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!

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7 Comments

  1. I’ll cop to really enjoying the game when it came out, and at the time all of that mundane stuff made it unique. Although I’m not sure it made it any better than Fahrenheit, which started with a pretty big bang. If it’s any comfort, it absolutely picks up!

    Looking back though, and having tried to get into Beyond: Two Souls, I’m struggling to see what I was so enamoured with…

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    1. It’s funny, I remember when Heavy Rain came out I couldn’t get over how realistic the people looked, but last night all I could think about was how much they look like weird rubber mannequins. How quickly the cutting edge moves on…

      I’m glad to hear it picks up, but I can’t help but think that in years to come all this ‘hold X and O to pick up shopping bags’ will be looked back upon as a kooky but flawed experiment. The backlash against this kind of ludicrousness is already well underway, especially with the furore over ‘press X to pay respects’ in Advanced Warfare (http://www.kotaku.co.uk/2014/11/04/best-worst-press-x). I’ll stick with Heavy Rain for the time being though, it can’t get any worse…

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      1. I agree in the case of Heavy Rain, although I think that Advanced Warfare thing is a bit overblown. After all its not THAT dissimilar to the end of Metal Gear Solid 3, and that was hailed as a master stroke. I reckon a lot of it is internet coolness at taking the piss out of Call of Duty personally.

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    1. The funny thing is, my game wife didn’t seem to take a blind bit of notice. I guess she must be used to my antics after all these years of virtual marriage.

      I’ve played a bit further in now, although there was another chunk of tedious domesticity before I jumped into the shoes of a private detective and the game finally started to get interesting. Overall I’m impressed with the presentation, acting and story, but the control system leaves a lot to be desired – it acts as a barrier between you and the events in the game. I feel like I’m instructing someone to move a puppet rather than actually controlling events…

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