Sizable spoilers for Heavy Rain chapters: Shelby in the typewriter store, Madison with the creepy doctor, Jayden with Mad Jack, Ethan with the fourth trial
Finally, the weather has cooperated and given me a reason to play today. And play I shall. This is not a plan, this is a promise.
But I did play a little last night! I did the bit in the typewriter store and the fourth trial. Now I’m Madison outside a skanky doctor’s office and what could POSSIBLY go wrong?
On the Manfred Chapter: Well, guess Shelby isn’t the killer, huh? Pretty clear. A theory bites the dust. And once I learned Shelby’s legit, I got to thinking: This game should be Shelby’s. Like, the whole game. This chapter was good. Good tension, having to think through where the fingerprints were and use your memory, good way to imply the past with Manfred and the cop afterwards, and I thought the scene in the rain with Lauren was the best scene of human connection and friendship so far in the whole game. I LIKE Shelby. The game is at its most fun when you are Shelby. Games can usually be judged by how much you want to be the main character, and, by far, the character I like being in this thing is Shelby.
So why not give him a whole game? Why not stop fucking around with this whole family bullshit that doesn’t work (more on that in a second) and make a good, solid mystery game? With a protagonist like Shelby and a good mystery, this could’ve been the game that I hoped LA Noire was going to be, only to have my hopes dashed.
It’s never good when a game can’t decide what it is and ruins itself by trying to be too many things. It’s downright infuriating when ONE of those things would’ve been really awesome if the game was just that.
THE FOURTH TRIAL: Killed the guy. You? I just couldn’t get into the whole “I’m a father” thing after he tried to kill me repeatedly. He wasn’t so much into his kids that he didn’t a) become a sleazy drug dealer and b) shoot up his kids’ apartment with a shotgun. Even if you say “Yes, but how good are SHAWN’S parents,” Grace seems fine.
See up there when I said “More in a second?” Here’s the more. This game fancies itself to be a game about human interactions and feelings, and yet when it tries to BE that, it feels forced, manufactured and awkward. And some of that is because it’s trying to be too much:
(GAME: Ok, do QTES!
G: Uh…this is a trial. We need some.
ME: Ok. Sure.
G: You have a gun, so he will, too, ok?
ME: Sure, why not?
G: Ok, now HE’S A DAD! CARE!
G: I said CARE!
ME: Kinda don’t.
G: But I told you to CARE!
ME: Doesn’t work like that.
ME: Look, if you wanted me to care, why’d we do the QTEs?
G: I told you. It’s a trial!)
and some of it is because it pulls its punches. You know what WOULD have worked? Instead of making the target a sleaze, don’t. Make him an accountant who never hurt anyone in his life AND HAS KIDS. Or, double down: make HER a mother who never hurt anyone in HER life! Make the player choose between saving their own kid or depriving another kid of an innocent parent. Make the player choose between fixing his broken family by breaking a family that looked like Ethan’s before Jason died.
That would have been harrowing as hell, would’ve made the choice have some gravity with the player. But they didn’t do that. Maybe they were worried about the press, and the headlines like “Game encourages you to kill crying, pleading, innocent mother!” But, all the same, if you’re gonna make a mystery with a PI (or ARI or whatever), fine. If you want an upsetting game with harrowing, upsetting choices, fine. But this game tries to do both.
And does neither.
Whoo! That was a lot for two chapters. I have too much bloggage built up cuz of this damn fitness. This week’s activity was a hike. Mrs. McP got us slightly lost. This led Mrs. McP (Yes, Mrs. McP) to give us one of our all time best T SHIRTS!!!!!
“It’s easy to get lost with your body when you’re always lost in your mind.”
Hall of Fame T SHIRT!!!!
That’s…that’s DEEP, man. That T-shirt is PROFOUND.
Good playing! Good bloggage! Good exercise! Success in life!
As for Madison and the doctor: NOTHING. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Everything is going to be great. Not creepy at all.
I did enjoy the tension of running around as Shelby trying to get all the fingerprints. I had gone to the bathroom, because why not, you’re waiting around, and then I was hurrying in there to wipe off the faucet thinking “why, why did I go to the bathroom?!” And having to remember that Lauren picked up that figurine, and answered the phone, and all that.
