For years there hasn't been a whole lot of innovation in the adventure genre. Weâ€™ve seen the occasional pre-rendered first-person offering, and occasionally a point and click release in the style of Monkey Island, but nothing thatâ€™s come close to evolving the genre. In 1999, developers Quantic Dream released a massive adventure/action hybrid called Omikron: The Nomad Soul; while not graphically groundbreaking it included a massive game world, a high-quality soundtrackâ€”produced by David Bowieâ€”and a decent blend of action/adventure gameplay, all of which was tied together with a gripping storyline. Now, some 6 years later, Quantic are back with a new title: Fahrenheit, or, as its titled in the US, The Indigo Prophecy. Since its announcement the game has been accompanied by considerable hype; so does it live up to said hype and the lofty reputation Quantic Dream gained through Nomad Soul?
After an initial intro where the gameâ€™s main protagonist introduces himself as Lucas Kane, the player is then treated to a flyover of New York during a heavy blizzard. Eventually we cut to the bathroom of a New York diner. A man enters and proceeds to use the establishmentâ€™s bathroom facilities. All the while we witness flashes of another patron sitting in one of the stalls. The camera cuts to this person as he gets up, a knife in his hand. He then brutally murders the man in the bathroom. The murderer is revealed as Lucas Kane, who seems to have no conscious control over his own actions. After the horrible event, youâ€”the playerâ€”then gain control of Lucas.
From here life is a rapid succession of choices that will affect the way the game progresses. Will you try and cover up this savagely gruesome deed or will you simply run? If you choose the former, can it be accomplished before someone else enters the bathroomâ€”and wasn't there a cop sitting in the restaurant too?
Whatever you choose, eventually the murder is discovered and two homicide detectives are duly assigned. Apart from Lucas, detectives Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles are the characters you will control the most throughout the game. This makes for an interesting gameplay dilemma: are you drawn to play as the would-be murderer amid the ensuing struggle to prevent capture, or do you do everything in your power to seize him.
If the only thing Fahrenheit offered in terms of gameplay was an exercise in â€˜cops catching a killerâ€™ then it wouldnâ€™t be much fun. However, as the game progresses and you delve ever deeper into the story, the sinister truth about the murder and its implications begins to unfold.
Every action in the game has a corresponding consequence. For example, letâ€™s say that you attempt to cover-up the diner murder. You mop the blood, stash the body in a stall, wash up, and hide the knife. You then leave the restaurant. When the detectives arrive they of course search the bathroom and draw conclusions from what they find. Why would the murderer spend time cleaning up the blood when another customer could walk in at any moment? And why does the victim still have all his money? This naturally points to the fact that money was not the killerâ€™s motivation. All your in-game actions and decisions stack up either for or against you.
Each playable character has his/her own mental health bar, which appears whenever an action is performed. If itâ€™s a positive action then their mental health will increase; conversely, if itâ€™s a negative action it will drop. When the bar falls beyond a certain point it could result in the playerâ€™s character perhaps committing suicide, or giving up.
During the game you will run into many action/control events. These are divided into two main categories:
1) Motion Physical Action Reaction (MPAR) interface events
These allow the player to use the mouse for creating the same motions as their on-screen character. Itâ€™s basically a question of tracing a pattern with your mouse; which then directly translates to the performance of the character. For example, your character must climb a fence, but instead of hitting a predefined button to instigate the action, the player traces a series of patterns with the mouse that mimic the action of reaching up with their hands and physically lifting themselves one movement at a time. If you make a mistake the character falls from the fence and you must start over.
2) Physical Action Reaction (PAR) interface events
This interface is used during Fahrenheitâ€™s massive collection of mini-games. The interface works in two ways. Firstly, the player is confronted with a series of directional squares, which proceed to light up and the player must strike corresponding keys. The second PAR event revolves around button mashing, as the player is presented with a gauge that must be filled and maintained to a certain level; if the player cannot accomplish this button-mashing task, the event is failed and, in most cases, a life is lost.
The MPAR control scheme invokes an interesting immersion into the game world, and evolves interaction a step beyond that which is usually offered by adventure games. The PAR events are not revolutionaryâ€”especially in terms of controlâ€”but their integration into Fahrenheit is extremely well done. Their effective fast pacing nimbly draws the player into the action, unlike most adventure games that proffer a more relaxed, almost spectator position during the gameplay.
During in-game conversations you choose the next question in the event with the MPAR control scheme, a series of words pertaining to the questions appears in the top of the screen and by moving the mouse in a certain direction you ask the question belonging to that movement. A timer runs during these conversations, and if you donâ€™t ask a question within a set limit then the computer automatically chooses one for you. So, if you decide to, you can allow the computer to determine your gameplay pathâ€”although this obviously removes much of the valuable action and immersion.
Throughout Fahrenheit the player can collect bonus points; these come in the form of cards which are hidden all across the game. You can use these points to unlock bonus content. This content includes the entire gameâ€™s soundtrack, a selection of action sequences, and even a complete â€˜making ofâ€™ documentary.
As with Nomad Soul before it, the graphics in Fahrenheit aren't particularly state of the art. This isn't exactly a problem, however. Due to the gameâ€™s gritty feel, and some excellent motion-capture animation, they still manage to complement the gameplay. Of course, one of the advantages garnered from reduced quality graphics is the game can be run on a reasonably low-end system.
Most of Fahrenheitâ€™s animation is motion captured; while this has obvious fluidity advantages, it also tends to makes the more subtle gestures and character actions seem a little overacted, especially certain hand and arm movements. However, this isnâ€™t a serious problem and amounts to little more than a small aesthetic flaw. Due to the motion-captured movements, most of the action is incredibly smooth, which results in some memorable visuals.
The camera work in Fahrenheit is something really special. Basically a free-floating character; the camera can move around you while pressing the right mouse button and moving the mouse or, if you hold the left mouse button, the camera turns into a separate entity which can be freely controlled by turning it on its own axis. By pressing the middle mouse button you can receive a subjective view from your characterâ€™s eyesâ€”a first-person view, if you will. Next to these modes you can also make the camera flip between several cinematic viewpoints, really creating the sensation of being in a movie.
During cut-scenes the player is treated to all sorts of great visuals; in some cases the screen is split into several windows, each of which shows the action from different angles, yet again making for a great cinematic experience.
The in-game sound is nicely done. Although not incredibly special itâ€™s always well timed, perfectly in sync with the action, and blends with the gameâ€™s musical score. The ambient and atmospheric sound is also well executed. Considering that most of the game is set in New York during a blizzard, you can almost feel the icy chill as the wind whips and howls through your speakers.
Fahrenheit comes equipped with its own soundtrack, a moody electronic score that really adds to the atmosphere of the game. The music sits comfortably and complements the ambient sound of the game throughout.
Did Quantic Dream live up to its near-legendary reputation with the release of Fahrenheit?
The answer has to be yes. Fahrenheit brings some genuine innovation to the gaming table. Although not perfect, the game admirably introduces some great concepts that really immerse the player. It successfully adds something new to a genre seemingly stilted for half a decade. The gritty atmosphere, gripping action sequences, and incredible central narrative all mix beautifully to provide many hours of great gameplay. The â€˜every action has a consequenceâ€™ mechanic means that the game offers up considerable replay value. This reviewer has uncovered 3 separate endings thus far, and thatâ€™s probably only scratching the surface in terms of whatâ€™s possible within the game. Quantic Dream has really delivered with Fahrenheit and itâ€™s intriguing to contemplate what they may come up with next. A sequel to Nomad Soul is scheduled for release as early as next year. Letâ€™s hope Fahrenheit can tide us over until then.