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Heavy Rain's ESRB Description - A True Mature Title?

January 18, 2010

I don’t know about you all, but games that throw in gallons of blood, excessive language for no good reason and gratuitous sexual situations really annoy me.  Not to speak poorly of great franchises like God of War or Dragon Age: Origins, but the seemingly over-emphasis of blood and gore really gets on my nerves and sort of feels rather childish.   Dragon Age, for example, was marketed with heavy amounts of blood in the first place.  In the actual game, you can kill a rat and be covered from head to toe in blood.  Sure, it’s “mature” content, as I definitely wouldn’t want my underage son or daughter playing such games.  But, is it REAL mature content?  Does it serve a purpose other than just shock value?  Very rarely.

Fast forward to, well, today.  I read the full ESRB description for Heavy Rain and thought to myself, “Could this be a REAL mature title, for mature people who care little for gratuitousness but want a thought-provoking game where the mature content actually makes sense?”  Of course, the game doesn’t come out until later next month, so final judgments on my end must wait until then, but just the way they describe some situations intrigues me.

“Gameplay consists of…watching as cinematic cutscenes progress the somewhat dark (film noir-style) storyline.”

“Blood sometimes accompanies the acts of violence—whether triggered or viewed passively.”
As it does in just about any prime-time drama.

“The most intense instance of violence occurs during a “lizard trial” sequence in which players’ character, Ethan, is forced to cut off a segment of his own finger to save his son’s life.”
This interests me because of the way we’ve heard of Ethan’s early moments in the game described – how he hangs around home with his family, pushing his son on a swing, having a typical morning together with them. I would imagine this is a fairly poignant moment in the game, putting yourself in the shoes of a father who would do anything for his son, even if it causes himself extreme harm. Gratuitous? Doubtful.

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“A more prolonged instance of nudity occurs during a female character’s investigation of a seedy club owner: After getting him alone in a room, the player-character is asked to strip; at gunpoint, she dances topless in front of the man.”
This particular scene could be up in the air for me. Gratuitous? Probably not. It does sound like a rather intense moment, just because she’s being forced to do this during the course of an investigation. The nudity isn’t there just to be there and say “hey, look, boobies!”, it seems to be there for a reason and to make the scene more emotional. Again, the developers seem to be trying to get the player to feel things through the character and, to evoke those feelings, some visual prodding would definitely suit that purpose.

“The game also contains a prompt-based love scene (kissing and rubbing) in which players match on-screen cues to angle characters’ mouths, remove shirts and blouses, unhook bras, and lower to the floor; a woman briefly appears topless amidst the dark shadows and heavy breathing—actual sex is never depicted as the camera fades to black.”
Notice the lack of nudity, only a brief depiction, possibly even a silhouette. You see worse on prime-time television these days and, again, visual prodding to create an emotional high within the player.

“Consumers may also wish to know that the game contains strong profanity.”
Ok, I’m still a big believer in strong profanity always being gratuitous unless used sparingly. There’s really no need to go that far in getting your emotions across. But, the game can’t be perfect now, can it?

The point being: Nothing I’ve read in that ESRB description makes me think that the violence and nudity is put in there just for the sake of having naked people or loads of blood – it’s all there for a reason.  A truly mature title for mature people who enjoy a mature story without the gratuitousness?  Perhaps.  I’m looking forward to giving it a shot, at least.

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Chad Awkerman

Chad joined the DualShockers staff in mid 2009 and since then has put much of his time into covering RPGs, with a focus on the Japanese side of the genre, from the obscure to the mainstream. He's a huge fan of iconic games like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI and Persona 4 yet enjoys the smaller niche titles, as well. In his spare time he enjoys experiencing new beer, new foods and keeping up with just about every sci-fi show on television. He's married to an intelligent, beautiful Southern Belle who keeps his life interesting with witty banter and spicy Cajun cooking.

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