I actually didn’t get them all, because I forgot that in addition to answering the phone behind the desk, Lauren picked up the phone in the office to call 9-1-1 before Shelby stopped her. So I wound up at the police station in spite of all the fingerprints I wiped off, but as we know Shelby is a former cop and everyone seemed to know him and they accepted his explanation and said “OK, next time maybe just don’t try to hide the fact that you were at a murder scene.”
Which I guess is good advice if the cops know you and trust you, although I’m not sure I could universally endorse it. Though trying to cover it up does just make it seem more suspicious.
The scene with Lauren in the rain…you mean when she got out of the car in a fury when you tried to tell her she couldn’t help anymore?
That was pretty good, although I spent so long deliberating over what to say that it started to seem a little weird that she was just standing there stock still in the street waiting for me to get out and go talk to her. But generally good, yes. There was some human emotion there.
As for that trial…I did not kill the guy. He certainly gave me every incentive to kill him, what with the trying to kill me with a shotgun and all (though not without reason, obviously), but we were there in his kids’ bedroom, and I was like, man, I am not going to murder some guy in his kids’ room surrounded by toys and pink bedspreads while he pleads and holds up this picture of them.
Probably he’s a terrible father and they’d be better off without him, I don’t know, but I didn’t do it. So my Ethan said “I’m a father too…but what I’m not is a killer.” And he turned and walked out.
Which means I didn’t get any more letters of the address, and things aren’t looking great for young Shaun if he’s counting on dad to save him. Good thing several other people are also looking into it.
You’re certainly right that the game didn’t really go out of its way to make this a wrenchingly difficult moral choice. “Yeah, you gotta become a murderer, but look, it’s a really deserving murder victim! He’s a sleazy drug dealer, he tries to kill YOU…except for the kids, we’ll throw in kids to make it tough.”
I think…and this might be giving too much credit, but bear with me: I think it was sort of a middle-of-the-road moral challenge. I mean, he’s a drug dealer, but not, as far as we know, a child pornographer or something, so he’s a criminal but–depending on your views on drugs–possibly not a really BAD criminal. I mean, he’s no Junior from The Witcher 3, we can say that.
And he has kids, who he apparently sees often enough that they have their own, nicely decorated room in his place, and he has a picture of them right on hand. For all we know, he’s a loving father whose only business is selling weed to college kids!
Although the fact that he has a shotgun right there by the door does suggest that he’s a bit deeper in the drug trade than that. And he does try to kill you, although not until you pull a gun on him, which is certainly self-defense and therefore totally legitimate. I mean, what was he supposed to do, just stand there politely and say “yes, I’ve sold drugs, I deserve to die”?
So thinking about it, I wonder if he’s not actually rather cleverly drawn to be just murky enough that players can rationalize whatever decision they make.
“He’s a criminal and he tried to kill me! My son’s life is way more important!”
“He’s a caring father and I tried to kill him first! What right do I have to prevent my own loss by inflicting loss on his children?”
And the murkiness and allowed rationalization could absolutely be a cop-out (“whichever way you want to play it, that’s fine, you can feel good about your decision!”), or it could be a way to put the choice back on the player, not in a “will you do a bad thing or not” way, but in a “how much of your morality will you sacrifice” way.
Because certainly, as you say, it could have been a lot more clear-cut as a BAD thing you had to do, if you’d been ordered to shoot a more sympathetic parent, or a parent right in front of their child, or something obviously horrible.
But probably a lot more people would then refuse to do it, and maybe they (or he, since David Cage is the acknowledged responsible party for everything about this game) WANTED it to be pretty much as easy to become a murderer as to cut off your own finger, so that the choice is NOT “does this FEEL wrong to me” (the way it would feel wrong to kill another child, or an attractive young mother clutching a baby, or something), but “IS this wrong to me” (regardless of the sympathetic nature of the victim).
It’s easy for me to have someone in a game cut off his finger, and it also FEELS like the right decision. Obviously, you sacrifice a finger to save your child.
It’s also easy for me to have someone murder someone else in a game (even easier, in fact!–I’ve done a lot more murdering than finger-cutting, that’s for damn sure), but it doesn’t FEEL as right. We talk about that all the time. It’s one of the central tensions of enjoying combat-related games while attempting to be thoughtful about them.
