Developer: Quantic Dream
Genre: Adventure / Interactive Story
Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy if you have the censored American version) is a very entertaining interactive story, which excels in several ways, but is unfortunately also let down by the limitations of the gameplay.
The strongest part of the game has to be the storyline. It begins with the lead character, Lucas Kane, commiting a ritualistic murder in the toilets of a café, while in a strange trance. He wakes up from the trance afterwards, not understanding what has happened, and that’s where you take over. From there, the storyline develops in more and more fantastical ways, and to reveal too much about the plot would spoil the game. But it starts off involving murder investigations and ends up involving cults and a bizarre AI.
During the course of the story, you’ll get to control several characters, in one of the games most unique aspects. In the first scene, you’ll be controlling Lucas Kane, having just killed a man and trying to hide the evidence (or just get away quickly, depending on how you play it). In the second scene, you’ll play as both Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles, two police inspectors investigating the crime scene. The choices that are made in the first scene will effect what clues are there to discover in the second. It’s an unusual way of playing, and leads to several interesting situations where you have to decide whether to help or hinder one of the characters.
Despite the fact that there are plenty of choices over the course of the game, and they do have an effect on how various scenes in the story play out, the plot as a whole follows a fairly straight path. Your decisions do affect what scenes you will see though, and the final scene can play out in several different ways depending on how you’ve dealt with the previous ones. There are also three different endings to the game depending on the outcome of that final section.
So it’s been established that Fahrenheit is outstanding in story-terms. “But what about gameplay?”, I hear you ask! (I have extraordinarily good hearing you see.) Well, this is where it gets a bit more hit and miss. But we’ll stick with the positive for now. Most of the game is played out in a third person perspective with direct control of the character. Where the game varies from a traditional adventure game is in how actions are carried out. Rather than point and click, or use buttons, various activities are conducted by a system of mouse gestures. At the top of the screen, a row of symbols will appear showing what movement to make for each possible action. Just press the mouse button and make the appropriate movement, and the character will proceed to carry out your wishes. Many of the gestures are quite intuitive, lending the game a natural feel in these sections. For instance, opening a drawer will consist of pulling down the mouse, while closing it again will be achieved by pushing it upwards. You soon find yourself able to control things easily, achieving a fluidity of gameplay without having to break the action to choose options from menus. Conversations take place using the same system, with a short timer, making sure you have to keep the conversation moving and giving a sense of urgency to the situation.
As mentioned at the start of the review, not everything is perfect though. The actual movement controls are clumsy and awkward, and it takes quite a while to get used to them. It’s not a really major deal, since you won’t have to use them for too many action sequences. It becomes most annoying in a couple of stealth sequences, which occur in flashbacks at various points in the game. They’re not especially well done, and are probably the most frustrating points of the game.
Most of the major action scenes are controlled by a series of Simon-style copying games. The action will play out, and lights will pop up on the screen which you have to copy with the controls. The cutscenes carries on, until you make a mistake, at which point you’ll see your character getting into problems. You have a number of “lives” equating to the number of mistakes you’re allowed to make before you’ve failed. Fortunately for the reaction impaired, there’s an easy difficulty mode that shouldn’t cause too many problems. The system of controlling the action actually works quite well. It keeps you involved during the action, while allowing for exciting events that wouldn’t quite be possible under the direct control of the player. It also adapts quite well to the action. In a fast paced fight scene you’ll be rapidly pressing keys, while playing guitar they’re rhythmically timed, and while dodging things during a chase you’ll be pressing buttons to jump out of the way. The major problem with the system is that you end up concentrating on copying the controls and miss what’s actually happening on the screen. Thankfully, the cutscenes can be watched on their own from the menu once you’ve completed them. And they’re some of the most spectacular action cutscenes to be found in any game.
Much harder to forgive are several “track and field” sections, consisting of rapidly alternating the left and right direction keys. This is a gameplay mechanic that should have gone out with the early computer sports games. It does coincide with physical exertion of the character, but that’s just another part of the character’s experience I’d rather not experience first-hand.
Graphically, the game isn’t bad, although it’s nothing special either. It does have a nice style to it though, with a slightly grainy filmic filter to it, which works well for atmosphere. In fact, the whole game has the feel of a film, and urgency is added by split screens showing simultaneous events. You might see the police walking towards you in a small window as you try to hide evidence in the main screen, for example. These things balance out any technical deficiencies.
Finally, I’ll mention that the game does contain adult content, including a sex scene with mild nudity. However, unlike the immature random nudity and sex references of the recently reviewed Midnight Nowhere, it’s adult in a good way. It has a proper storyline dealing with adult themes, and almost everything is there to serve the plot.
So Fahrenheit is far from perfect. But where it fails, it’s because it’s trying to do something different, and where it succeeds, it’s so good that its flaws are forgivable.
Save System Review: Automatically saves after each scene. Most things don’t need to be replayed however you do them, since the storyline adapts, although there’s the occasional replaying of a minute or two. Nothing too serious.
Arbitrary Final Score:
Does Fahrenheit get your temperature rising or do the quick time events chill you to the bone? Comment in the forums!