Thoughts on Heavy Rain

Back in July, I wrote a post about a surprise hit for me, Detroit: Become Human. It happened to be a free release via Playstation Plus that month, and I decided to try it on a whim. I usually try out the free games each month, but oftentimes they simply aren’t for me and they get uninstalled. No harm no foul, considering no money spent (unless you count that $60/year fee, but it’s awesome value no matter how you look at it). It turned out that this was a game that would hold my interest, which isn’t something that happens very often to me anymore. Besides the base game, the Plus offering included a digital artbook, soundtrack and a copy of the company’s first Playstation title, Heavy Rain. We already went back in time a little bit with Detroit: Become Human (released last year), but end up going even futher back to 2010 with Heavy Rain and to some degree, it shows. This is the same style of game, but it’s not nearly as pretty. The controls are a little clunky as well, but the story is good, and that’s really what matters in this genre. Actually, part of what I said about Detroit: Become Human applies to this game as well:

Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of narrative, story-rich games that don’t necessarily have a lot of game play so to speak. These types of games range from adventure titles to interactive story books. I’ve been a fan of some of the TellTale Games series, though now that the company is defunct it’s unlikely we’ll see more of those unless another company picks up the reigns. Another recent game of this style The Council was very good and had basically no game play whatsoever — yet the story was intriguing enough that simply controlling a character through a story arc and making some minor decisions was fine by me. Detroit: Become Human lines up pretty well with this assessment — I’d go out on a limb and call it a QTE game, because outside of dialogue all of the action is controlled by various timed button presses and other motions with the controller. Honestly this is one of the first games I’ve seen that uses the controller motion technology along with the touch pad on top of the normal controls — that part was pretty cool, but also kind of annoying at times.

Unfortunately, with games like these requiring you to be on the ready to quickly press buttons at any moment, so taking screenshots ends up being sort of difficult. As such I tried to include some pictures that show of some of the neat features of the game, but those that wouldn’t really spoil anything. But, the game is nearly ten years old, so if you haven’t played this you probably don’t have any interest. Whatever the case, there is an intriguing story here that I’d love to spoil but I won’t. Suffice to say that you can play as four different characters, and each have their own part to play in the story, along with interacting with each other before the game is over. There are branching parts based on your decisions, and clearly there were places where I could have chosen to go another route, but unlike Detroit, you don’t get the branching graph that shows you exactly how things could have gone. Obviously that was something that was thought of later on in the company’s game repertoire.

A true detective story, Heavy Rain is doing its best work while trying to convince you who the killer is. I really didn’t suspect the character who ended up being guilty, but as the story unfolded I wasn’t disappointed with it. I suppose there are other ways things could have ended up, but I don’t really see the point in playing through a thousand times. I made my choices and I enjoyed the ride, but I don’t intend to go back for more. The same happened with their other game, and I don’t feel bad about it.

One other note: I didn’t realize that Beyond: Two Souls (2013) was also produced by Quantic Dream, and it was also a free Plus game a while back. I went ahead and downloaded that one and intend to play through it soon. So expect more about that later on this month.

Thoughts on Detroit: Become Human

Sony announced this month’s lineup of free games via their Playstation Plus service, and it was lackluster at best. One arcade racing game reminiscent of, I don’t know, Pole Position? And a Soccer game that wasn’t FIFA, not that I’d care either way — nobody likes Soccer. There must have been some sort of critical mass of outrage thrown at them, because at the last moment they swapped out PES 2019 for Detroit: Become Human. Konami wasn’t even told it was going to happen. Nonetheless, I was more interested in trying out a newer Sci-Fi game rather than boring ol’ Futbol so I went ahead and downloaded it. I should mention too that the other game, Horizon Chase Turbo is actually pretty fun, but that’s all I’m saying at this juncture.

Detroit: Become Human was hyped up before its release. I remember hearing good things about it, but from video it didn’t really appeal to me and honestly I would have never played it were it not for getting it for free. Apparently, I was wrong when I judged this game by its cover, because it appealed to me on many different levels.

Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of narrative, story-rich games that don’t necessarily have a lot of game play so to speak. These types of games range from adventure titles to interactive story books. I’ve been a fan of some of the TellTale Games series, though now that the company is defunct it’s unlikely we’ll see more of those unless another company picks up the reigns. Another recent game of this style The Council was very good and had basically no game play whatsoever — yet the story was intriguing enough that simply controlling a character through a story arc and making some minor decisions was fine by me. Detroit: Become Human lines up pretty well with this assessment — I’d go out on a limb and call it a QTE game, because outside of dialogue all of the action is controlled by various timed button presses and other motions with the controller. Honestly this is one of the first games I’ve seen that uses the controller motion technology along with the touch pad on top of the normal controls — that part was pretty cool, but also kind of annoying at times.