So the game (or, keeping it inside the narrative, the killer — I think we can assume that the killer kind of wants the father to successfully complete each trial, if only for the entertainment value of watching the suspense rise as he moves on to the next one), intentionally makes it an easier choice, so that it doesn’t feel as wrong, and so that the player/character is more likely to ‘succeed.’
And that leaves the actual moral decision in our laps: it doesn’t FEEL wrong, but it is by normal moral standards. Will you sacrifice your sense of what’s right as easily as you sacrificed your finger?
Because it’s easy! This guy’s a sleazebag! Probably a terrible father, so killing him to prove yourself a worthy father is totally legitimate!
Will you go ahead and do it, as you are totally, totally justified in doing by his sleaziness and probable terrible fatherly qualities? Or are you going to choke at the last minute, stalled by some outdated moral belief that murder is wrong and even drug dealers and bad parents don’t deserve to be summarily shot?
I don’t know anything about David Cage other than these two games I’ve played, so I have no idea if assuming that amount of subtlety gives him too much credit (possibly? there’s not a WHOLE lot of subtlety elsewhere in the games that I noticed?), but it’s a thought.
I like that about “how much morality.” Cuz two of the other trials sorta had “player limits.” Did you cut your finger off right away or drink the whiskey to dull the pain, knowing you could pass out (or suspect it)? Note, the “coward” door was AFTER you crawled through glass. It wasn’t “Do you want to suffer? It was “Ok, you’ve suffered some….is it too much?”
Moving on. Played more!
I missed something. I know I did.
I went in, didn’t drink wine cuz never drink wine a creepy guy gives you. He left, I figured “Well, can’t be a clue in here cuz too obvious,” opened a door, it zoomed in on a bedside table, I went to said table, picked up a card that said Paco, picked some option that was like “I should get out of here,” figured that meant I had the plot point, booked it out of there, rode off.
Got a trophy that said “Smart Girl.”
So….yeah. There was exciting music, so I guess had I not been smart stuff would have happened….but….
Ironic that the chapter I thought would go horribly wrong was…whatever.
What’d I miss?
Gonna go play more.
Damn, I took triptocaine. But the guy was gonna kill me! Is this another “Where are your limits?” thing? I tried so hard not to take it. Ah, well.
Paco again, huh? Cuz that’s what was on the card Madison found. I dare say we’re gonna find Paco.
You know….at the start of the next scene….Shelby has an old typewriter….
Ooh, that WAS smart! Because yeah, if you didn’t book it in time (which I didn’t, I was still looking around for more clues) the creepy doctor comes back, sneaks up and whacks you over the head (I guess if you drink the wine, you pass out and he doesn’t have to whack you, but not drinking something some creepy guy gives you, especially when he’s so eager for you to drink it, seemed like the best option), and you wake up in his basement, tied to a table.
There’s a bloody corpse in the corner, and he tells you he misses the cutting-people-up aspects of his surgical practice, so he likes to keep in practice with passing nosy strangers, and he’s sure you won’t mind that he doesn’t have the standard equipment any more. Then he goes to cut up Madison with a power drill. So, horror movie stuff, with a bit of icky sexualized overtones, as he seems to be kind of into touching her body while also preparing to dismember her.
There are a lot of QTEs while she fights him off. Pretty tense. You can either fail, or end up killing him with his own drill and staggering out. I chose option B.
Perhaps an intentional contrast to the murder in the last trial? I mean, this was a Junior-level bad person I didn’t feel remotely concerned about killing, AND it was in self-defense. This is the least morally ambiguous death so far.
Hm…we’ve seen three of the major characters in a potential-murder situation now: Jayden could shoot the religious guy (and if he does, it’s almost an accident, and he feels bad about it–though that’s partly the way I played it, and it might have been possible to just shoot him right off the bat instead of trying to calm him down, and to express no remorse). So that was a pretty bad deed, though without visible repercussions: the guy was NOT actually a threat, and did not deserve to die, and further, there was no reason for him to die other than Jayden’s nerves: his death serves no greater good.
Ethan could kill the drug dealer, as we just saw, and there’s a moral element to it, but arguably he was a threat to someone (who knows how many kids you might have saved from addiction?…if he were the only person in the city with drugs). Maybe he deserved to die, and in any case there was certainly a reason for him to die, since that would help save Shaun. His death, deserved or not, still serves a greater good.
