Fahrenheit Reader Review
Adventure gaming has long been claimed to be in decline from its early 90's heyday, with a lack of innovation and technical progression leading to disinterest from gamers and a low revenue stream for publishers. Fahrenheit, or Indigo Prophecy as it was named outside of Europe, is a high-concept adventure game from Quantic Dream, the creative team responsible for 1999's flawed yet genre-breaking adventure/action game, Omikron: The Nomad Soul. Studio head David Cage has been quick to take personal responsibility for the games content and artistic direction, and with the ambition of the project that should come as no surprise. Indeed he even goes as far as introducing the game in-engine, giving some back-story and pointers as to how the players should interact. You get the feeling that this is definitely his 'director's cut'.
The premise of the game is fairly unique. At the beginning of the plot you take on the role of Lucas Kane, an ordinary guy eating steak in a no-name diner in the middle of New York city. Within minutes you witness Lucas commit a grizzly murder in the bathroom of the diner with no motive, whilst seemingly under the influence of some external force which also causes him to carve strange symbols in his forearms. You pick up control just after the murder has taken place, with your immediate job to cover your tracks and divert the attention of the local police before making a break for your apartment. The game then proceeds to switch control back and forth between Lucas and the two detectives hot on his trail, with the plot broken down into self-contained gameplay chapters which form the majority of the 8-9 hours of gameplay.
Basic control will be familiar to anyone that has played an adventure or third-person action game previously. Lucas is controlled with the left analogue stick, with the right stick used to choose from a variety of context-sensitive actions when approaching an object or interactive part of the scenery. Dialogue is handled in a similar manner, with the right stick used to choose from a variety of categorised responses. Certain actions or dialogue choices will also have an effect on a characters 'stress meter' which you will need to be wary of running down. The meter can be topped up by choosing a course of action familiar to the protagonist, or alternatively by performing basic actions such as getting a drink or using the toilet (with the camera tastefully swinging away).
So, we have a good basis for a plot and a decent yet familiar control scheme, but what of the innovation claimed by the author to be in abundance throughout? Well, the unique style of the game comes from two main elements; the method of cut-scene interaction and the framing of the on-screen visuals. One of which is successful, the other� not so much.
In approaching the game from a visual standpoint, it seems that a lot of influence has been taken from the cinema and from certain popular television shows. Indeed the title screen even shows 'new movie', instead of a 'begin game' option, just in case the intention wasn't absolutely clear. Cut-scenes are well-directed and occasionally visually spectacular, with camera angles chosen to eschew the normal 3rd person trend of the fixed-perspective, behind-the-player viewpoint. Without a doubt the most unique visual aspect however comes with the usage of picture-in-picture '24' style multiple camera angles on screen. These have been developed excellently to effectively frame the action, and add tension to many of the race-against-time scenes which are far more effective when you can see a box-out of another character approaching your position, rather than a simple time-line sequence.
The problem with the above is that you'll see far less of the excellent camera work than you should. Not content with letting the player watch a cutscene, the developers have integrated a Shenmue-style QTE mini-game, requiring you to match the coloured arrow inputs on-screen with flicks of both analogue sticks. This permeates even the slowest-paced sections, and unfortunately becomes tiresome after the first few hours of play. Where games such as Shenmue asked you to time inputs and then rewarded the player with the rest of the visual, Fahrenheit asks you to continue those inputs right the way through, which means you spend all of your time staring at a 3-inch square at centre of the screen. For a game to be so rooted in visual flair and yet force you to miss most of the action can only be seen as a disastrous design choice, and the whole system feels tacked on at the last second.
That said, it's a testament to the game that I wanted to continue right the way through in spite of these flaws. The plot is a genuine step forward for adventure gaming as a whole, with mature subject matter which in no way feels forced or exploited. Fahrenheit even contains a sex-scene which is well handled and appropriate, surely a first in the videogaming world. Characterisation is superb, and by the end of the tale you will have a genuine empathy for some of the protagonists. Again, this does go off the rails eventually, with the last few hours of play home to some ludicrous plot twists and developments, with an over-ambitious storyline that could have benefited from keeping its feet on the ground (literally).
Its ironic that a game with such lofty ambitions actually excels itself in the established traits of the genre, and could benefit from reigning-in some of the more outlandishly designed gameplay and plot elements. There is a spectacular adventure game waiting to be discovered here, and for that reason alone I cant help but recommend it to fans of the genre. Overall Quantic Dream has to be commended on attempting to move the genre forward, and I for one can't wait to see where this path takes them in the future.
8 / 10