This is Part 2 of my live-critique of Heavy Rain and, as such, it is basically one long SPOILER if you haven't played the game.
An embarrassing admission.
Okay, I'm going to say this now just to get it out of the way. I feel so stupid having to write it down it all and I'll probably look like an idiot tomorrow when I've (hopefully) finished this thing, but I'm going to put it out there anyway, because I'm writing about my reactions to this game as it's happening. So here goes.
For a second there I thought Scott was the killer. I was playing the sequence where the hooker visits his office. She hands him the letter and he looks it over. Looking it over, he observes that the letter was clearly typed on a manual typewriter… EXACTLY LIKE THE ONE SITTING ON HIS DESK!
Okay, he doesn't say that last part, but the typewriter is right there the whole time, so it's kind of hard not to notice.
Sure, you could write the ending so that Scott's the killer, and it would fit a little. I've spent something like eight scenes with the guy, and I've still got no idea who he's supposed to be working for, which is pretty damn suspicious. But just like the idea that Ethan's the killer, there's a giant hole in the plot keeping that theory from working. We have access to Scott's thoughts, you see, and more than once he's referred to the killings in a passive sense, in a way that the killer never would. So, unless this turns out to be one of those "I'm a crazy person" situations where Scott doesn't actually know he's the killer, he can be pretty clearly dismissed.
Unless David Cage is an even worse writer than I thought.
Speaking of awful writing…
It's up to four. Four family members of the Origami Killer's victims have received suspicious murder-themed letters that they didn't bother telling the police about. I was so distracted by the stupidity of Ethan, Suicide Mom, and Bodega Dad that I didn't even notice that Hooker didn't seem to have any evidence. But then she turned up at Scott's office, holding a letter that had been delivered to her dead son's father. It seems he'd opened it, read the contents, and then ran off somewhere, never to be seen again.
Again, apparently she didn't bother to mention this part of the equation to the police. Because why would you, really? I mean, seriously, it's not like your baby-daddy's mysterious disappearance immediately following the arrival of a threatening letter could have anything to do with the kidnapping of your son, could it? Especially since no one's ever seen the father again?
At this point we've got to stop and consider just how bad the police in this game are at their jobs. Now that we've got a solid confirmation that the four fathers-of-the-victim we've heard about all received a threatening letter and a box of origami clues, it's fair to assume that this was the case in all nine of the kidnapping/murders. We know for a fact that the method of murder (drowned in a pit that fills with rainwater) is exactly the same every time, and there's no reason to kill a child over that amount of time unless it's part of a plan to create a Jigsaw Killer-esque series of trials for the fathers to endure in their attempts to rescue their sons.
This means that all nine victims' fathers received a threatening note. At least four of those fathers followed the note's instructions and grabbed the shoebox full o' clues. Three of them definitely followed the clues inside the box, and of them two were likely killed in the pursuit.
So, to sum up, nine people whose children were kidnapped had a vital clue that they chose not to give to the police. At very least three of the fathers disappeared without a trace at the exact time their sons were kidnapped. Yet the FBI doesn't consider this a pattern. Possibly because the FBI agent in charge didn't bother interviewing anyone involved in the case. Which, as I understand it, is the SOP for serial killer investigations.
Seriously, it's time to dial 911.
Last time around I didn't mention Madison, the game's fourth lead. That's because her segment, apart from featuring the second of the game's two (so far) gratuitous shower scenes, was entirely unrelated to the main plot, and not badly written enough to be of note. Is it odd that she dreams about being attacked by men with knives? Sure—but I'm sure we'll get an explanation for it soon enough. It's not like they were lobstermen or anything like that.
So why has she suddenly become worthy of mention? Because she's intruded quite rudely onto Ethan's storyline. Heading to her motel room she sees Ethan, fresh from his car accident—and presumably also from the garage where he must have picked up the car he drove to the scene. She helps him into his apartment and takes it upon herself to nurse his injuries. She also agrees not to call an ambulance because he's insistent that he's okay. Which is all well and good, and fundamentally not my problem with this storyline.