Madison could kill the doctor, and he both deserved to die (he was a drug dealer AND he murdered a bunch of people for his own amusement), and there’s basically zero reason not to (since he would otherwise kill her): his death definitely serves a greater good (saving Madison and perhaps helping save Shaun).
So we’ve had this progression of murder from least justifiable to most justifiable. Hm.
Moving on! You took triptocaine! I tried to take it in that scene, but I failed the QTE and passed out and wound up tied up in my car as it headed for the crusher!
What did you do? Take it and just defeat Mad Jack or whatever his name was and leave?
I had a very exciting QTE-fest escaping the car and then fighting Jack some more. Good times. Very tense scene.
You missed some tense scenes, man.
Oh, and speaking of triptocaine, I think at one point you said something about how it’s not even clear why this guy is an addict, and it’s just a weird, meaningless addition to the character–I tend to agree, but the internet says that triptocaine helps you use ARI, and that’s why he started using it. I don’t know where the internet got that information, because I never saw it mentioned in the game, but it does sort of explain it.
Weird new technology interfaces directly with your brain or whatever, you have to get your brain into the right condition to assimilate it or something…mumble mumble technogabble, I’ll allow it.
Would maybe have made sense to know that while I was actually playing the game, though. Maybe we both missed the part where they explained that?
Ooooooffffffff course you wind up tied up in a basement.
What happens if you fail?
I….guess that was an unambiguous death? Or we’re being too kind and they (David Cage) just wanted gratuitous woman tied up and tortured with sexual overtones cuz Eww. He already had a gratuitous naked women who is then terrorized and killed scene. She isn’t tied up naked, is she? Cuz….no.
Hm, indeed. But then, if it was really a “tied up tortured woman” scene, are we giving the whole thing too much credit?
Well, Blake does mention “The kid in the park,” which is suggestive of something icky, even though the guy denies…whatever.
On the triptocaine, pretty much just defeated him, yeah. Recovered, arrested him and….scene.
You’ll allow that explanation?
Bah. Useless story trope. Makes it so they don’t have to introduce some backstory. For a major character. That would flesh out the major character. Cuz if he has a past that led to drugs that’s backstory. For a major character.
At least make it so you have to choose between taking it (and being an addict) and using ARI in the first place. That would be something.
So many missed opportunities.
As for missing scenes…Meh. I need to catch up.
And I did! Just went to a graveyard and had a flashback and now Madison is in a dumb place AGAIN that suggests there’s gonna be gratuitous nudity AGAIN.
So besides the totally pointless cleavage bathrobe, I’m annoyed.
Why? Cuz first, this kid is a kid we haven’t met, and doing a “Oh yeah…it’s a stranger and he has issues” trick sorta undermines the whole WILD INTERNET SPECULATION fun. Just a “Nope. Wrong. All wrong. It’s this random dude.”
That pisses me off in any mystery. The WILD SPECULATION is the fun part!
The OTHER fun part is figuring stuff out on your own, or, at least, being able to try to do so. This? Shelby and Lauren kind of do it in a montage. The “I have made a breakthrough!” moment should have come in a chapter where the player did more than cook eggs. I cooked eggs. Sure. Fun. But you have to hand the PLAYER that “I have made a breakthrough!” moment. This would be like making a healing poultice (mine would be made of tasty eggs) then watching the final boss fight in a cutscene.
So this last 45 minutes really took a lot of what makes a mystery (and a mystery game) fun right away from the player.
I’ll continue to bull through this, but mostly so I can complain on the internet.
She wasn’t naked on the table (thank goodness for small mercies). She had her same clothes on from when she came in. But yeah, it was pretty tropey “woman in gruesome yet sexualized peril.”
And I will just note that yep, you’re not wrong to foresee some…stuff…with Madison in the next chapter in the nightclub! Enjoy!
Making the eggs was kind of hilarious. I put them in the pan and then saw the option to ‘put on a plate’ or whatever, and I thought “they don’t look done, but whatever, it’s giving me the option to serve them,” so I did.
Then Lauren, with remarkable aplomb, says “I should have mentioned…I don’t eat raw eggs.”
Oops. My bad! I just assumed everyone enjoyed a raw egg on a plate!
