Reviews: Fahrenheit

An oddball start to the trends of modern Adventure Games

The Silence of the Lambs is a genre-defining Serial Killer thriller. The Matrix is an equally defining action film. Fahrenheit is the proof that these great tastes do not taste great together.

Despite starting with an all-time great introduction that has you juggling between a killer trying to cover his tracks and the police detectives investigating the scene, the game throws this energy away by spending much of its time on the character's personal and professional lives, before becoming an all-out save the world plot. While many cite the game's infamous third act as the point where the game flies off the rails, it actually hits at the half-way point where Lucas turns into a bullet-dodging Neo Expy and goes further off-rails from there, and I'm not convinced that the alleged content cuts would have made this any better.

Despite all that, Fahrenheit is a weirdly important game for this genre. Virtually all the trends of modern adventure games - the QTE fight scenes, the cinematic influences, the dialogue branches, it all can be traced to here, albeit in primitive forms. The "Simon Says" input method of QTE's has aged about as well as the terrible mandatory stealth levels that games of the Turn of the Millennium loved so much.

The gonzo plot twists, at times cringe-worthy writing, and somewhat dated graphics also give the game a serious Narm value that Quantic Dream's later games lack. It also has an awesome soundtrack done by David Lynch posse member Angelo Badalamenti. If that all sounds like your thing and you're willing to slog through the game's lowlights, the game's Updated Re-release can be found for a fairly low price on Steam.

Oddly glorious (Spoilers, natch)

It's rather strange that I find this game's story to be superior in some ways to the later (and still rather wobbly) Heavy Rain. I guess it's because whereas Rain was a fairly straightforward crime drama, Fahrenheit seems to have been influenced by everything from Ghostbusters to Silence of the Lambs. It also helps that, despite being made in a different era, Fahrenheit seems a little bigger on immersion; there's a refreshing amount of time that can be spent just having the protagonists dick around at work.

As has been said by countless others, the third act is where things fall apart, not because it's zany (things get zany pretty early on, and the game's all the better for it), but because it's incredibly rushed. It's hard to overstate how sudden some plot developments are, and what little exposition there is can be Lost Forever if you ask the wrong questions. That's not counting completely unncecessary elements like Zombie Lucas; surely the Purple Clan possessed the technology to just resurrect him outright.

The quick-time events are...not as well-implemented as in games like Rain. Maybe that's to be expected, but aside from being hard to pull off if you're uncoordinated, there are times when they're just distracting; take Lucas' trip down memory lane, where you'll be too busy twirling the joysticks to pay attention to how he got hypnotized in the first place.

But in spite of all, Fahrenheit is a lot of fun while it lasts, and even if you hate the writing, it's worth picking up just for the disproportionately epic score.

Interesting, hilarious and extremely frustrating.

Fahrenheit is a weird game. It's good, it's bad, it's stupidly intelligent. It's everything and nothing at the same time. Let's dig into it.

Story: The story is the games biggest plus, an extremely interesting Murder Mystery that's explored both from the (unintentional) murder's perspective and the cops who pursue him. You walk through the city, talk with people, gather clues and try to move the plot forward. Simple Adventure Game stuff, but very compelling. ...Until you arrive at the last third of the game. I won't spoil it, but: This game has The Matrix-esque fight scenes and ZOMBIE-SEX. Utterly hilarious and brainmelting, this is the kind of So Bad, It's Good bullcrap I live for! Every scene is just pure comedy gold! Sure, it only workds if you're in the mood for a Narmtastic cheesefest, but sorry: Fun is fun! I love B-Movies, and Fahrenheit is a playable one!

Gameplay: ...But this "playability" is also the worst part about this game. It is insanely frustrating to actually play Fahrenheit, you'll *hate* the gameplay. This game is the perfect example of misused QTEs: "Press Up Up Down Left Down Down Down Left Up Down!!!"... and your character evades to the right. WHAT?! This is the exact opposite of what QTEs are supposed to do, these QTEs don't make the cutscenes playable, they remove you EVEN MORE from them because the button presses don't match what is happening on the screen! This game frustratingly suffers from a severe case of Gameplay and Story Segregation simply BECAUSE it is so much more cinematic! Say what you will about Resident Evil 4 (especially the Wii-port) or games from Platinum Games, at least the QTEs there are designed in a way that doesn't interfere with what's depicted on the screen. Fahrenheit however doesn't even hide the fact that it's a movie and you're simply watching it while playing "Simon". And the less is said about those atrocious stealth levels, the better. I'm not ashamed to admit I used a guide for those levels simply because they're so terribly designed and frustrating.

So, yeah. That's Fahrenheit. Interesting, compelling, hilarious, but frustrating nonetheless. My advice: You should definitely watch a Long Play on YouTube, but don't play it for yourself.

A good case study

If you're interested in seeing how the narrative focused side of games is developing Fahrenheit(aka Indigo Prophecy) is an excellent example with a lot to teach. It's also pretty enjoyable in it's own right too.

You find yourself in a bathroom with a man stabbed to death on the floor with a wound through each artery connecting the heart. You were aware of yourself but seemed to be under the control of another being as you did it. There's a policeman outside and he's about to take a leak. What do you do?

After a frantic panic to hide the evidence and escape, your control switches over to a detective whose just been called in on a particularly unusual murder...

This is the strength of this game it's a story that you can look around and examine. Spiritually it's similar to Quintessence The Blighted Venom or To The Moon where the gameplay mechanics are there to focus you and the advantage of the interaction comes from the grounding that being able to walk around gives. It hasn't quite reached Heavy Rain or The Walking Dead levels yet where the mechanics mentally place you in the position of the protagonist and give you an understanding of what being there feels like, but there are signs of it. There's also little control over the outcome which emphasises that the mechanics are somewhat ancillary. The story is stronger than Heavy Rain's with a fairly interesting premise, but Heavy Rain was still better because of the strength of that gameplay induced understanding. For the most part all 3 characters you control are likeable with their own unique perspectives. The female detective was particularly strong. Some people feel the supernatural elements ramped up too fast and there's an ill-advised romance plot towards the end that wasn't well established.

As a minor note, I wish fictional characters would stop denying the possibility that they might be sick because the voices in their heads are real darn it. We're meant to support the protagonist, but we really don't have a good reason to.

The game is incredibly innovative, it practically invented a new way of making games. Dual cameras, multiple protagonists. It was released in the same year as God Of War popularised the QTE, yet they were doing things here that games made now need to learn to do. The QTE's aren't instantly fatal and mimic the actions they're representing.