Hold it right there mister! Just Cause 2 spoilers (not that you care) and massive Heavy Rain spoilers inbound!
[The following 2000 words are my complete and utter honest opinion. I predict from outside sources I’ll be called a 360 fanboy, a hater on innovation and probably sent two or three death threats like last time. Truth be told, I am none of these. I respect that our industry has the potential to be the greatest art form in the history of mankind, but what I don’t respect is what Heavy Rain represents. You may already have figured out hundreds of glaring plot holes, and it’s almost impossible to compare to such maniacal braindead fun-fest such as Just Cause 2; which I am doing today. Whatever the differences in our opinions, I hope we can all discuss this in the comments instead of reducing ourselves to 12 year old little personal attacks. Not that it hurts me, I end up laughing at most of them so do your worst.]
Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then we will begin.
Heavy Rain is, without a doubt, one of the most important games of 2010. It was critically praised for its involvement and emotional entanglement, but put down for its dumb story and other glaring issues. Just Cause 2 is, without a doubt, one of the most energetic titles of the last decade, surpassing San Andreas. It has been critically praised for its visual standards and encouragement of blowing stuff up, but put down for the lack of multiplayer and other issues.
Today, I wish to put forward that a game about skydiving and landing on a stripping club, held in the sky by massive balloons, is better than an (apparently) emotionally gripping tale about a child killer.
I’ll divide this argument into 5 sections and judge which game deserves the point. Given the title, you already know who wins, but I’d like to give my actual reasons, and Heavy Rain will no doubt win a few points.
Given that Heavy Rain’s massive marketable clause is the element of ‘choice and consequence’ in the game, it’s good to know that Just Cause 2 grapples over this uncanny valley. When you incorporate choice into an videogame, it boils down to either Alternate endings or passive consequences. In Heavy Rain, however, all of your choices impact the story and characters. The endings are marginally different, the characters can be whoever you want them to be, but it never is interesting. It’s borderline ridiculous that some of the choices become, completely abusing player intelligence. To begin to decode every choice would be repeating what the guys at Destructoid did in their Heavy Rain Spoilertoid. Instead, I’m just going to list maybe one or two stupid decisions.
The first one is quite obvious, being the decision you make after a certain trial. A broken down Ethan is one step away from finding is Son, even after being forced to kill a man, crawl through broken glass, cut off his own finger and drive into oncoming traffic on a motorway. It’s one of the moments in the game where the action slows down a bit, allowing you to make intake some interactive between Madison and Ethan.
Now, we’ve spent some time with Ethan. We know he’s a loving family man who will do anything for his Sons, nice guy. He blacks out every so often and wakes up with an Origami figure in his hand (but this plot device stops as soon as the trials start), but other than that, he’s okay.
Madison is all okay too, apart from being mentally insane. She sees a distressed 30-something man with burns to the chest, his arms cut to ribbons and obvious mental scarring; but promises not to call an ambulance and just patch him up a bit. That’s just a plot hole, which isn’t my main point to make here.
Anyway, so we know that Ethan is running out of time. He’s talked to Madison a few times, maybe even confessed he thinks he himself might be the killer. So the two will obviously do something after the events pass, maybe even something LOGICAL.
Instead, the player gets the choice to bone Madison. Right there with the clock ticking on Shaun’s life. Nice.
Ethan, Madison and every other character you play in Heavy Rain is an established character. They have personality and traits that we can relate to. The choices in the first half of the game make sense. Here is an example, in the scene where Norman investigates a God loving psychopath, the certain suspect comes home to find the two officers in his apartment. He draws a gun on the two and the player is given a choice to talk it out or shoot right there. Both options seem reasonable in fitting Norman’s image and the way he acts. The whole romance option completely butchers the foundations of logical literature and completely spoiled Heavy Rain for me. If it wasn’t for the saving graces, I’d call it a complete gaming abomination.
Just Cause 2, on the other hand, is about a guy that goes into an Asian island and has to kill this American guy. The main villain is a green suited man with a chameleon on his shoulder, everybody talks like an American trying to do an Asian accent and it drives nothing in the game. There’s no motivation from the characters, there’s no real ‘main plot’, and the revelations matter nothing.
Here’s the thing though: Just Cause 2 isn’t about the story, it’s about blowing stuff up. But, the story makes sense, unlike Heavy Rain.
I’m going to wake up with a horses head next to me but Just Cause 2 scores this round. Yes I said that. Just Cause 2 has a better story than Heavy Rain. Honest to god opinion.
Just Cause 2 1 – 0 Heavy Rain
Just Cause 2 is about blowing stuff up while dual wielding grenade launchers. It shows us the good old days of Grand Theft Auto, where anything goes. Madness and chaos rule the land, and only you can blah blah blah look there’s a jet which fires missiles. To put into proportion how much fun this game wants you to have, the turrets are all detachable. Any one of them is an unstoppable killing machine, but here’s the thing, unlimited ammo.