Graphically the game looks amazing. I honestly think it’s one of the best looking games I’ve seen on the Playstation 4, top five at least. The animations were stellar, there was no hitching, it ran well, looked beautiful and contained more heart than I would have expected. As the story goes, it’s the middle of the 21st century and Androids have become a large part of human society. They perform tasks that many would not want to do for themselves, including cleaning, manual labor, and even taking care of their own children. It seems that they are the perfect utility machine for everyone, and affordable enough for the average family to own one. Ironic that the game takes place wholly in Detroit, Michigan, a city that was known for its prosperity during the automotive boom of the 1900’s, but is more known as a ran down and broken city in more recent years. It seems to have regained its prominence in the nation in this game however, as these Androids are all created here in the city by a company called Cyber Life.

I honestly cannot go further into the story because it has so many branching pathways and spoilers that I’d have to play through it a couple more times in order to see everything. I don’t want to spoil that for you if you haven’t yet played it. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one as much as I did, and I played through it in just a couple of days which isn’t something that usually happens with me and games these days. The story is compelling — you’ll take control of several different Androids with different agendas and there are plot twists and turns along the way. Fuck up on some QTEs? You’ll have to live with the consequences (I did earn a trophy for not losing a single fight throughout the entire game). The same goes for your dialogue decisions. Things will happen, and it will be your choice how they happen. Just don’t expect everyone to like your choices.

If you have a PS4 I highly recommend you download this game right now and play it. Definitely for fans of Sci-Fi stories with artificial intelligence, detective work, dystopian futures, the love of a family, hero’s journeys and freedom.

The Walking Dead: The Final Season Episode 4

Skybound Games has finally released the very last episode of Clementine’s saga. An epilogue of sorts, it picks up right in the thick of things, as the last episode culminated in the exploding ship and uncertainty about everyone’s well being. Well except for James. He was definitely dead. I felt that this episode was the most rushed or perhaps the least well thought out. It felt shorter than other episodes, and felt like whoever wrote it wasn’t as invested in the game or the property. There was a clear end, and a nice twist that I didn’t see coming, but it felt a little hollow. I wasn’t left feeling like it was a clear end for the series… but I suppose I’ve felt that way when good TV shows end as well.

It appears that my choices were in line with most other players. All four of the major choices in the episode weren’t the most difficult decisions to make (nothing gut wrenching here), but it appears that more than half of players agreed with my choices. Since the finale was only released a couple of days ago, those results could be spoilers, but I won’t go into specifics. Let’s just say I didn’t feel like the choices had much weight to them, and the way things ended I just felt sort of blah about. I really wanted to like it, but I suppose it’s okay to only be disappointed with one episode of a four season game series. Clementine’s story has come to a close, and I’m satisfied to have completed this years-long journey.

There were more screenshots I could have shared, but they were very much spoilers, showing who died and how relationships between Clementine and other characters have changed. I did however include the above two shots that showed what my Clementine taught AJ throughout the season. Some of it is pretty inside, so you’d probably have to play the game yourself to understand them, but many are basic enough. I think my AJ will grow to be a decent human being, and that means I’ve done my job. I could easily see another season being doable, especially being able to perhaps kill off Clementine and then pick up playing as an older AJ. I don’t see why they don’t go down this route, but perhaps they have other Walking Dead stories to tell, or maybe another decent IP could be done in this style. I suppose time will tell what Skybound decides to do next.

The Walking Dead: Final Season Episode 3

We learned back in September that Telltale Games was going bankrupt. This meant that despite the first two episodes of The Walking Dead’s Final Season were out and playable, the game would not be finished. Thankfully, Skybound — a company founded by the creator of the series –decided to go ahead and make a games division specifically to finish off the series (and I assume, create other gaming experiences). This was good news for fans like me, who just wanted to see the end of Clementine’s story, a story that started way back in 2012 with the first season of the game series. I’ve talked about my experiences with the first two episodes already, but I recently completed the third and thought I would jot down some notes to chronicle this.

As with the rest of the series, we’re not seeing anything new here, just more of the same interactive story game that we’ve all become accustomed to. The Walking Dead is one of my favorite pieces of media. I’ve always enjoyed a good zombie horror story, but what I’ve always appreciated about the comics, the TV series, and this game series is that there is less of a focus on the dead, and more of a focus on the human struggle of living in this post apocalyptic world. The human element and emotions that have been stirred within me while consuming this media is second to none. I haven’t nearly shed tears with any other medium.

Clementine has grown into a capable young woman. She is no longer the child that Lee protected from the world, and instead is the protector of AJ — a child she has watched over for years. Now in Lee’s shoes, she even has dreams where she is able to commune with him for guidance, and his pride shows despite merely being a figment of her subconscious. It’s touching to see his reactions to her all grown up, compared to the child he once knew. He (I) did a good job in raising her, and now it’s her (my) turn to raise AJ. This has been tricky, due to the sheer amount of shit that is thrown our way, but I have done my best not to turn him into a little psycho.

