by Brian Wood.

I’m not completely sold on the voice actor for Cole, but who knows – it might grow on me. It also throws up some interesting questions on who or what the ‘beast’ is. Perhaps a future/ alternate version of Cole? Or a new character altogether? It’s probably too early to speculate.

The Hero Edition of inFamous 2 will get any fan drooling at the mouth. Clothing, soundtracks and graphic novels are all my favourite types of video game memorabilia – so this special version really appeals to me. The sling pack in particular looks like a great way to carry around some gear with a hint of gaming style (although I’m sceptical about what the build quality will be like). The figurine and in-game items are also nice extras, but I doubt they’ll be a deal clincher for most people.

Of course, whether or not gamers will order this depends on the price. In the UK it’s currently going for around £99. Ouch.

London 3DS StreetPass Event (27th March, 2011)

Britain needs more handheld social gaming events. There are dozens of portable titles that I play obsessively – but I often leave the multiplayer options untouched because I don’t know anyone else with a copy of the game.

The launch of the Nintendo 3DS is looking to change all of this. Nintendo Scene have organised a fantastic gathering at St Pancras Station (London) on March 27th; just show up under the New Olympic Rings at midday and get gaming. You can either be super discrete and walk through the area with StreetPass activated on the sly, or be bold and start discussing your new favourite handheld with other gamers.

Plenty of Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition seems to be on cards, so I recommend getting some practise in whilst you’re travelling across London on the tube. If you haven’t bought a 3DS or can’t make the event, you can keep up with the Nintendo Scene coverage in a number of ways:

Hopefully this will be the first of many successful 3DS StreetPass gatherings. I wish Nintendo Scene the best of luck with the event tomorrow!

Dissidia Final Fantasy: Limited Edition

For a good few years Square Enix fans have been wondering why they even bothered shelling out for a PSP. They purchased Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII without hesitation, keen to lose themselves in the world of Cloud and his friends. But what happened to them when that title was exhausted? They looked elsewhere for the next dose of Squeenix goodness, only to find a copy of Tactics (though a good one at that) and not much else. Was it really worth buying a system for this?

Luckily, yes. Dissidia Final Fantasy is a game for the fans, created by developers who have grown up with the franchise and become fans themselves. The Limited Edition version has a handful of extras and I’ll be discussing what comes in the box below.

Postcards, books, soundtracks... there's a lot packed in a small PSP case.

Postcards, books, soundtracks... there's a lot packed in a small PSP case.

What you’ve probably noticed first is that the box is considerably larger than your normal PSP case. It has roughly the same height and width, but the depth of the packaging is around 2.5 UMD cases. It’s made of stiff card and has a matte like finish, which feels both durable and classy to open up. Inside is a whole wealth of material; some worthwhile and some… not so much.

Art Postcards - do people actually send these?

Art Postcards - do people actually send these?

First up are the art postcards. They’re the same size as a PSP case, featuring the cast of characters fighting for chaos and cosmos respectively. I would have preferred hand drawn concept art on these rather than CG, but that’s simply personal taste. I’ve never actually sent gaming postcards to anyone, making the practical use of these nil. However, I always like gaming memorabilia to look through when I’m bored and lets face it; a fan always loves to have something extra for pre-ordering. Even if it’s worthless.

Dissidia Final Fantasy: Original Sound Selection

Dissidia Final Fantasy: Original Sound Selection

As a music fanatic, bonus soundtracks are a big thumbs up. I’ve always said that the best compositions in gaming are the ones you don’t notice, seamlessly blending with the experience to make it even more entertaining or believable. The Mini-CD packaged here has six tracks, teasing at the full version that can be bought on iTunes. They’re all spectacular, including new takes on classic Final Fantasy tunes and some originals made specifically for the game.  The disc looks pretty and at the end of the day, saves you searching the internet for it. I probably won’t buy the full version, but this taster is more than satisfactory.

A double page spread featuring Final Fantasy X hero, Tidus

A double page spread featuring Final Fantasy X hero, Tidus

A hardback art book looks very promising. After all transforming some of the earlier classic sprites into 3D players must have needed some concept sketches somewhere, right? Unfortunately, no. As you can see from the above, on each character profile there is only one drawing and it’s fairly generic. I’m pretty sure i could find it with one Google Image search. The other three images are the various CG costumes, which look nice enough but hardly blow me away. Somehow this book has been a wasted opportunity, for what I think could have been a great insight into the character design process.

BradyGames Mini Guide

BradyGames Mini Guide

Strangely, this teaser-strategy guide has better art than the art book. It’s about 40 to 50 pages in length (they’re not numbered and I’m not going to bother counting) but it takes you through the basic controls, set up and prologue of the game. The detail is fantastic and clear, with the only improvement I can think of is it being too short. Obviously Brady want you to go out and buy the full version, but I think it would have been more worthwhile to up the game’s price and include the entire guide.

DSCF1966

So should you be forking out the extra money for the Limited Collector’s Edition? Only if you’re a die hard Squeenix fan, who knows they’ll forever regret having the slightly lesser, normal packaging. Most of the extras here are hit and miss, with only the soundtrack really shining through. My advice would be to buy the normal verion of Dissidia and spend the saving you’ve made on the full soundtrack available on iTunes. Or not at all if you just want a good brawler.

Persona 4: Free t-shirt!

In a previous post, I made a little video unpacking the PAL version of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. The Limited Edition t-shirt I was promised was missing though and at long last, it has finally been posted to me.  Stupidly, although I asked for a small or medium (i’m pretty short for my age) i got given a large.  Still, free merchandise never goes amiss and i’m sure I will find some use for it.

All wrapped up in cellophane

All wrapped up in cellophane

View from the front...

View from the front...

Now from, the back...

Now from the back...

It's only a tad large on me... ;)

It's only a tad large on me...

The transfer on the back is a little faded at the bottom, but that might be a legitimate design choice. If anyone else has this t-shirt, I would love to see pictures of other people wearing them! I plan on playing Persona 4 this summer and will be sure to write up some thoughts on it then.