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Cover Critic
The Cover Critic Gets Stuck in Heavy Rain
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on February 19, 2010   |   Episode 74 (Show Archive)  

   
Lately the Cover Critic has been restless. After getting sick and tired of reviewing nothing but terrible box art from twenty years ago, he decided to switch directions and look at the questionable covers of some of the industry's biggest magazines. But even that is starting to get to him. To mellow him out we decided to sit him down in front of Heavy Rain, the brand new game by Quantic Dream. We expected him to be inspired, but had no idea that it would cause him to review every single cover of Heavy Rain (including a couple of Indigo Prophecy boxes). We hope you enjoy this look at Heavy Rain as much as he did, and don't forget to check out Defunct Games' full Heavy Rain review!
Heavy Rain (European)
[ PlayStation 3 - 2010 - Final Rating: A- ]
Seeing as developers Quantic Dream is a Paris-based company, it seems only appropriate to lead our Heavy Rain article with the European cover. This is the simplest of all the designs, it offers the hint of the wet, wet rain while including the origami character that is at the center of the game's plot. If Heavy Rain were a feature film, this would likely be its poster. This design doesn't try to convey Heavy Rain's convoluted plot, instead it focuses on a symbolic image and drenches it in water. This is a cover designed to make you notice it and leave you with questions. What is this Heavy Rain and why is there an origami figure on the front? Even if it doesn't make you pick the box up, you'll no doubt remember the cover when you see a TV advert or when a friend mentions it. Best of all, this artwork tells you right up front that you're in for a dark and dreary adventure, not some generic florescent colored 3D platformer. If you're a fan of rain, origami and dead bodies, then Heavy Rain is the right game for you.

But look closer than the obvious tone of the box art. At first glance you see nothing more than the rain and the origami, but the more you study this design the more detail emerge. Take the origami figure as an example of the subtle detail. While it's easy to see nothing more than folded paper, you'll note that part of the leg is bloody. Is this foreshadowing something big in the game? The ground that this figurine sits on is also red, suggesting that perhaps there's more here than meets the eye. What used to look like a game about folding paper now resembles something far more sinister. Whose blood is that? Why is it out in the middle of the rain? And what is that in the distance? At the very least these questions should be enough to make you look at the back of the box, if not buy the game outright. I love the simplicity of this cover; it does a good job of conveying the tone and mood that makes this game so distinctive.

Heavy Rain (American)
[ PlayStation 3 - 2010 - Final Rating: C- ]
Leave it to the Americans to screw up a wonderful cover. While the European box art was simple and effective, this American artwork is busy and complicated. It isn't interested in making you interested in one symbolic object; it wants you to be intrigued by the four figures on the cover. Even more confusing, the cover art attempts to add sexuality to the mix, giving you the female character right up front (which is ironic, since you play her the least of any of the game's four leads). If perky breasts isn't enough to make you buy the game, then Sony is hoping that the stoic FBI agent, grizzled father and fat guy with a gun will do the trick. They don't. So all we're left with is the original origami figure, this time stuck in a much larger puddle. Incidentally, we also get a brand new logo design, given added emphasis on the word "Rain". Is there a reason that words needs to be italicized? Is Sony trying to suggest that the title is sarcastic? It makes no sense.

The problem I have with this cover is that it's not effective. It's not like having these four characters on the front cover gives you more information about the story. It shows that this game is about more than folding paper, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anybody familiar with modern video games. If anything the characters give off the wrong impression, suggesting that the game is a lot more sexy and action-packed than it actually is. The blood is still on the origami's leg, but now it's bigger with a larger puddle of blood. But what's curious about this design is that the blood puddle seems to be at the bottom of a larger water puddle. Which way do you want it, Sony? Do you want us to focus on the blood or the water? You can't have it both ways. I don't believe for a second that Heavy Rain will do better in the retail space by simply slapping four random people on a cover. To me this cover comes off looking over crowded and unfocused. Worst of all, it looks a lot like a bad Photoshop job.

