I’m sure this wasn’t completely fresh news to me, but today I found out for sure that they’re doing a film of Heavy Rain. Which, on the surface of it, might make you think ‘well that makes sense’, because Heavy Rain is basically a film, right? I mean, David Cage has been wanting to do a film for ages, and now he’s finally getting his chance, right? This all makes perfect sense, right?
Yeah, no. It really doesn’t. In fact, it’s probably one of the least film-friendly games out there. And they’re making a film of fucking Roller Coaster Tycoon. I should probably explain myself.
But first, because I’m a shameless self-promoter, please, indulge yourself in four and a half thousand words that I had to write about the game in question, wherein I talk about Talking Heads a bit, and the role of the player. It’s fun stuff.
So yeah, why’s a game that’s basically an interactive film such a bad choice for Hollywood? That’d probably be one of those answered-in-the-question things. It’s an interactive film. In that you have an impact on what happens, to such an extent that there’s something like sixteen different endings, all with drastically different outcomes. Do you see where I’m heading with this?
There isn’t a single narrative you can use here that works for something like a Max Payne or an Uncharted movie adaptation. Excusing the fact that Max Payne is a fucking awful film, and Marky Mark showing up again in Uncharted isn’t the greatest sign of faith, they both present linear narratives that can be turned from game into film with little trouble. You just strip out the boring manshoots, get rid of all the platforming and mechanically but not narratively interesting bits, and hey presto, you’ve got a rough plot and feel that can be forced into the framework of a film.
Ok, now apply that to Heavy Rain. Firstly, you’ve got four different narratives to follow, but that’s fine, films switch between characters all the time. However, you’ve got that element of choice to mess around with. Did Ethan win that fight? Did he fail that challenge? The problem with taking a stance on any of the important narrative points is that you’re going to be alienating huge swathes of the playbase each time you make a decision. That is, of course, bearing in mind that they’re aiming this at the players, because if they’re not, you’re just left with a quite-bad thriller.
You could go the route of least resistance, and lean towards the narrative that stands when the player completes every action successfully, but the problem with that is it’s easily the most boring narrative outcome of any that the game offers, not to mention it entirely misses the point of the game. But I think a lot of people missed the point of the game, so I guess that’d be fitting.
What I’m getting at is that, whatever they do, this isn’t going to work. And that’s if they just rehash the plot of the game into a film, because really, what else can they do? It’s not like any other element of the game can be translated into a film. I guess they can just go with the sadistic serial killer aspect, but I think that’s pretty universally thrashed to death at this point. I don’t understand what the appeal of turning it into a film is; the game already goes as far into that field as it’s ever going to need to go, and this just seems to be completely misunderstanding the source material.
I mean, great that they’ve got a Deadwood writer, but what’s he going to do? Press X to Jason, that’s what.