Publisher: Atari | Developer: Quantic Dream | System: Xbox | Genre: Adventure
Since its heyday back in the mid-90s the concept of the “interactive movie” seems to have died, with games beginning to establish a certain amount of their own creative identity without simply trying to ape the movies. Of course games are constantly attempting to be cinematic, but they still have gameplay behind the inevitably half-baked plot with the attempts to be like film relegated to the cut-scenes. What it seems that Quantic Dream’s idea was is to take the baby steps towards an interactive movie that certain other titles have made and mix them together with some of their own ideas and some high production values to make what could be the best of its kind.
Fahrenheit’s story starts with Lucas Kane, an ordinary systems manager at a New York bank, who visits a small diner and finds himself in the toilets in some kind of trance, doing things against his will. Sounds sexy, but it’s more supernatural as he carves some mystical symbols into his forearm before staggering out and stabbing a fellow patron to death. After coming to and becoming lucid enough to clean up the mess, he makes a narrow escape from the police and finds himself on the run, trying to find out why he did it before the law catches up with him.
Where the game takes one of its interesting design choices is in the next section when you play as the two detectives who have to unravel the clues that Kane left behind, allowing you to be thorough and increase the chances that they’ll be able to find him or deliberately miss vital clues, giving you breathing room on the other side of the story. The two sides will meet eventually anyway, but the game plays out like a “choose your own adventure” novel in the meantime, making slight deviations depending on what you do or don’t do. It’s not quite as open as the marketing would have you believe but it’s a good attempt at letting the player affect the story.
More than anything the game really is about the story, with the fact that it’s a game with some interactive cut-scenes serving mainly as a vehicle to deliver a tale of ancient secrets that reminded me slightly of Dan Brown’s books, but with a more supernatural slant. So many games with potentially interesting stories are let down by poor direction and even worse voice acting and characters, but Fahrenheit does a good job on the whole. The characters are realistic and don’t often seem like caricatures, which is something that games like this can often descend into. Kane himself is the only character that I didn’t really like (he can be slightly whiny and has probably the weakest voice acting of the lot) but I can still think of far worse protagonists.
If there’s one complaint about Fahrenheit though, it’s that it seems torn over whether it’s a movie or a game, a fact shown on the title screen when it, slightly pretentiously in my opinion, has “New Movie” instead of the typical “New Game”. The direction of the game is excellent with some clever use of camera angles and even some appearances of the 24-style split screen moments, something that I’m surprised hasn’t been ripped off in games more than it has. The unfortunate side of this visual acumen on the part of the development team is that it has to give some interactivity, and this means that you miss the excellent action scenes going on in the background because you’re stuck looking at two circles on screen and moving the sticks in time to the pulsating lights. I found it slightly frustrating when these scenes should be the payoff for the hard work that you’re doing in the investigation and other parts of the game.
Ultimately, Fahrenheit is a slightly confused mix of two very different media that hasn’t really come on too far from the old attempts at an “interactive movie”, but having said this I enjoyed it a lot and thought that the good parts, which outweighed the bad for the most part, were done extremely well. It’s not a long game so those who demand a lot of lasting appeal from their games might want to rent it, but people who are happy with a good story and, importantly, something new and fairly unique, should take the risk. With so much homogenised rubbish on the shelves something that tries a different formula and comes out with something that’s actually very good deserves attention. Go in expecting an interesting story (it may take a slightly bizarre turn towards the end but I can forgive it on that account) and a game that you can sit down with and work through for a few hours at a time and I’m confident that you’ll have a good time.