Fahrenheit - Review
Fahrenheit is a game we had flagged as one to watch over a year ago when Vivendi announced the title at E3 2004. That deal fell through and Atari picked up the publishing duties later that year. Nearly a year later and the game is finally here, and Vivendi will be kicking themselves they didn't keep it in their stable. You see, this isn't just your typical adventure game with French developers Quantic Dream allowing you to actually play as three different characters; two cops investigating a murder, and also the murderer. It may sound confusing but you actually take turns in playing each of the three characters to unravel the mysterious storyline which is as follows...
|Note the cutaway scenes.|
For no apparent reason, ordinary people are randomly killing total strangers. Although there is no link between the murderers, they all seem to follow exactly the same ritual and pattern. Lucas Kane becomes one of these murderers when he kills a stranger in the men's room of a restaurant. Finding himself in control of Lucas, the player is haunted by strange visions and the desperate need to find out what is happening to him. At the same time he must keep one step ahead of the police, especially Inspector Carla Valenti and her teammate agent Tyler Miles.
Fahrenheit is split up into smaller chunks, or chapters. At the beginning of each one you can select which character to control for that section of the game. If you choose Lucas Kane youw will continue on your quest to discover why you murdered someone for no apparent reason while also trying to keep your distance from the police. Playing as Carla or Tyler sees you investigating the murder, interrogating people and looking for clues. At some points you can switch between the two cops to work on clues together.
|Game over for you!|
This game is played from a third person perspective and really includes four main gameplay elements. As you move around locations icons will appear to trigger different actions such as opening doors, picking up items, closing windows and so on simply by pressing a direction on the right analogue stick. The second gameplay element is for more intense action such as fighting, playing basketball or sensing what other people are feeling you will need to enter into a series of rapid response mini-games. In this game two circles appear which correspond to the two analogue sticks on the PS2 controller. Your task is to match the directions highlighted as soon as possible, and in the correct sequence.
The third gameplay elementin Fahrenheit is pressing the L1 and R1 buttons in quick alternating sequence to perform certain actions. At one point Carla has trouble breathing in a confined space so you must keep her calm by pressing these buttons when required. Finally your character must respond in conversations. Much like the old 'Choose your own adventure' books (does anyone remember those?) you have a choice when talking to people in the questions you ask, and responses you give. These can take the character in different directions with different narrative results.
|Carla is damn fine...|
Another of Fahrenheit's unique gameplay elements is the way in which the screen splits into smaller windows so you can see other actions around the character. At the beginning of the game the main character, Lucas, commits a murder in the bathroom of the local diner. After deciding whether to hide the body and wash up it's time to leave the diner. Just after you leave the screen breaks to a smaller window to show a local cop walking towards the bathroom. You only have a few seconds to find a way to get out of the local area or risk being caught. By using these cutaway windows throughout the game using techniology termed ICE, or Interactive Creative Environment, which has been in development for over two years at Quantic Dream, the game really has a heightened sense of tension and urgency. It's brilliant.
If there's one area where this game could have been improved it's the controls. While the button pressing events and actions are fine it's actually the character's movement around the levels that is a little awkward. As the camera changes location you'll quite often do a quick U-turn and head back from where you came. It does become a little annoying especially during timed events. The other slight complication to the gameplay is when conversations between two characters, usually Lucas and one of the cops, occurs. It's hard to determine just how much pressure you should put on each character so as to not completely change their attitude.
|PS2 graphics aren't quite as sharp.|
As you would have seen in the surrounding screenshots many sections of the game use multiple windows to show different camera angles, or different events occurring at the same time. You would have seen the effect in the TV show 24, and it works remarkably well in the gameplay here. Detail in the world is average, there's certainly better on the Playstation 2, but many of the locations are very well designed. Each of the characters, from the three playable ones, to all non-playable characters have a wide range of movements, although occasionally the animation seems to go a little astray and miss a few beats. Similarly the frame rate on PS2, compared to the XBox and PC versions, is a little rough occasionally, but never enough to distract from the gameplay.
Audio in the game is quite exceptional. Angelo Badalamenti who worked on many David Lynch movies such as Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks and Lost Highway composed the score and it's tremendous. More commercial music is also used in several scenes in the game such as when you're in the gym or playing basketball. If that wasn't enough we have to acknowledge the ambient effects such as city noise. Hell, on a couple of occasions I thought there was actually a tonne of traffic coming up my street! The final aspect is the speech, and it's tremendous. While no well known actors are used that I know of the developers do know how to pick character voices and each is tremendous, not just the three main characters, but also the smaller parts too.
|This moment is superb.|
Fahrenheit. Remember the name. Well, also remember the American name too - Indigo Prophacy. In ten years time we'll almost certianly look back on it as a breakthrough game. Sure the graphics aren't the best, and perhaps some gameplay elements could be a little more refined, but in terms of story telling, presentation and interactivity this game is among the best there is. Some gamers may be a little put off by the lack of action, but since when should a game be put down for that. This is all about the tension and exploration. A stunningly engrossing and highly entertaining title.
Review By: Dave Warner
Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
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|GRAPHICS||Animation can be a little rough, but multiple windows are effective.||78%|
|SOUND||Excellent speech, and atmospheric music and effects throughout.||88%|
|GAMEPLAY||Engrossing, addicive, atmospheric, enjoyable. Need any more?||90%|
|VALUE||Probably 12 hours to complete, but you'll play again to see different responses.||85%|
|OVERALL||Fahrenheit is a breakthrough title that offers a unique game experience, and one which will have you hooked. Rarely has a developer made an adventure game so engrossing. Sensational.||88%|