No, that's the two characters' next interaction, when Madison finds Ethan collapsed on the floor of his motel room, his chest badly burned by electrical shocks, and his arms torn to ribbons by broken glass. At this point, no matter how insistent he might have been in their last meeting, she has no excuse for not calling an ambulance. The man has second degree burns across most of his chest and deep lacerations all over the inside of his forearms. Yet somehow Madison feels this is a situation she's got well in hand. Her solution? Bandage his chest, give him some medicine, and hope he sleeps off these critical, life-threatening injuries.
She also doesn't bother to even toss a blanket over him during his hours of unconsciousness. Nor does she take that time to investigate the mysterious shoebox he'd left lying on the hotel room desk after grabbing the last clue.
Again, maybe I'm calling this too early, but nothing Madison is doing makes any sense at all. Sure, respecting someone's desire for privacy is all well and good when you're keeping quite about some broken ribs, but Ethan's too far gone to even insist on not being taken to the hospital at this point. If Madison hadn't come along he would have, likely as not, died lying on the dirty carpet. So whose wish is she obeying by not helping him now?
Unless she's the Origami Killer…
Prayers for cyberjesus.
Remember last time, when I made the declaration that Ethan was a bad father because he'd continued to be around his son after having a blackout that led him into the middle of nowhere? Turns out that I was, if anything, massively understating the problem. According to Grace this whole blackout problem has been going on for over six months. Which means Ethan has been knowingly putting his son in danger that entire time, whether from suspicions that he might be the Origami Killer or simply from run-of-the-mill abandonment at a key moment.
So our main character is far onto the scummy side of things. He's not our least likeable character, though. No, while Ethan's awful parenting is certainly contemptible, Druggy the FBI Agent's inability to do even the most basic math rates him as the most ridiculously inept investigator in the cast—and given that he's supposed to be an expert profiler, that's quite a disastrous performance. Consider the scene right after they find out about Ethan's blackouts. Druggy and his partner head out to visit Ethan's psychiatrist, who seems to work in a church dedicated to the worship of technology. It's all floating computers, stained glass icons, and a giant sign that reads, simply, EGO. Unless the office décor was designed specifically to instill religious mania in his patients, I'm thinking the good doctor needs a new space.
Also on the list of the things the doctor needs to do? Not be a such an obstructionist dick. Rather ridiculously, the psychiatrist refuses to talk about Ethan's case until bad cop roughs him up a little while Druggy looks on disapprovingly from the sidelines. Sure, the doctor's stance could be considered "ethical", what with doctor-patient confidentiality and all, but there's a pretty famous exemption for that confidentiality when you believe that your patient is about to kill someone. An exemption clause which would almost certainly be met by the certain belief that your patient is the Origami Killer.
That's right, the psychiatrist thinks Ethan is the Origami Killer. What is his basis for this? Ever since Ethan's coma he's been having blackouts and dreaming about drowning children, and in his last appointment he dropped the origami figurine that he discovered after his blackout back in chapter three. This is all pretty damning evidence, bad enough that the psychiatrist really shouldn't have forced the cops to rough him up before spilling the beans. This revelation immediately causes the cops to assume that Ethan must be the Origami Killer.
Oh, and for the record, this raises the number of people who had important knowledge about the identity of the Origami Killer but chose not to tell the cops about it to anywhere between 12 and 19. That's all the fathers, at least two of the mothers (but possibly all), and now a psychiatrist. And these aren't nebulous hard-to-piece together clues, either, like when four different people have access to seemingly innocuous pieces of information, and if they'd just get together and talk about it they'd know who the killer was. In that situation you can understand why the individual people don't come forward—they don't understand the significance of their information, and how could they? That's not the case here, though, where all of those characters are holding on to letters from the killer, and possibly origami with clues. Hell, the doctor had a patient who talked about drowning children and then left a piece of Origami in his office! Who wouldn't call the cops in that situation?
