Heavy Rain Chronicles: The Taxidermist
Hot on the heels of the Origami Killer, Madison Page follows a lead to the suburban home of a suspicious local named Leeland White. Taking place prior to the story of Heavy Rain, The Taxidermist is the first of a series of stand-alone DLC vignettes to help further our understanding of the characters we came to know during the events of the game proper.
Without any answer at the residence and unwilling to pass up a potential story, Madison decides to find her own way into the home of Mr. White, a taxidermist. Given the nature of his work, Mr. White’s home is filled with death – literally – and the type of atmosphere that accompanies it. Not knowing when the owner might return, Madison sets forth to find any clues that might link Mr. White with the murders connected to the Origami Killer. Compared to the many locations of Heavy Rain, the home of the taxidermist has lots of nooks and cabinets to be peered into, as well as rooms and closets to be investigated, allowing the player to be as thorough a sleuth as they desire.
Much like the core game, The Taxidermist is a dark and dingy affair thanks to the oppressing rain fall and the state of disrepair Mr. White’s home has been left in. The house feels neglected, but still appears to exist for some sort of ulterior and potentially sinister motive. Without many physical characters to interact with, the home of Leeland White stands out as a character of its own, one that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Not long into Madison’s visit Mr. White returns home. From this point The Taxidermist can follow any number of paths, which can be triggered through player choice, carelessness during your investigation or an inability to think quickly. No matter how things play out it’s important to remain calm and think about the options you might have noticed while searching the house. Upon reaching the end of The Taxidermist you’ll be dumped on a completion screen – something unfamiliar to veterans of Heavy Rain. The screen lists five different endings by name but doesn’t explain their conditions, it also lists the three chapter beginnings that comprise the vignette, allowing you to jump back in and see where else the story might have gone.
The Taxidermist is designed to be replayed, much like Heavy Rain itself. On a single playthrough it’s conceivable you could finish the episode in less than ten minutes, assuming you neglect a large portion of the environment and stick to the major story points. If you’re uninterested in replaying the scene multiple times, it’s unlikely you’ll find a whole lot of value in The Taxidermist. It’s designed to be picked apart and experimented with, and although this new story for Madison is filled with tension and dread, it remains non-essential to the overall Heavy Rain experience.
Since the episode isn’t comprised of a whole lot of human interaction, it may disappoint fans of Heavy Rain’s tenderer side. What’s on display here reflects the high adrenaline portions of the main game, and if you found yourself enamored with making omelets, you might be disappointed. The other problem is Madison appears to be voiced by a different actress, and although it’s hard to pick up due to the brevity of her dialogue, it’s ultimately a discouraging inconsistency.
The only other knock against The Taxidermist concerns the occasionally problematic walking and camera controls. Just like the main game, navigating certain spaces can be an issue thanks to the camera angles and the difficulty of properly orienting your character. It’s most notable on the second floor of Mr. White’s house, where Madison has to navigate a tight hallway that has a sharp right angle in it. Proceeding through this section can be especially annoying while you’re trying to elude or sneak by an aggressor.
Much like Heavy Rain itself, The Taxidermist is not for everyone. At face value it might not appear to have a whole lot of content, but if you’re patient enough and diligent, there’s a lot more game than there might initially appear to be. It suffers from the same problems that mar the original game, but if you were able to overlook them the first time you should have no problem doing so again here. Despite its issues, The Taxidermist is a tense, atmospheric delight and a promising start to the Heavy Rain: Chronicles.