Heavy Rain is way more compelling than it has any right to be, but it also has probably the most plot holes of any narrative-rich game I’ve ever played. Barely a minute goes past without something provoking an incredulous “why would you do that”, “can’t you just”, or “how did he know that?”
Here are some of the particularly egregious holes that still have me scratching my head a decade on.
This story has been republished to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Heavy Rain's release in Australia.
Ethan Really Loves Origami
Ethan’s blackouts, dreams of drowning children and habit of waking up with a goddamn origami figure in his hand are probably the worst red herrings to exist in any mystery media ever. Not only is Ethan not actually the Origami Killer, but these weird little asides were never actually explained, even when the killer's identity is revealed.
Of course, this particular plot hole was explained by Quantic Dream outside of the game itself. These confusing scenes are actually the remnants of a larger supernatural plot that was apparently cut from the game at the eleventh hour. Youtuber HyperBitHero has an in depth look at the cut content and how it impacted what remained:
But seriously, would it have been that much effort at least cut out the shots of the origami figures Ethan had no reason to be holding?
What Does It Take To Kill A Child?
I don’t mean this to be sinister, Heavy Rain just seems to have a curious idea of what children can and can’t survive.
To show you what I’m talking about, here’s the shot of Jason being hit by the car in the beginning of the game. Or should I say, Ethan being hit by the car while cradling Jason almost entirely.
Can you see how slow that car is going? And how Ethan easily takes the brunt of the impact? It’s an odd scene to encounter in a game, where it should be far easier than it is for live-action film to depict a fatal car accident. But no, David Cage has still delivered a scene that leaves the outcome incredibly unclear, so when you find out Jason did in fact die it’s met with confusion rather than any kind of emotional reaction.
The theory some fans float is that it’s Ethan’s drastic catch that actually causes the fatal injuries which, if true, is kind of heartbreaking. Imagine if this reason was specified within the story? It would almost make all of Ethan’s moping relatable.
Compare this with the ordeal Shaun goes through during the bulk of the main game, while he’s trapped in a small concrete cell that’s slowly filling with rainwater. How long can the human body stay submerged? How does this kid not get hypothermia? Is someone bringing him food and water or is he drinking the dirty rainwater? Has he been standing up the whole time?
I mean it’s not impossible he survived but still… it’s questionable enough to dampen what should have been a very dramatic and/or emotional ending.
That’s Not How Fridges Work
In my first playthrough of Heavy Rain, I accidentally killed Madison in Shelby’s apartment. But seriously, can you blame me? In what world does it make sense to jump in a fridge to escape a fast-spreading fire? (Weirdly I’ve never actually been able to escape down the stairs during this scene, but the main problem is that the fridge option somehow works fine.)
Here’s a simple fact about fire: smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in house fires. The last thing you’d want to do is trap yourself inside an airtight fridge with all that smoke (assuming, of course, that navigating through the burning apartment to find the fridge didn’t kill her first). She doesn’t even stay low to the floor, and that’s fire safety 101.
Even assuming the smoke doesn’t kill you, the fridge doesn’t kill you and the explosion doesn’t kill you – how the hell does Madison get down to street level after the explosion? Does the fridge drop through the floor and let her out safely near the front door? Come on, David Cage, this one’s just lazy.
“You Don’t Know Me, But…”
But wait, the plot holes do not end there. Straight after escaping from the apartment (either plausibly or implausibly) Madison is given the option to call someone to tell them what she’s found. She can either call her kind-of boyfriend Ethan, or FBI agent Norman Jayden – wait, how does she even have his number?
“I’ve got to call that FBI guy, Jayden," Madison says if you pick that option. But it’s never explained how she has his number, or how she even knows about him at all. Are FBI agents usually high profile and vocal about the cases they’re working on to the point of giving out phone numbers? She also says Jayden is “the only one [she] can trust” which seems like quite a leap for someone she’s literally never met or even talked to.
As with a lot of these plot holes, there’s almost an answer to this question. Jayden can find Madison’s finger prints at the Blue Lagoon nightclub, and muses over getting in contact with her. However it’s never mentioned or shown on screen, and any inkling that this conversation might have happened offscreen is destroyed by Madison’s opening line being “you don’t know me”.
Shelby Scott, Private Detective, Licence To Kill
Near the end of the game, Shelby shoots up the Kramer mansion in an action-packed scene that kind of feels out of place in a game like Heavy Rain.
That isn’t the main problem here, of course. My big problem with this scene is that somehow Shelby never faces any kind of consequences for the deaths of numerous guards in the Kramer mansion, even if he leaves Charles Kramer alive and quite capable of calling the police on him.
Do private investigators have diplomatic immunity in the Heavy Rain world? Is this kind of behaviour allowed for ex cops? Or are the cops in this city just really bad? (At this point it’s highly likely)
While this brand of killing nameless goons with zero consequences is classic fare of action games and movies, Heavy Rain doesn’t follow that formula. Until this point, this is a game where your tiniest action matters and can ripple on to bite you in the ass in the very next scene, which is why this scene really sticks out like a sore thumb.
That’s Not How The Police Work
More bad police work? Don’t mind if I do! How on earth does Jayden get away with freeing Ethan, the number one suspect in the city’s most high profile serial killer case perhaps ever?
When Jayden sneaks Ethan out of the police station, the extent of his actions to cover his tracks is to turn off the camera filming the interrogation room. You’d assume there would be security cameras around the rest of the station. Even if there aren’t, a few very simple questions would reveal that Jayden was the last to see, speak to, or be around Ethan at all.
Even if Jayden is caught (which can only happen if you forget to turn the interrogation room camera off), he just gets yelled at a bit and then suspended, which is almost the same outcome as if he doesn't get caught. I have to assume everyone at this police station just really hates their jobs.
That's Still Not How The Police Work
That hypothesis really holds up with this next point too. A big part of Shelby’s arc is that he’s pretending to investigate the Origami Killer case (as outed by Lauren in some endings) in order to clean up the evidence before anyone else can find it.
And yet, he’s not actually very timely on collecting evidence – in some cases talking to people years after their children were killed. Somehow in all that time, police never interviewed them about the cases, or they decided to hide their incredibly valuable evidence from those investigating the case.
Shelby Scott, Private Detective, Really Prematurely Aged
When Shelby was revealed to be 48 years old, I couldn’t believe it. There’s no way this man is under 50. Of course even the 48 number is incorrect – Shelby’s twin brother’s gravestone has his birth year listed as 1967, which means Shelby is actually 44 years old (which, aesthetically, is even less likely).
All those years of killing kids really weren’t kind to him.