When Heavy Rain shined, it really shined. I can't think of another another game that had me so freaked out during moment-to-moment decisions. What made it so compelling? I was immersed in the story and my decisions mattered.
You begin as Ethan, and the game was a difficult start because of control disconnects, but once those settled down, I enjoyed his arc. Very little connected me to Madison to start, but once she became involved in Ethan's life, I thought the interaction was great. Norman was perhaps the least interesting since his character arc seemed more situational (drug addiction) than emotional but I may have an incomplete view of the character since he died on me. And Scott was a perfectly lovable oaf.
Twists like the identity of the killer were fun, and I enjoyed the notion that Ethan might be torturing himself and kidnapped his own son, even though I couldn't believe it. But perhaps the best part of the story was the ratcheting of my tests as Ethan, going from being willing to hurt myself, to dismember myself, to kill someone else, to kill myself. Forcing me to react emotionally to these situations had me in knots at times. But other games have good stories without stressing me out. Up next, a comment on the real engine behind the emotion.