I did enjoy the way this game plays with expectations sometimes. A lot of games, if you were cooking eggs at all, you wouldn’t have any option to take them off the stove until they were done, so we just sort of assume “if I can do the thing, and there’s no obvious plot-consequential choice involved, it must be the right thing to do.”
But no! “You COULD do this right now…but maybe that’s the wrong call!” Player judgement applies to some very odd things, and that is sometimes entertaining. I laughed. I like this game best when it’s being a little offbeat in unexpected ways. Not as much when it’s doing exactly what you think it’s going to do with its scantily-clad female characters.
Along those lines, I totally see what you’re saying about having Lauren and Shelby solve the mystery in a cutscene, though on the other hand, I kind of enjoyed that scene. Researching montage! It was entertaining. I haven’t seen it a million times before in a game.
But yeah, one might well feel that perhaps being able to actually participate in the solution would be more satisfying, given that it IS a game and all.
So I googled….she can die there. Like, permanently die. Which, had that happened, her ENTIRE story arc would have been:
Be killed in a dream.
Nurse man back to health.
Help man escape (which, ok, but hardly a major piece of the narrative).
Nurse man back to health AGAIN.
Mention she’s a fashion photographer (cuz of course)
Die a sexualized death.
I miss anything? I don’t think so.
That’s precious little. Well, precious little that isn’t there to be weird peril torture porn.
We’ve been lucky in that we’ve played a lot of games that aren’t all that sexist. Games that empower their women characters.
This ain’t one of them.
I did the same thing with the eggs! Dude, I stirred them twice. How long do eggs take to cook?
Still…I SHOULD have been solving the fucking case.
And I’m sure in a production meeting someone suggested that Madison be naked in the scene I didn’t see. Maybe she was at some point, but calmer, saner heads prevailed.
And yeah, it’s a game. Researching montage might have worked in a movie, but this is not a movie. It’s not that it was a bad scene, per se, but in a game you have to be choosy about what you take away from a player and what you don’t. Sometimes, taking things away is appropriate as it would be tedious, or makes a point (the death of Sam in TLOU, for example, and the helpless you feel). But this was not one of those times.
Ah, you Googled. Yeah, I didn’t want to say in case it was a kind of spoiler (about, I don’t know, the severity of potential consequences or something), but yeah, if you failed to fight off the doctor, he killed her. And then, based on the descriptions, caressed her dead thighs in a creepy fashion. Nice. Very nice. Thanks for that, game.
Jayden could also be killed in the fight with Mad Jack. I was struggling to escape the car while it was falling into the crusher, and it was feeling pretty tense but I did it without THAT much trouble, so I thought “oh, it probably would have given me as much time as I needed, and this is that false urgency that Beyond did so well”–but no. If I failed enough of those QTEs, he would have been crushed to death inside the car. (Although I am 100% certain that at least Mad Jack would not have caressed his dead thighs in a creepy fashion.)
And there are other points where various characters can die, which we won’t get into.
So I give the game some props, I guess, for having serious consequences in the absence of a reload mechanic. (And this kind of explains why there are multiple playable characters…players are not likely to get them ALL killed off.) But I think it could totally have had these serious consequences without being gross and obnoxious towards the female characters.
Damn, dead main characters in back to back scenes? Wow. Yeah, gutsy. And surprising considering the false urgency in Beyond, I’m with you there.
That’s half the playable characters. You sure yours lived? Cuz that would explain you finishing so quickly.
DAMN. Game’s not fucking around.
Game’ll probably put Madison in even more gross, sexual peril.
It would be kinda cool if the game could end WAY before the “end” end if everyone died. Like “That’s it. You blew it.”
Maybe it can.
In other news, regarding our recent post about food, the finale of that cooking show featured….wait for it….cow palates. Palates. As in the top of a cow’s mouth. The top.
If I had to pick that or eyeballs, I might go eyeballs.
See? As shitty as our current times are, at least they’re not the 17th century.
Palates. Eeeeewwwwwwwww. I personally would probably take palate over eyeball, though. Both disgusting, one potentially less slimy and…fluid-filled. Ugh.
And yeah, it must have been something to be playing that game and be really bad at QTEs and have Madison and Jayden both killed off one after the other. Props for consequences.
I think there is an ending for “everyone dies.” There’s a trophy called “perfect crime” which I think means everyone who can die, dies. That’s got to be a cheery finale.