Even more egregious, come to think of it, is something I didn't realize about Bodega Dad yesterday. He must have called the cops, right? To come and arrest the skel that Scott beat up? And how would that conversation have gone?
What happened then, Bodega Dad?
Well, the private detective snuck up behind the robber
and knocked him out.
Private detective? What was he doing here?
He was asking me questions about the Origami Killer.
Oh, and you said you didn't know anything, right?
Because that's what you told us.
Actually, no. I gave him a shoebox full of clues to the
Origami Killer's identity that I've been keeping under
my counter all this time.
You gave him what?
Just a gun, a digital camera, memory card, and five
pieces of Origami that are filled with clues that could
lead someone to the killer.
Why didn't you mention this to the police during the
fifteen interviews you had with them about your son's
BODEGA DAD pauses and thinks for a moment, then-
Because David Cage is a terrible writer.
You don't have to tell me. I played Indigo Prophecy.
Now for the math that our FBI Profiling friend hasn't been able to do. Their entire theory of the crime is that, having gone nuts after the death of his son (and being a little brain damaged from the coma), Ethan has started killing other people's children. Which is a fantastic theory except for one tiny fact. Jason died in Spring 2009. Ethan got out of his coma in late fall 2009. If the killings had started then it would be merely preposterous; how could a guy just out of a hospital bed develop and execute a villainous supervillains persona? But the killings didn't start in 2009. According to Jayden they've been going on for three years. Which means they started in fall 2008. A full year before the horrible trauma that would have given birth to Ethan, the Origami Killer.
Somehow the entire Philadelphia police department and the brightest drug-addicted profiler that the FBI has to offer can't follow the most basic logic imaginable—that if B follows A, then B cannot have been the incident that caused A to occur.
Unless I've been misreading the name of the studio responsible for the game, and we're dealing with a story about "quantum" cops, who can see that cause and effect are just differing points in the four dimensional starfield of reality, linked only in the mind of man, who prefers the tyrannical illusion of linear time to the terrifying, disorderly omniscience of the universal now.
And now, scenes from the parallel plot about which I could not care less.
While I was laying out my crazy theory above, I neglected to mention what Scott's actually been up to. Investigating red herrings. Seriously, it's some pretty hard-core timewasting the private dick's engaged in. It seems that a sleazy prick was seen with one of the victims, and Scott (along with his hooker sidekick) wants to have a conversation with him. This villain is so profoundly a red herring that I couldn't be bothered to learn his name. Also seemingly pointless is the scene where his influential father tries to scare Scott off the case.
Yawn. Can we get back to Ethan's grotesque self-torture now?
It's the sincerest form of flattery. Really.
Look, we all know that this is basically just another Saw game, and given how bad the actual Saw game was, I understand why hopes were high for Heavy Rain, and why we'd want to give it a pass for its unoriginality. But I thought I'd take a moment to acknowledge just how similar the premises are. They're both stories about a crazed killer who kidnaps people and then creates elaborate traps inside crumbling edifices deep within America's post-industrial wastelands, designed to test how much a victim will sacrifice to save a life.
The difference is that the Jigsaw Killer gives people a chance to save their own lives, while the Origami Killer (note how Origami is a totally different kind of paper-based puzzle) has fathers sacrifice to save their sons. They both enjoy shocking people, making them cut off pieces of themselves, and forcing them to crawl through broken glass. (Another clue that Scott can't be the killer—someone had to put all that broken glass in the crawling tunnels, and Scott is way too fat to fit in there)
We can safely assume that they're also similar in that the tests are rigged to ensure that the players can't possibly win them—otherwise at least one of the Origami Killer's victims would have escaped by now. Yes, that's right, the Origami Killer is every bit as much of a dick as Jigsaw—perhaps even moreso, because Jigsaw offers the pretense of a moral lesson, while Origami just kills for the fun of it.
Actually, maybe his lack of pretense makes Origami less of a dick… I'm going to have to wait for his (her?) elaborate "here's why I did it!" speech before I can really judge that sort of thing.
Continue on to Part 3.