A couple of weeks ago, in critical studies we were instructed to give a short (emphasis on the short) presentation about art direction. The presentation could be about anything you wanted to talk about, a game or film you like or find inspiring or a painting or image you like; as long as the presentation was about its art direction. I decided to give a SHORT talk about the game Heavy Rain as it is one of the games i have finished quite recently and in my opinion has fantastic art direction.
The game itself centres around 4 separate characters, all interwoven and each playing an important role depending on what decisions you make as each. The story is about the origami killer, who kidnaps children and drowns them slowly over so many days giving the fathers of the children various tests, if they pass said tests they get a step closer to finding their child. As you can see the games theme is very dark, this is also quite prevalent in the games visual style too more often than not the overall mood of the scene is summed up by the colour palette, lighting and weather. This is quite evident in the picture above, the overall tone, weather and colour palette tells the viewer this is a dark and perhaps emotional scene in the game however the lighting highlights a certain area showing a glimmer of hope and drawing your attention to what the character is looking at. It’s also not definite who this character is in this image as it could be either of the 4 you play as throughout the game depending what decisions you make as a player.
As you progress through the game, the mood and atmosphere change vastly. This is shown in many different ways throughout different segments of the game, an example of this is how the start of the game contrasts the later 3/4s of the game. As you can see in the image above the vivid colours are very saturated, bright and generally happy. This portrays the general mood of the current character, he is happy and with his family, the environment is clean and contemporary; this is probably one of the few scenes in the game where this is the case. The sun is out also at this point, this does not fit the title of the game giving the player an overshadowing feeling that this won’t last.
This is a shot from a little later in the game, as you can see it completely contrasts the previous image. The whole colour palette has changed, the weather is the complete opposite now matching the title of the game and the environment looks a lot dimmer and dirtier. I think this is done because this section of the game needs to convey a much bleaker mood in comparison to the start. It also portrays the feeling of sadness the main character (Ethan Mars) feels after losing his son, the weather in the game is very important, it helps build tension and atmosphere and sets the mood of the current situation. The game is very movie inspired, you can see this throughout the game, the framing, Mise en Scene, lighting, script and symbolism; many people refer to Heavy Rain as an interactive movie due to its lack of gameplay elements. The rain can symbolise a number of things, the most obvious of which could be the emotional state of the character, it can also serve as a plot device, help build atmosphere and could show a cleansing. For example in V for Vendetta (on the left) after being captured and tortured for months on end Evie discovers V was the one imprisoning and torturing her to help overcome her fears. She walks out on the roof and stands in the rain. From this moment on, she’s reborn, the rain symbolizes her baptism; a cleansing of her past and a realization of the future. I think that the fact that the character in Heavy Rain still looks dirty regardless of the cleansing rain shows that the character is too emotionally stained by his past and can’t forgive himself for it.
I only finished this game recently and I would probably say it’s in my top ten video games of all time, what it lacks in gameplay mechanics it definitely makes up for in story, character building and intense atmosphere; it’s like no other game I have played.
I hope Beyond Two Souls, Quantic Dreams next title lives up to the standard they set in Heavy Rain.