I was talking about Heavy Rain with MrLipid the other day and he asked me how I thought it’d wind up performing. It’s kind of a tricky question for this game, because general consensus seemed to be it’d either do quite well or go down in flames. I hedged my bets and said it would probably move a million units in the United States, which is very good – not blockbuster, but no one at Sony or Quantic Dream would complain.
Well, GamesIndustry.biz reports that Heavy Rain was the top seller in the UK last week, edging out Aliens vs. Predator, but no hard numbers yet. Week one in the U.S. moved 500,000 units.
Heavy Rain is flying high with nearly universal critical acclaim. The gameplay isn’t the revelation we were promised, but it is the first game that tells a very serious, very melancholic story with very grown up characters and themes. Most games have about six weeks to hit their targets, with Day Zero and Day One sales usually dictating the fate of a game. What remains to be seen is whether new customers buy more copies of Heavy Rain, or whether it’s rental fodder.
I’ve still not completed this yet so will keep this short but.. I’m absolutely loving Heavy Rain. Not unconditionally.. it’s not without it’s problems (some of the voice acting is literally laugh-out-laughable, and screen tearing has never been this distracting before) but I don’t think a game this flawed has ever had me so gripped before.
It’s abit emotionally draining though.. I keep coming away from it feeling cold and letting out big *sighs*. Absolutely a good thing though in the context of what the game is attempting (successfully) to do!
..although having said that, I have just realised none of that has any relevance to this actual story. Hmm, sorry!
Sales performance? I think it will do modestly. One thing I have noticed however is that alot of my close friends who aren’t “gamers” as such (and who literally buy games consoles for sports games – nothing else – if they even buy consoles at all) are VERY interested in this. As the resident geek in my circle of friends, I’ve been asked all sorts of questions about what this is, what it’s like and whether it’s any good.. by all sorts of different people.
I think it will be interesting to see Sony’s hardware figures around the launch of Heavy Rain, because I can see this being more popular amongst less-traditional gamers and non-gamers than amongst the existing base of Call of Duty, Gears of War loving “core” gamers.
Or something.. *shrugs*
Agreed, Mat. The story, the writing, a lot of the technology and scene blocking, all those things really keep you entranced. The actual gameplay is… I don’t know, I don’t want to say “nothing special,” but it’s certainly minimalist.
One thing I often wonder is how much my button presses are really influencing the game, or if they’re just in there to make me feel like a participant in what’d otherwise be a passively viewed story. A good one, to be sure, but no different from a movie.
I think Heavy Rain could mark the point at which AAA production values meet the sensibilities and tone of certain realistic and mature adventure games, that is, games which don’t emphasise fighting or action and concentrate more on storytelling, characters, dialogue and situational puzzles. I know Heavy Rain has its twitchy QTEs but the production values and mature themes are going to be hard to resist. The general non-gamer consensus with most mainstream ‘mature’ or ‘grown up’ titles at the moment will probably be something like:
Mass Effect is a fighting game for trekkies and sci-fi geeks.
Dragon Age is a fighting game for beardy weirdy fantasy geeks.
GTA IV is a fighting game for sociopaths.
Heavy Rain has the accessibility of something like GTA IV with its modern setting and believable characters but without the controversial Rockstar/GTA stigma attached and without the emphasis on fighting. It will not only appeal to the gamers who have been waiting ages for it or fancy something different, but also to the non-gamers who perhaps want to enjoy something a bit meatier but don’t care for outright fighting like in the above titles. Intriguing.
The things we love mature like HR games for?: http://borderhouseblog.com/?p=1691
The issue around the fighting sections of Heavy Rain is quite interesting in itself I think.
I’ve sunk several hours into this now and have pulled the trigger of a gun once.. and I tell you what, when the time came I actually felt like it meant something. The option to shoot also came with a string of alternative actions, and I went through afew of those before deciding to open fire. For someone who plays alot of FPS games, that Heavy Rain made me think twice about doing it once was quite intriguing..
I agree with you about the aspect of involvement too, Matt. I’m finding there are times when it feels like you’re genuinely playing a part, and others where it’s quite peripheral. Flicking the analogue stick to open a car door for example is nice and all but.. I would neither notice nor care if the AI did that for me. Alot of the more mundane actions do feel a little loose, although at the same time I do think they’re a nice way of building your relationship with the game and your characters personality. To open the fridge door or.. to not open the fridge door?
I haven’t actually played this game and probably won’t anytime soon. I don’t have a PS3, and, even though this is getting rave reviews, it really doesn’t seem like a killer app. Plus I’m terribly poor. Nevertheless I’m intrigued.
But here’s the thing, every time I see a game being lauded for a story, in spite of its lackluster gameplay, I feel very conflicted.
I think, is this a game then? Is this a story that could only be told in this medium? Why? What narratological elements of the game are unique to the medium? If the game was told as a movie, would it be considered anything more than average?
Then I think, does it matter? One thing a game does that no other medium can do is imbue its audience with a real sense of tension. You can fail in even the most simplistic game, which ups the ante. Additionally you can get stuck, which makes the story, even if its only told in cut scenes, more emotionally resonant because you overcame something to get to it.
