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Joystiq Top 10 of 2010: Heavy Rain

The thoroughly democratic process through which our top 10 video games of 2010 were divined and decided left little room for sayers-of-nay once the dust had settled. The list -- as you'll soon see -- represents a cross section of what we believe to be the greatest (and therefore, our favorite, since we're such astute scholars of the ludological sciences) games of the year. All except for the game currently under discussion: David Cage's interactive thriller, Heavy Rain.

Of all the games on our list, Heavy Rain was the only one whose appearance -- even at the most humble position on the pedestal -- was called into question. With such apparent spite for the title coursing through our collective veins, you might wonder how it made any showing at all. The answer is indicative of the game's overall reception in the gaming community's collective consciousness: Many writers gave the game no weight in the discussion at all, while few gave it just about as much weight as they could possibly throw.

Those of us who fall into the latter camp are still quick to concede the points which hang up the former -- even Heavy Rain's biggest fans can't overlook some of the plot holes contained therein, or the moments where the clumsy controls led to the sudden, irreversible death of one of the characters, or the fact that all of these Philadelphians' dialects were just dripping with French affectation.

Heavy Rain still manages to excel as a piece of interactive fiction -- not because of these quirks, but in spite of them. Try as they might, these missteps did nothing to spoil the dramatic tension conjured up by Heavy Rain's most exciting scenes, particularly those in which protagonist Ethan undergoes horrific challenges to rescue his submerged progeny. These tasks require sacrifices of the worried father -- but with the constant threat of permadeath hanging above you at all times, you'll have to make some awfully difficult decisions with disarming regularity.

Perhaps the best allegory for Heavy Rain's mercurial nature comes in one of the game's opening scenes, which plays on the fear of a father whose son has gone missing in a local mall. Some laughed off the sequence, due to the quickly-memed option to obnoxiously scream your prodigal son's name ad infinitum. For the rest of us, Cage's vision took hold: Scenes such as these presented relatable and terrifying scenarios, which left us glued to couch, controller and screen all the way through Heavy Rain's highly customized conclusion.

Regardless of where you landed on the grand spectrum of appreciation for the game, you can't deny its uniqueness in the gaming space. While most other entries into the suspense genre pit the player against supernatural horrors, Heavy Rain plays on primal fears which each of us have almost certainly confronted in the real world. In short, we're not afraid of zombies anymore. But we're always going to be afraid of the fact that the people we love can -- and will -- one day be taken from us.

Joystiq is revealing its 10 favorite games of 2010 throughout the week! Stay tuned for more must-play picks, and take heed as each staffer stands atop a soapbox to defend those games that didn't quite make the cut. Who will step up for Rogue Warrior?

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