I'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Wikipedia link] [Official Site] SPOILER WARNING: SPOILERS IN ALL THESE LINKS! NO UNMARKED SPOILERS IN MY REVIEW THOUGH!

PLOT SUMMARY: (from IMDB) “Architect, and Father Ethan Mars joins a Private Detective, a Journalist, and an FBI agent in a race against time to save his son for a child murderer known as the Origami Killer.”

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): [highlight for spoilers] Sibling who watched brother drown successfully drowns many other children.

QUIRKS: Interactive film noir fiction. A single-player game.

Received GameSpy’s PS3 game of the year award for 2010.

Uses the PS3 motion-sensing controllers in unique ways.

Although the gameplay is very simple, some of the things you do with the controller are things you’ve never done with a controller in your life. (We played at the intermediate skill level.)

Different characters can die depending on what you do. The plot is not completely linear.

You have “free will” — but the plot still moves in a certain direction. Sometimes, you are doing things that you think affect the outcome, but they actually won’t. Sometimes you are forced to do things, even though you think we have free will. This continually reminded me of the movie eXistenZ, where people are in a game, and end up saying things that they don’t mean to say, because it’s what their character needs to do to advance the plot.

VISUALS: I’ve never played an HD (720p) console video game in the comfort of my own home before. Although I get superior resolution to that with PC games, I’m a more on the casual side of gaming, so I’ve really only played Quake3/QuakeLive at that resolution. Anyway, it looks really good. Even for 720p. The people look almost photorealistic. They used 90 actors. They used motion capture. Things look good enough to trigger the uncanny valley effect. It’s nice to see how polished things have become.

SOUNDTRACK: Appropriate.

MORALS: Sacrifice is the ultimate virtue.

POLITICS: Cops just want to find someone to blame.

GOOD STUFF: Excellent look and feel. Quite immersive. This is somewhere between watching a movie and playing a video game. A great deal of the game is cut scenes.

And the twist? We knew it would happen, but we still didn’t solve the mystery before the game told us the solution. And that’s good, I’d rather not spoil it for myself.

BAD STUFF: You never quite know if what you are doing truly makes a difference. I’d like to see choices affect the story even more than they did here, but obviously it’s really hard to write a “choose your own adventure” that retains a polished consistency.

CONCLUSION: I tend to dislike one player games, but this one is so much closer to a movie that there is hardly a difference between watching, playing, and watching your spouse play. So me and Carolyn took turns and shared the experience. In the end, this was quite a unique game. We’d never brushed our teeth, snorted drugs, changed a diaper, or performed CPR in a video game before. We’d never used a motion-sensitive controller in a non-pointing (i.e. Wiimote) fashion before. There were a lot of “video game firsts” in this story for us. Which is good, because in the time it took for us to play through this, we could have watched at least 8 movies. So it really needed to pay off to be worth it. And you know what? It did. I wouldn’t play a game like this again — not for another 10 years — but I’m glad we did. It was pretty neat.

For instance, while playing a cop, I accidentally shot a mentally disturbed man during a warrantless search of his apartment. That’s a first for me — doing something that I would blog about if I heard about it on the news :) There was a time when I held a gun to a character’s head for a full two minutes of real-life time — because I honestly couldn’t decide if I needed to kill him or not. Meanwhile, I’m thinking that the game might force a decision if I don’t hurry up and decide, so it’s not like I’m just taking my time. I was really trying hard to decide as fast as possible, and it took me like two minutes. (I let him live, and flamed the people in the IMDB forums who killed him for the wrong reasons.) Great moral choices here, though they could have been more ambiguous. But a couple were ambiguous enough to be very interesting situations.

RATINGS:
Clint: 4/5 stars. IMDB: 8/10.
Carolyn: 5/5 stars. IMDB: 8/10.
John The Canadien: 5/5 stars, IMDB 9/10. “Best PS3 game since Grand Theft Auto 4.”
The native public rating for this game is: IMDB: 9.4/10.

RECOMMENDATION: Worth checking out if you’re into single player games, or film noir serial killer mysteries. Especially if you are mostly in the mood to watch a movie, but instead want to play a video game.

IF YOU PLAYED ALREADY, check out the different game endings here. Also check out The Old Warehouse, another page about how the warehouse scene affects which endings you will get. For us, our particular choices meant that [highlight for spoilers] only Ethan and Madison made it to the warehouse. Jayden had to give up on the case. We also failed to save the cash register guy, shot the crazy religious guy (during the warrantless search, as mentioned above), and Carolyn let Lauren drown in the car by kicking out the window without untying her

SIMILAR STUFF: The “act quickly when prompted” / “Simon Says” style definitely reminded me of the early laserdisc arcade games: Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace.

Movie rights secured. Will it happen? Will it be good? At times, the game plot reminded us of Saw — but not grotesque.

MOVIE QUOTE: “Ethan Mars has had psychological problems since his first son died. He feels responsible for his death- a sort of morbid neurosis. He is haunted by visions of drowning bodies.”

SPOILER ALERT! Heavy Rain deleted scenes. The caption to this video explains why anyone who played this game would probably want to watch it:
Music: The Church – Chaos