That said, I do tend to stay abreast of developments in gaming. Basically, I’ve just been waiting for the day when the video game medium realizes its promise and becomes a truly interactive cinematic experience. We’re almost there. Games like Fallout III, Uncharted II, Grand Theft Auto IV and Assassin’s Creed II have considerably advanced the ball for visual detail and storytelling. And the problem of the “uncanny valley” — where human facsimiles closely resemble their real-life counterparts but are just off enough to be revolting — is certainly receding. These days, it’s more like an “uncanny pothole.”
I should mention that I own all of the aforementioned games, even if I play them very rarely. It’s not because they aren’t incredible. I just have other hobbies, like recording music, watching movies with my wife and feeding my social media addictions.
But after reading reviews of the new Sony title, Heavy Rain, I knew another purchase was imminent. Could this be the game that matches the plot and pacing of motion pictures with the dynamic interplay of video games? I had to find out.
Turns out Heavy Rain is really good, but not quite the game-changer (pun intended) that people have heralded it to be. That said, the storyline is highly engaging on an emotional level, which is something you can’t say for most titles. Not to sound sexist, but this is a product that could get more women into slick gaming platforms like the PS3. And it’s not just interesting to play, it’s entertaining to watch, too: just ask my wife, who was pulled in as if it were an A-list suspense thriller. Which in many ways, it is. When I announced my intention to fire it up again after a several-hour break, she said, “Oh good, I was hoping you’d play it again tonight.” I don’t get that with Resistance: Fall of Man. (Shit, I own more games than I thought!)
Heavy Rain is also the most depressing video game I’ve ever played. Just about all the characters are suffering a loss-induced trauma, and the ever-present rain of the title gives the entire proceedings a crestfallen quality. With a plot centered on the search for a serial child murderer, one doesn’t expect a lot of laughs. But it’s not the grim subject matter that sticks with you — it’s the punishing banalities that the characters go through in getting through the day. The simple act of opening the refrigerator becomes a study in self-reproach, as the principals wrestle with feelings of guilt and inadequacy in the face of a predatory terror they can neither contain nor cover up.
It’s also the first video game in which I’ve had to change a diaper.
The only real failing of Heavy Rain is that it sometimes feels less like a game and more like a Choose Your Own Adventure by a tortured existentialist writer. You don’t so much as “play” it as you do nudge it further down the road to despair. Yet it remains interesting because all of the choices you make affect the direction of the plot, and conceivably, the final outcome.
I say conceivably, because I have yet to make it all the way through. This isn’t for lack of addictiveness, but rather because during last evening’s session, the entire PS3 platform fell victim to a global glitch that rendered Heavy Rain unplayable. Not only does that mean no more gaming for the time being, but also no more Netflix streaming on-demand to my TV or movies downloaded from the Playstation store. For those who made fun of the many problems with Microsoft’s Xbox 360, here is your comeuppance. This is nothing short of an EPIC FAIL for rival Sony.
The glitch is a bit like that great-cataclysm-that-wasn’t, the Y2K bug. Except that this one actually happened and no one saw it coming. Apparently, the problem is with the PS3’s internal clock, which for some reason has reverted to 1999 — back when the Playstation 3 was but a twinkle in some Sony developer’s eye. Somehow, the system zapped itself to before it was born! No wonder it’s suffering an identity crisis.
It is an odd coincidence that this happened the day after I bought a new game. I can’t help but feel like maybe it was my fault. Did the PS3 sense my n00b-dom and commit digital suicide? It’s like when your parents think they broke the internet, but really the ethernet cable just came unplugged.
The powers-that-be say they’re working on a fix, and in the meantime have advised PS3 owners not to turn on their machines, lest they suffer some kind of permanent memory loss. Spooky-scary! Of course, I’m not sure exactly how we’re supposed to download a patch if we can’t take the thing online. I guess that’s up to the geniuses at Sony to figure out.
Until then, I guess it’s just Twitter and all the music in the universe to keep me entertained. Sigh.
UPDATE: looks like the worst is behind us. That was fast.