Sure, you may move slower than an obese turtle, but hot damn it just oozes satisfaction. You can stand in the middle of a military base and just spray everything that glows read, explosions, screaming, the chaos. Unfortunately, it falls into a massive pit of self-defeat. I do dare say it stole Heavy Rain’s main gameplay device, quicktime events, shame on them! Shame on you Just Cause 2! Your stupid Mercenaries 2-like quicktime events! Tut tut!
I enjoyed Heavy Rain’s gameplay more than its story, surprisingly enough, I loved being in the heat of the situation. The tense atmosphere, the two panels of game playing out at once. The scene where Madison is rescuing Ethan after he cuts his finger off, one panel shows Norman and Blake slowly making their way towards the house; and one panel shows your actual movement. There’s some real ingenious ways that it puts quicktime events to use. Every single action feels suited to the interaction in-game, and it genuinely pains your fingers in some circumstances.
I got a whole lot of fun from Just Cause 2, just blowing stuff up, but it feels rather hollow. The enjoyment comes from blowing stuff up and watching chaos erupt, but Heavy Rain has a lick of flavour. I want to see more titles using the same mechanics and format, because I can definitely see it getting popular.
Just Cause 2 1 – 1 Heavy Rain
I’m not a graphics lover, I despise most publishers for pressuring developers to make their games look pretty than actual games. I’m not one to comment “the water looks good” on any videogame, because then I’m commenting on the technology.
I will still compare the two, and by god does Heavy Rain win by inches.
Just Cause 2’s environments are astoundingly rich in content and character, it’s almost like Gotham City except separate islands and a cardboard cut-out main villain. The water effects are beautiful, the lighting is great, everything is silky smooth. Some textures fault, not all the vehicles look properly, but it looks like a well put together game.
Heavy Rain however, in my opinion, is a giant step forward to realism. If the story was fixed up then I doubt I’d be even playing Just Cause 2 by now, that’s how immersive it is. The atmosphere just resonates out your television, the water effects are the best I’ve seen and the facial animation is almost too real. Scarily real. It’s not uncanny valley like most photorealistic games tend to shove down our throats. Sometimes the lip syncing is massively off and some textures and game objects like PS2 era – but for the faces alone it wins.
Just Cause 2 1 – 2 Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain’s soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard out of a videogame. The pitter-patter of the rain, the orchestral beats and the sound acting in sink with everything else; it’s so deep and rich. But what pulls it down massively is the voice acting. Pronunciation from some of the actors is almost comical, particularly Norman Jayden, and it’s rather hit and miss. Scott Shelby’s voice actor is alright, he obviously fits into the role, but Ethan and Madison don’t act in sync in their scenes. It feels way too forcefully dramatised at times, and often makes me facepalm.
Simple lines often dwell into vocabulary choking sentences, though that’s the story’s fault. Every voice actor, as far as I know, is European and having to do an American accent. Why not just set it in London? Story’s fault again but I swear it could fit with European peoples in America.
Just Cause 2’s voice acting is the worst I’ve heard in a videogame. The very worst. It’s, at times, xenophobic and parodying Asian accents and other dialects. Every character is stereotypical, it just feels like one big mess. The music itself has about four tracks and none of them are adrenalin pumping.
Which is why I love it.
It’s comical sound design at its best, I hope Avalanche Studios didn’t actually attempt to stun people with the voice acting, because goddamn it’s hilarious. I’m not racist but some of the voice acting is so comical that I can’t help but laugh, not at the dialect, but at the attempts. Heavy Rain attempted to do something different, with serious voice acting and other niggling facts, but goddamn Just Cause 2 is just goddamn goddamn better.
Just Cause 2 2 – 2 Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain is one of those gamer changing experiences, as bad as it may be, it’s a great eye opener into what games can become one day. Trouble is it stops as soon as the action starts. Some of the endings are ridiculously shortcut, but I still loved the experience. I still cried in the end, it was worth the full price I paid for the title. It was only six hours long, and I doubt I’ll revisit it unless I feel compelled.
Just Cause 2 starts off, for the first three hours, as a repetitive GTA clone. It has zero charm, energy or anything to involve the player. After the three hour mark, something magical happens and the world just seems a whole lot more fun.
In the times between blowing stuff up, attaching planes to planes, mocking the voice acting and jacking three-hundred helicopters; I’ve accumulated nearly 20 hours of gametime. I’m only 26% through the game (and I’ve finished the main story).
Some of the bloggers on the internet have soaked up to seventy hours into Just Cause 2 already, and I can see this being a beautiful relationship for me and Avalanche Studios.
Sorry, Quantic Dreams, one day I know you’ll get it right.
Just Cause 2 3-2 Heavy Rain
Comment below, discuss, call me out as a troll. Thanks for reading etc.