The game occasionally misses beats in its pacing that would destroy a movie. The intro is plodding and dull, and while I can see what Cage is going for and thus tagged along, I imagine there are plenty who can't and won't, quitting before an hour is done. The Madison Paige chapters in particular are somewhat weak both in characterization and in content. And finally, the game has more than its fair share of bugs - substantially more than I would expect of an AAA title.
All these flaws I am more than willing to forgive, because in very significant ways Heavy Rain is one of the most ambitious titles I've played in years. It deals with themes of domestic abuse, suicide, senile dementia and substance abuse. On all technical fronts, it is a masterpiece. Some of the set-pieces are intricate and brilliant, and will genuinely have your pulse racing. At its best, it makes you feel like a character from a movie like Se7en or Cube, the helpless plaything of a demented mind.
It's not easy playing or viewing. I've killed tens of thousands of virtual people in my years of gaming, but Heavy Rain was the first time I ever had cause to doubt myself before pulling the trigger. Likewise, I've had thousands of virtual avatars be killed, but before Heavy Rain I never suffered remorse nor - as ridiculous as it sounds - never felt like apologizing to the person I had, through my own inactions, let die.
Is it a game that I will be playing every day for 30 minutes for the next six months? Absolutely not. But is that what videogames have to be? Heavy Rain won't be for everyone, and that's fine. I dream of a games industry where we can accept that what you don't like isn't automatically awful - where we can have different tastes and recognize that this is not a bad thing.
If you think Heavy Rain is nothing more than a series of poorly-acted QTEs, then you have little to worry about - any anxiety that publishers will suddenly abandon "hardcore" gaming in favor of Heavy Rain-style storytelling is assuredly unnecessary.
All I ask is that you consider where you want this industry to go. Heavy Rain asks how far you are willing to go to save somebody you love. Well, I love videogames, and they're in need of help.
True, Heavy Rain alone cannot save them. But if it flops, it would be sending a message to publishers the world over - a message that says gamers don't want story, gamers don't want mature themes. Instead, let's see what else we can pin existing mechanics onto instead. Has anyone tried God of War in space yet?
Is this the industry you want? The choice is up to you. Gamers are very good at saying "no" - no paid DLC, no DRM, no sequels that come out too close to the original game. This is one of those times where you can say "yes." Cage can be infuriatingly pretentious at times, both in his interviews and in his heavy-handed approach to game design. But at least he wants to take us somewhere new. In this case, the destination is more important than the journey.
Christian Ward works for a major publisher. Before the comments page gets turned into a daft fanboy war, he would like to note that he holds a lot of hope for Alan Wake, too.