From The Armchair: Frustration and Tedium

ArmchairWhat-ho, chums!

A lot has happened since our last tete á tete back in October. I’m currently ‘on tour’, as it were, in deepest darkest Cornwall, so I’m bereft of some the creature comforts I’m so used to in The Manor. However, I did have the presence of mind to bring my PS3 with me. Naturellement.

I have to say though, when I fired up the old beast last night it caused me naught but frustration and tedium. Thankfully I was spared the bane of a system update, having updated the thing quite recently, but otherwise it did everything in its power to stop me having fun.

Having owned an Xbox 360 for most of the last generation, I’m not used to having to install games before playing, and my god it’s tedious. After deciding to have ‘a quick go’ on Flow and its semi-sequel Flower, I spent a good ten minutes waiting for each to pop into life. When all the admin was out of the way and I finally got to play the games, both were an utter delight. But then I thought I’d load up Heavy Rain, and that’s when things started to go seriously awry.

Heavy Rain Origami

The game immediately decided it wanted to download over a gigabyte’s worth of ‘stuff’ onto my hard drive, which took a goodly while. Once that was done, it decided it then wanted to ‘install’ all the stuff it had downloaded, which meant I had to again watch a green bar crawl across the screen extremely slowly. But this time, just as it was finally getting near the end of the screen, up popped the message that I’d run out of memory. A few expletives may have passed my lips.

It was at this point that I began to rue my decision to buy a PS3 super slim with a mere 12GB of memory. I justified the purchase with the thought that I’d only be using the PS3 to catch up with a handful of Sony exclusives that I’d missed out on over the years, so 12GB was probably all I’d need. Not so. After playing six games I’ve now used up my allotted memory.

My only option was to uninstall the newly installed Flower and the previously completed The Last of Us – this seemed to do the trick, and Heavy Rain finally installed… and then wanted to install again when I loaded the game. At  least this time it gave me instructions on how to make the origami thing on the cover of the game (is it a dog?) while I waited, so at least I was being productive.

Sadly, the origami class was actually a lot more fun than the game itself. After such a lengthy wait to actually play the damn thing, I was astounded by how tedious the opening of the game is. As I guided Ethan through his morning ablutions, I began to wonder what on Earth was going through the designers’ minds when they created this woefully dull segment of game. As I herded the plodding Ethan into the shower, my girlfriend asked whether this game was like The Sims.

Heavy Rain Brushing Teeth

“No, it’s meant to be about a serial killer. Apparently,” I replied, while shaking the controller up and down to ‘brush’ Ethan’s teeth and wondering what the point of any of this is. I suspect David Cage was intending this painfully domestic introduction as a way to forge bonds with the characters, but it just made me want to punch the walls. Every prompt to ‘press up to drink coffee’ or ‘wobble controller to shake up orange juice’ served to further distance me from the characters – these instructions do little but scream “THIS IS A VIDEO GAME!!!!” Not only that, I resented being constantly told what to do, and in a minor act of rebellion I ensured Ethan behaved in the most ludicrous way possible within my the restricted confines of the game to show my resentment. So while my game wife was bleating about getting the table ready, I was doing laps of the kitchen and staring at shelves from point-blank range.

Things picked up slightly with the tragic/comic JASON!-screaming episode in the shopping mall, but really this should have been the opening – the domestic set-up could have easily been portrayed in a 30-second cut scene. While all this was going on, I kept thinking how much better The Last of Us had done with its opening – a beginning that involved very little interaction but that was a hundred times more successful at drawing me into the game than Heavy Rain‘s snooze-a-thon. Fingers crossed the rest of the game picks up a bit.

Toodle pip for now!