April 29, 2010

The Quickest, Timeliest Events Ever.

I have played Heavy Rain. Tomorrow will be the completely and utterly spoiler-laden review, so if you care about David Cage’s latest opus and haven’t played the game yet, I’d stay away from that one. Today, I’m just going to talk about mechanics.

Specifically, Quick Time Events.

In a game that I am playing specifically for the plot, I honestly have very little problem with the quick time event, especially when implemented how Heavy Rain does it. For the most part, failing a sequence distinctly changes the action sequence and how it’s progressing. That’s awesome. Failing a button press and seeing your character fall down, or fail to block a punch, really heightens the tension. It’s way better than most QTEs in that regard. I feel like it fits the game really well. I don’t have a problem with them being there.

What I do have a problem with is their presentation.

In trying to make things look artistic and cool, David Cage has basically ruined playability. It may seem, initially, like a good idea to have the commands appear, context-sensitively, in the environment. For example, if an object to pick up is on the ground, the command to pick it up appears on the ground. Sounds good, right?
The problem comes when you mix in the dramatic camera angles if the game. If there’s an object on the ground, and I’m far away, the icon is far away too. This means I cannot read the icon to figure out what I have to do, even on my fancy new HDTV that I got to make reading such things easier. Oftentimes, to the game’s credit, it makes sense what I have to do. In the previous “pick an item off the ground” scenario, the action is always moving the stick down, as if reaching down, so if an object is on the ground, doing that will pick it up 90% of the time. Still, in heated, time-sensitive sequences, not being able to read the icons is obscenely frustrating, and causes you to make mistakes for stupid reasons.
This is only made worse by the “thought cloud” mechanic of talking. Your various conversation options spin around the character’s head. If you’re far away, you can’t read what they actually say, and often can’t make out which button does which thing. Often, options you want are behind the character or objects in the environment, making it impossible to read them all. These are some of the most time-sensitive choices in the game, and the game completely impedes you from making them. I wouldn’t mind the little touches, like the options shaking if the character is worried or rushed, if I could actually read them normally. Then it would be part of gameplay, and that’s kind of cool. Since I can’t read them normally, though, it’s all just pointless and frustrating. Ugh.

It’s sad that Heavy Rain couldn’t get it’s key mechanic completely right. It bothered me all the way through my playthrough. Still, it was quite an experience, but that’s all based on the plot, so I’ll save that for next time.


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