Fahrenheit is an original new adult adventure game for the PC, XBox and PS2. I picked up the Xbox release myself - a cinematic game like this is just made all the more enjoyable on a massive widescreen TV and a comfy sofa - but from what I hear there's little difference between each format's rendition other than the usual increased resolutions and such.
There are however, major differences between the European release and the US version. Despite being known as Fahrenheit here, state-side the game is titled Indigo Prophecy. It's also had some sexual content removed over there, including full frontal nudity and an interactive
sex game, hence yanks will wanna import this bad boy. No doubt a side effect of the recent "Hot Coffee" scandal...
So What is Fahrenheit?
Fahrenheit tells the dark tale of Lucas Kane, a 30 something year old banker who wakes up one night to find himself standing over a dead man he's apparently just hacked to death in a restaurant bathroom. Pleasingly, you control Lucas from this moment on, trying to figure out why he killed this guy, what the hell's going on and how to get out of there before he gets caught.
|The game pulls few punches when it comes to violence and sex|
This in and of itself is a great setup for a game, but in a nice twist you also play as the cop working on cracking the very same case. In the next scene for instance, you'll return to that opening bathroom playing as two detectives, gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses. It's an original and interesting concept as it gives you not only differing storylines to follow throughout the game, but alternate viewpoints on the same situations too.
Primarily you play as three characters throughout. Lucas (the murderer), Carla (the cop) and finally Carla's partner (who I believe is called Token Black Guy). You'll also play as a couple of additional peeps for brief moments here and there, but I won't go into details due to spoileritis. These three main characters are who you spend the majority of your time with however, and each are interesting in their own unique way, with individual personalities, flaws and sub-plots.
The detective portions of the game are impressive. If you played a little lesser known point 'n' click title from last year called Still Life, this feels like a much improved version of the same concept. You snoop around crime scenes looking for clues, submit them to the labs, visit the mortuary, etc. Standard cop movie fare, yet it works.
Much more interesting though is playing the criminal. Waking up covered in blood, hiding evidence, lying to cops...I hate to say it, but this stuff is damn fun! Plus it's not the sort of thing you usually get to experience in games - or real life for that matter - and is thus a little (dare I say) exhilarating?
Controls are strange. You move your character around custom perspectives that constantly alter like a movie, with your specific actions based around context sensitive situations. So basically, depending on where you are and what you're looking at, the controls change.
Stand by a chair and a down arrow will appear, indicating that if you pull in the appropriate direction, you'll sit. Then a phone might ring and an up arrow will pop up in addition, giving you the choice of answering it. Your different options continually change as you move around the world, and for the most part it works very well. Your best bet is to ignore my pathetic description and simply click on the surrounding screenshots though.
Not quite so good however, are the "endurance test" moments, and this leads me onto my first, and really only major problem with the game. There's a constant stream of these Mortal Kombat style "Test Your Might" bits you see, which involve hammering on buttons super fast to avoid sticky situations. These are also joined by a huge dollop of Resi 4-style pop-up reflex tests. Pull left, right, up, down now
, or you die! Oh fuck off.
|One could argue Fahrenheit is somewhat ruined by these lame and cheap button bash segments|
Not only do these moments have a horrible whiff of Dragon's Lair to them, but they also inappropriately up the adrenaline level of an otherwise somewhat subdued adventure game, turning it into a raging button bash fest. Although it adds a nice flash of variety here and there, this aspect of the game wasn't really for me...and sadly it takes up perhaps 40% of the entire experience.
One interesting gameplay mechanic I was much more fond of, is the fact each character has a stress level which fluctuates depending on the story, their situation and their current mood. This is remarkably detailed, so much so that little things like tiredness and coldness can make your characters depressed, while fetching them a cup of coffee or giving them a shower will perk them up back up. Even taking a whiz first thing in the morning will improve your character's comfort (tell me about it) and subsequently their happiness level.