Mine all lived, though! I got it together for the QTEs when it counted.
Gotta hand it to the game. Usually, perma death doesn’t happen unless it’s a predetermined plot point or some kind of known choice, like “do x and so and so dies, or don’t and they don’t.” I can’t think of a game where a main character can flat out die (save for a cutscene, like, say, ME 3), let alone a game that says “fail and that’s it.” We fail all the time. It’s what saves are for.
Though there was a way for Jody to fail if the player blew enough qtes, but also cage.
There was a way shepherd could die at the end of ME2, but you had to fuck up to the extent that you gave no fucks whatsoever through the whole game. You had to try to fuck it up that badly. So doesn’t count.
And, as for the food stuff, I never thought I’d say this, but keep your fucking castles.
Though maybe just Irish castles. Maybe if they do this show in French castles, it would be more appealing.
Or not. I almost, accidentally, ordered lamb lung in Belgium once. In the 21st century.
Yeah, I have to respect that this game was willing to go there.
Failed to win a fight? You’re dead. Move along. I mean, sometimes that happens, if you’re in a line of work where you have run-ins with murderous people. Chance you take!
Too bad, Shaun.
And, again, that can work here because there are other playable characters on whom you can fall back to carry the story to its conclusion. Simply not being able to die until the very end was really the only way that Jodie’s story could have worked, since she was the main character, but in this game’s narrative, it is possible to keep going even if you lose one or more people.
So that’s an interesting thing that you don’t usually see, and maybe that was part of the reason people were impressed by this game. It’s able to do stuff with the story that is unusual and therefore interesting.
As for food…I feel like I ordered something for a light meal in Belgium that was cheap (when I was still eating meat) that turned out to have an odd sort of texture and that I decided not to figure out the translation for. Might have been lung. Or stomach. Or sweetbreads.
I don’t know, and I don’t want to know, and I intentionally forgot the French term, so I shall never know. Better that way.
I ate it, and it clearly didn’t kill me, but that’s all I’ll say on the matter.
About time we said something positive about this game.
But hey, live or die, Shaun’s gonna be eight ways of messed up.
I’m curious to go back and read some of the glowing reviews, to see what people thought in 2010. See what, exactly, they were gushing over. But I’m not gonna do that cuz I don’t want it to color my perceptions of the rest of the game.
But maybe after I’m done.
Gotta say, I do like sweetbreads. That one I’ll own. That and the oysters.
Maybe you thought you were ordering sweet bread. Common error. A terrible, terrible error, but a common one.
It’s such a cruelly deceptive term. Especially for people who love and particularly desire pastries at the time they’re reading the menu. People like me, at any given moment.
Yeah, I also didn’t look at any reviews. More interesting to go in blind. (Charge blindly ahead!) About all I knew was from the description in the PS store: “you play four characters trying to solve a mystery and save a child” or whatever.
I stand by finding it highly engaging as a beach game (ha–I like the image of sitting out in the sand with your TV and PS4, that’s my kind of vacation). And there are some things I enjoyed and thought were worth props.
There were also a number of things I wasn’t very impressed with, as we’ve discussed. A mixed bag, really. Worth playing, I think, but a mixed bag.
Really, ‘sweetbreads ‘ is just a trap for vegetarians. Cruel.
I didn’t look at reviews per se. I just knew it was a mystery and supposed to be this amazing, important masterpiece. WHY it was supposed to be that, I didn’t know.
And still don’t.
Hey, I’m off to the beach soon! For vacation! (I WILL finish this by then. Right? I must be close. Ish. Right? I felt like I made good progress today, plot wise.) I may take my PS4, just cuz that would be awesome.
Either way, it’ll be our annual “Travel blog with Butch.” Because in order to counter balance our brilliance about games, we must be fairly terrible travel bloggers (and downright terrible fitness bloggers. Though the fitness thing did lead to that T SHIRT so it’s not all bad).
I can’t tell if we’re good food bloggers. On one hand, we are pretty smart. On the other hand, we’ve been pretty disgusting.
Agreed about this game. Though I think there were more bad things in this bag than there were in Beyond (which also had its share of flaws). Though I’m kind of ready to just say “Ok, who did it? We done? Good. Onward.” Kinda glad I did a you and missed two big sequences.