A few years ago, Roger Ebert caused a stir, stating that videogames will never be art because of their open-ended stories. Heavy Rain is the exact type of story telling he was referring to. Nearly all of Heavy Rain’s problems fall back on the choices it allows.
By giving the player a choice, they have the option of writing a story that is nonsense, with mood changes and actions that do not fit the previous developments. You are never sure what the artist has intended, what ending, or what course the writers wanted the story to take. The experience of Heavy Rain will be different for everyone, and how they feel about it as a whole can be decided by a button press.
Minor actions can be accomplished despite previous choices that, perchance, ought to have negated them. The game leaves them open. At one juncture, a character could leave a mother to die in a bathtub, a baby to starve, and ignore it all. The choice could be made to intermingle these decisions, which is where character development takes that odd shape, beginning to bend the story and possibly hampering the experience.
For Heavy Rain’s closed off gameplay, which in reality offers limited actual control, the title is readily open to letting a player write the script. It is easy to make a mistake, sending a character away from a scene unintentionally, or simply choosing the wrong answer because the developers felt tension was derived from shaking words over someone’s head.
Reviewing Heavy Rain as a narrative is thus made almost impossible. Plot holes that appear for one player could potentially be solved by another who made a different choice. What may be an emotional moment for one could have limited impact for another based on their prior actions. Without replaying the game to make every decision in all directions, and considering each as its own story, no critique could be properly made.