This is all a lot more interesting and downright cooler than it sounds, and even if a little Sims-like, it's kinda fun to have that extra level of interactivity in a game of this style. Cupboards, fridges, toilets, sinks, showers, TVs, CD players - all this stuff is interactive in some way, and makes the game world feel a lot more alive and real. More importantly, it pays off to keep your characters as happy as possible via these means, 'cos an unhappy character will eventually commit suicide. Stopping Lucas from topping himself in particular was the only real challenge of the entire game for me...although it is oddly funny to see a video game character jump off a roof at your doing.
|Visuals are a little inconsistent, but it still has its moments of beauty, further improved by its stylistic brilliance|
The other major gameplay element in Fahrenheit is the conversation system. When chatting to people, you have barely a split second to decide what to say next, with a variety of choices popping up briefly for you to choose from. The problem is they're all indicated by only single word phrases, so with perhaps three seconds to question a witness and having to choose between words like "suspect", "bill", "look", it's all way too vague. A traditional LucasArts style choice between full blown sentences would have improved this aspect considerably, as opposed to the guessing games on offer here.
Throw all these mishmashed gameplay elements together and you still get a reasonably solid game in Fahrenheit though...it's just not impressive in the more traditional
sense is all.
What do I mean by that? Well here's a game that's essentially very easy, doesn't take a massive amount of skill, and is incredibly short to boot. In gaming terms, these are all quite severe problems you might think. However the traits that make Fahrenheit impressive are the same things that would make a movie
impressive. Style, plotting, atmosphere, direction - it's for these reasons you should play this game.
That's not to say Fahrenheit doesn't also embrace the fact it's an interactive medium at the same time. At the end of the day it's essentially a six hour long film, one where you get to direct and choose what happens in each scene though. As this story plays out in real time, your active character is constantly given choices - each one affecting the outcome.
True, the game is still a lot more linear than it thinks. The main story remains similar whatever happens, but there's still a pleasing sense of freedom to each situation within the confines of that overarching tale.
And let's talk some more about that razor sharp style...Fahrenheit actually feels like you're back in the Max Payne universe of all places. The game could well be set in that same snowy, dreary, corner of New York city, decorated with a similar dark, brooding atmosphere. The entire time I felt like Max was just a few blocks away taking down bad guys. Fahrenheit is much more a game for the mind than Max ever was though, even if it's far from as impressive.
|Washing blood off your hands in a public bathroom, but watch out for that cop heading your way on split-screen 24-cam|
The moody visuals are brought to life by a reasonably solid graphics engine. Detail is a little scarce at times, but the fantastic art direction and pleasing special effects go a long way towards hiding that. There's a "grainy" filter used throughout the entire game which gives it a film stock look, and although this works in the game's favour in terms of style, it can give things a washed-out low quality appearance at times. There's also pleasing use of motion blur and some fantastic 24-style split screen action in some of the more edge-of-the-seat moments.
This, I really dug, and I could happily reel off a dozen stunning examples of how the split screen not only looked fucking bad arse, but also added hugely to the tension and playability. Spoiling them for you however, would be sacrileges.
Sound is arguably the game's strongest asset though. The ominous violin theme tune once again bares a striking resemblance to Max Payne, and the rest of the music similarly fares well. Impressing me even more was the acting - especially on the female lead - which goes a long way towards selling this as an engrossing, realistic universe. Expect much in the way of reverb soaked voiceover monologues from the three primary characters.
Finally there's the story itself to chat about, as it's oh so refreshing to come across a title so mature and dark. With games and movies so regularly watered down to appeal to a mass market audience these days, an experience like Fahrenheit comes around all too rarely, it must be said
This story takes elements from the likes of Seven, Silence of the Lambs and even The Matrix, and runs with it to an exciting and very stylish level rarely seen in a video game. It's the quality of this storytelling married with the well drawn characters that keep you playing Fahrenheit, despite the bizarre button bashing gameplay somewhat at odds with it.
Tales From the Crapped
Unfortunately this storyline does take a severe nose dive around the final act, where it spins wildly out of control from dark film-noir brilliance, to clich?d sci-fi drivel. You can argue the game is stupidly short too, yet around this point in the storyline I was unfortunately glad to see the end of it.
Still, if you can afford to splash out on a short-lived but never the less entertaining experience, I still recommend Fahrenheit for the preceding 4 or 5 hours that lead up to that. For fans of adventure games, it's a nice, mature slant on the genre, but those who'll really
get a dig out of the game, are the big movie freaks.
While it has its issues and is far from the killer title I was expecting, Fahrenheit still does one of the better jobs yet at marrying the world of film with the video game format. For that, I applaud it.