As the last episode closed, raiders had taken members of our group, and the children at the school were shaken to say the least. I met a mysterious boy named James who is a “whisperer,” in that he is able to walk among the dead without alerting them to his presence. He reveals more of himself and his past in this episode, and I grew to like him despite his odd lifestyle choice. As the appointed leader of the school group, this episode focused on the plan to rescue our friends, and making preparations to do so. Without spoiling too much, it turns out that our friends are being held on a boat by the raiders, and Lilly seems to be the expedition leader. Despite letting me go earlier in the season, she is not willing to let us get our friends back. A plan is hatched and the attack on the boat happens and seems to do so without any issue until one of their soldiers (who used to be a member of the school group) spoils things. This leads to a confrontation with Lilly and ultimately, the death of another person. I simply wanted AJ to show some mercy, but Lilly wasn’t going down that road.

James got caught up in our struggle, and though I think he probably would have been a great addition to the group, unfortunately Lilly showed no mercy. However, the episode ended with a bomb that we had put into the boiler going off, and we really don’t know what’s happened to anyone. We can assume that the three characters we came to rescue made it off of the boat, but as I was trying to save AJ, Tenn was also involved and James was killed. The bomb went off and threw Clem into a wall, so we can assume she lives, along with the others, but it will likely take some time to gather everyone back up. My ending results showed that most of the other characters were MIA, along with some base stats like usual:

It seems that my choices were mostly in-line with other players this time around, but I don’t like the fact that we don’t really know where anyone else is. I guess that’s why there are typically cliffhanger endings between episodes, so we’ll be kept guessing until the next comes out. I know that I’m looking forward to the finale and the closure of the story, I just hope Clem doesn’t end up like Lee. But I supposed anything is possible. They haven’t said exactly when the next episode will come out, but I assume it will be released within the next couple of months. I’ll report back once I’ve completed it.

The Walking Dead: Final Season Episode 2

I’m as surprised as you are that I’m even able to write this post, but here we are. A couple of weeks ago, TellTale announced that they were essentially bankrupt and that they were laying off all but 25 employees. This came after the release of the Final Season of The Walking Dead, where we would finally see the end of Clementine’s journey. The first episode released a while back and I wrote about my experience. Another story from a few months back says that TellTale and Netflix were teaming up to create a Stranger Things game (for other platforms) along with some Minecraft interactive thing on the streaming service. It sounded like the company was doing fine fiscally at that point, but apparently things were different behind closed doors. During the layoff announcement, the company admitted that episode two was ready and would still release, so that’s the only reason we get to even talk about it today as it came out last week. Episode three was due out in November and the finale would be released in December. At this point it’s unclear if those two episodes will see the light of day. Rumors state that the third episode was basically done but very little work has been put into episode four, and that the company might be shopping around to get those finished. I suppose we will see what happens — I really hope it gets finished because I’d love to have played through them all and see how the story ends.

This episode was a little different than some of the prior seasons in that there were some third-person shooter elements that haven’t ever really been present in these interactive novels. The game is still on rails but there are segments that are a bit more action packed than the norm. When I had left off at the end of episode one, AJ had just shot and killed Marlon, and we were basically being asked to leave. Things were put to a vote and we left. One the way out, we’re attacked by raiders, one of which is a character from way back in season one, a character which I (playing as Lee) had left behind once we got on the train. She took a little bit of pity on me, delaying capture and then some of the kids from the school attacked and enabled our escape. AJ was unfortunately hit by some buck shot, and carrying him became an issue as walkers were alerted by the skirmish. This meant a fight scene with walkers, before one of them (clearly wearing a mask) stops me and leads me off to his camp. This guy doesn’t play too integral a part in this episode but I have a feeling he would have been back. He helps me with nursing AJ’s wounds and then helps me back to the school. The school kids know that the raiders will be back and grudgingly accept my help in fortifying the school. I’m welcomed to stay for a while. The attack happens, people die, and at the end a couple of them are captured. We vow to go after our comrades, and can do so with the help of one of the wounded raiders still at the school after the larger group retreats.

Normally this is where I would slot in some screenshots of the results. They displayed after I had completed the episode but I didn’t take screenshots because usually you can check your choices from the main menu. For some reason things bugged out, and I was unable to see those results. I assume this has to do with not being able to connect to TellTale servers, which usually display the stats for choices and perhaps those servers are down due to the company’s recent actions. Whatever the case, I hope this is something that is fixed going forward if they do end up making the final two episodes, but again we don’t know if that’s going to happen. Whatever the case, I have enjoyed the season thus far, it’s just a shame that we may never know how Clementine’s adventures end.