So… well I don’t know. I feel like games can tell a story, and they can probably do so on the same artistic level as a masterful film… but the heart of the medium is its gameplay and games should be striving for innovation in that AND innovation in story AND integration of the two.
Does Heavy Rain do that?
@Igor: Hello Igor, the Border House is a great website that I’ve been visiting quite often since it was launched. I’ve got to say though, as a white, heterosexual male I feel out of my depth over there sometimes! There are some fantastic reads though. Thanks for the link. I’ll probably steer clear of it however, because of the spoilers!
Absolutely. There are a couple of moments that remind me a little of GTA in terms of what’s actually going on, but they’re so far removed from that in the way that they’re handled and portrayed. Grand Theft Auto looks so childish in comparison.. and that’s coming from a GTA stallwart who still holds a candle for those games. Essentially of course they’re very different experiences and nobody will ever play one for the same experiences as the other but I still think it’s a fair comparison.
Did you buy the game or have you downloaded the demo, Gregg?
I particularly agree with your point there about the ability to fail being so engrossing. One of the things that impressed me about Uncharted 2 was that Nathan Drake really does take a beating in that game. That’s another area where Heavy Rain does push it quite far. The characters go through some pretty testing times as it is, but if you’re that way inclined you can pile misery onto them even further by your own actions. Although it’s not happened to me yet, apparently they can also die prematurely and the game will continue without them.
Just as an aside too, I could sit and talk about Heavy Rain all day. I could write a list as long as my arm about things I don’t like about it from a technical/gameplay standpoint (but wont, because that would have to include spoilers) but the things it does do well make me so giddy.
For some reason my PSN connection is having none of it. Money’s too tight at the moment as well to buy any games so I’ll have to wait until PSN gets its act together so I can download the demo! I actually can’t wait to give it a whirl.
Is it just today you’re having PSN trouble? You are aware of the absolutely monumental crash/bug with the PS3’s today, right?
Mat, I bet I know the one time you pulled a trigger of a gun, and you’re right, unlike any other game, it’s a very tough decision. I pulled the trigger and wound up regretting it almost immediately.
One interesting thing is that some of the prompts and conversational options are a bit misleading. There are times when I think I’m going to say one thing and wind up saying something else.
One of the impressive aspects of Heavy Rain is that it does a good job of making you realize how all the small decisions impact all the large ones. To open the fridge or not open the fridge… seems innocuous, but it may shape the fates of men one day.
@Gregg I should have explained why I’ve linked to that article. The reason is it makes me doubt if HR should be described as really that mature, or at least if it should be denied that sex and violence are its primary attractions for most buyers. The text discusses the main female character and how she is presented as a victim of male abuse type of character throughout the game above all other characteristics.
This and other things I hear about Heavy Rain make me think about shock value and putting the player in uncomfortable situations – both the subtler ones, as well as those straight from exploitative fiction.
Anyway, too bad Heavy Rain isn’t for the PC, so I could check it out myself. At least there’s the interactive youtube demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjNsqPxO2Ws
Makes you think if the full game would be actually much less of an experience if it was just an interactive movie on Youtube.
There’s a slight focus on violence against women, Igor, but at least so far it hasn’t been as bad as I feared. While Madison is victimized from time to time, she’s also presented as a tough lady who’s capable of taking care of herself (unless I’m the one directing her QTEs, in which case we’re both hosed).
If sex or violence are the primary attractors for most buyers – and I don’t disagree at all with the possibility – then most buyers are going to be disappointed. This game is about sadness, and loss, and not much else.
Of course I’m not far in yet, so my assessment could change.
Ahh, thanks for the clarification Igor. I’m keen to know what the feminists make of Heavy Rain considering what (little) I’ve read about it, so I can’t really comment but will be sure to when I’ve played it. Incidentally, I wonder if PSN has stopped acting the goat…
EDIT: @Mat – Yeah, I briefly heard something about it on the news this morning. Will check it out now.
For Sony’s sake I hope they fix this problem in about five more minutes, or they’ll be facing down one humongous lawsuit. Their official response (“we are looking into it”) is probably not going to cut the mustard.
It’s fixed now, Steerpike 🙂
By the way, after a monster late night session.. I’ve just finished Heavy Rain. All I can say is.. wow. Stunning game on so many levels. Also, now that I’ve finished, I’ve decided to open myself upto the many “what ending did you get” threads across the internet. I don’t think I’ve read any 2 that are the same yet. I have to go through this again to experiment with the differing avenues myself though, of course..
I think I’m about halfway through. It’s a good game.
It’s a great game.
It’s… complicated. We’ve never seen anything quite like this before, have we?
Go to bed!
@ Mat, and to think you’ve booked an entire week off work to play it! You only needed one day! (i’m so lonely at lunch 🙁 )
Must resist buying a PS3. Must….resist….Tap-Repeatedly effect…
Once the price dropped, I’d have picked one up but for the no backwards compatibility for PS2 games issue. That still annoys me as I have a substantial PS2 library left to play.
@Toger: I got my PS2 modded to play US games so in that sense it’s more valuable than a backwards compatible PS3 but in truth the whole thing pissed me off to. I don’t want 12 consoles under my TV. Just one please.
Finally got the demo of Heavy Rain downloaded and installed. Will probably play it tonight with my girlfriend. I’m looking forward to it.