Heavy Rain (Japanese)
[ PlayStation 3 - 2010 - Final Rating: B ]
If the Europeans went simple and the Americans overcomplicated things, then leave it to the Japanese to go the complete opposite direction. Gone is the sexy girl. Gone is the origami. Gone is the blood. Instead of using elements from the American and European covers, the Japanese attempt something all together different. Here we have the bottom half of somebody's face coming up for air. The location is hard to determine, but it looks like it's out in the middle of the ocean on a stormy night. The water is dark, the rain is really pouring down and things look dire for the man grasping for air. Then again, we don't actually see him breathing, so perhaps it's too late. Talk about heavy. Assuming this is indeed a close-up of a dead, floating body, then the Japanese have captured the atmosphere of Heavy Rain perfectly.

There's just one BIG problem: None of this has anything to do with the story of Heavy Rain. Without spoiling too much before the game comes out, I can tell you that this cover makes almost no sense. To be fair, much of the game's story revolves around a serial killer who drowns people (that's revealed extremely early in the mystery). However, the similarities end there. For one thing, the man on the cover is far too old to be a victim of the Origami Killer. And that's not all; it's also confusing why he's out in the middle of the ocean. When gamers finally get to the end of Heavy Rain they're going to realize that this box art is a complete lie, clearly crafted by people who haven't actually played the game. This is the kind of box art you make when the only information you are given is the name of the game. It looks right and the image will stick in your mind, but it's just not what Heavy Rain is. It's the right concept for the wrong game.

Indigo Prophecy (American)
[ Xbox/PS2/PC - 2005 - Final Rating: B+ ]
Now that we've taken a trip around the world with Heavy Rain, perhaps we should check out Quantic Dream's other interactive movie. Here we see the cover art for the Xbox version of Indigo Prophecy, the 2005 serial killer adventure game. Forget about the Xbox for a moment, the artwork is the same for all versions of the game (including the PC and PlayStation 2). Assuming that European boxes are simple and Americans need humans on their cover to know it's not a game about folding paper, then what we have here is the perfect compromise between the different Heavy Rain boxes. Of course, those wild generalizations aren't even close to being accurate. There are terrible covers in every part of the world, so let's not pull too much from the covers above.

What I can say without any hesitation is that this box art will be noticed. Ever single inch of this box art is specifically designed to be noticed on a store shelve. Here we see a nameless man surprised by his actions. There's a bloody knife literally falling out of his hands and his body language suggests that this is news to him. And then there are the words scrolled out behind him. Even if we ignore the man and his knife, we are still looking at words like "guilt," "premonition," "chaos," "fear," and "dead." Clearly something big is going on and I dare you to ignore its calling. This is the exact same hook the movie Se7en used. Adding a bunch of schizophrenic words to a wall is the most compelling way of get people to care about your crime drama. It's true, just ask the guy with the bloody knife.

Fahrenheit (European)
[ Xbox/PS2/PC - 2005 - Final Rating: B- ]
In many parts of the world, Indigo Prophecy was known as Fahrenheit. European gamers who picked the game up at retail were treated to this packaging slip, which features a plain black background, the name of the game and a couple of big time quotes. The style is simple, harkening back to a time when all you needed was a name to sell a game. But something about this plain black box art rubs me the wrong way. Maybe when it comes to a game like this you actually do need something more. I like the simplicity and the blurry logo, but this cover needs something more than a couple of pull quotes. And while I'm on the subject of reviews, if you're going to use pull quotes, maybe you shouldn't write down the score unless it's really, really good. I don't care how gripped the critic at Daily Star was, he still only gave it a4 out of 5. Not that a 4 out of 5 is bad, but when I see a score like that I always feel like the quote isn't telling me the most important information. I always think that maybe the review will actually read: "This Will have you gripped from the moment you turn on your PlayStation 2 until the moment you turn it off and throw the game away, ten minutes later."

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Both Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain are amazing games, well worth buying at any price. I went all the way through Heavy Rain in one sitting and was ready to start it back up again a day later. The story is instantly gripping and I liked each of the four lead characters. Best of all, this is a game that will genuinely surprise you. Who cares is the American cover doesn't look anywhere near as cool as what was found in France? At least the cover art was connected to the game, which is a lot more than I can say about that Japanese artwork. If you're a fan of murder mysteries and don't mind bad weather, then Heavy Rain was made for you. And who knows, maybe if you like that game you will double back and check out Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit). Trust me, these are two games you will never forget.
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