The story of Heavy Rain worked because my choices mattered, and because they were constantly being saved. The game had an impressive web of branches based on both choices and execution that greatly altered the course of the story, and the fact that the game autosaved progress gave them genuine consequence. Without autosaving, I believe the sense of risk in choice would have probably been reduced.
Hearing about some of the ranges of success (no one dies) and failure (everyone dies) made me wonder how relevant Heavy Rain's theme was to your choices. If the story were feel-good, would choices ever seem to have as much weight, because failure still led to a happy ending? And if the range went from feel-good to downer, would the narrative seem less consistent? As it is, telling a story with different shades of unease, even in success, was a great way to set up having choices that matter. Heavy, indeed.
As a game fan and designer, I'm interested more in emotion more than agency, but I can't deny how agency heightened the emotion. The production cost of this approach seems high, and the amount of game that must be made and that most players will miss would be difficult for me to swallow, but playing the part of Ethan making a horrible decision to either shoot a man or save the life of my son was more powerful than that the same situation ever could be in a film for me. To some extent, unlike film, it was the life of my child on the line, and not just a character I empathized with, and without a choice, the anguish would certainly be lessened. Up next, a quick comment about the use of nudity.