After finally taking a month away, I've found the time, and willingness, to sit down and finish Heavy Rain. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that the game was arduous, although it was, in an emotional sense. It was just that I was afraid - very much a waking fear every time I thought of the game - of what the ending would be. I unfortunately managed to read a spoiler the day the game came out (trolls... must I avoid the internet now?), but I still didn't know the ending. And, for the past month, I haven't wanted to know. Now I do.
Apart from the fact the game fell apart somewhat (how did Madison know who Ann Sheppard, Scott Shelby or Norman Jayden were?), which I'm willing to put down to my particular play-through path, I found the ending very... I'm not sure. I think what they do with Shaun after you rescue him is a little bit cruel, but it sweetened the moment; I also think Carter is the biggest jerk on the force. After I'd settled down and watched the credits, we played through the ending a couple more times, to see the other outcomes. Some of them were, I would think, more worthwhile than the endings I got (for example, I missed Madison's motorbike stunt and, well, if you've finished it you know how that turns out). I've got a lot more playing through to do yet, but a couple of things stood out as both good and bad.
First, the bad things: 1) Carter is antagonistic. I was nice to him, I saved his life, and he was suddenly telling me to take a hike. Okay. Strange. 2) You know, I was controlling Shelby during that section, and I'm pretty sure I didn't do what it told me I did. In fact, I know I didn't, or I'd remember. 3) Jayden, on a talk show? Um... He's not exactly the world's most social cop. 4) Kramer claiming in one breath that no one would miss a street scum little boy, and in the next telling me he's been leaving flowers on John Sheppard's grave for 30 years? Newsflash: Sheppard was street scum, too. Choose your motivation. 5) So Madison escaped, and she knows the killer's real identity... But even though she writes a book about it, somehow word never gets out. I see.
Okay, ranting aside, there were some things Heavy Rain did beautifully. I've played through some of the scenarios time and again, to find all the variations, and I rarely get sick of the dialogue. Ethan's connection with Shaun is wonderful, especially if you get the happy ending. And, yes, that's one spoiler I'm pleased to present: everything can turn out fine. That's the thing I was most afraid of - that there could be no happy ending, not ever. But there can, and it made my heart stop. For all that it's contrived, for all that it's movie-stock predictable, I was happy. And making people happy is far more difficult than making them sad.
The other thing that Heavy Rain did well - even exceptionally - was that it got the psychology right. My friend didn't understand the killer's motivation. I studied psychology at university, and I can happily say that his motivations fit with the kind of personality type he has. The origami dogs, and orchids, the gentle poses. They all make sense. It's sad and beautiful and twisted and a thousand percent distressing. But, within his worldview, it all makes sense. And that makes up for a lot of the flaws.
I wasn't expecting a perfect ending. I was expecting a trade, some kind of switch, praying that the last trial was a fake while fearing, with shaking dread, that it wasn't. I was expecting to cry. I did cry. But I also wept with joy. Thinking of it now, I still have tears in my eyes. After all of that, everything that happened, life can still be okay. There can still be beauty with the ones you love. What you have, despite what you've lost, is more than worth holding onto.
I hope I remember this feeling. I hope I can remember that, in 2010, I cried because a man was reunited with his son. A character, not even a man, but one that I had come to know, because his motivations were my own. After everything we went through together, I feel like his happiness is mine.
So why do I keep crying?