dudacles's Fahrenheit (Xbox) review

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Fahrenheit is something special, and a game that you should try

 

Fahrenheit is one of those games that you don't play, you experience them. It's essentially one big, drawn-out quick-time-event that allows developer Quantic Dreams to express their vision having without gameplay mechanics impeding what is essentially an interactive movie. If a game has no true gameplay, its narrative better be really strong, and thankfully, Fahrenheit's mostly is. However, while the story only hints at super-natural subjects over the course of its first half, the second half throws every form of pretense out of the window and brings the freaky. You may love the first part and detest the second. I personally enjoyed this game all the way through, aside from its ending, which lacked a good punch.
 
I can't talk about the game's story too much, lest I ruin some major points for you. As you might've gathered, with the game's gameplay-lacking nature, deriving pleasure from watching the game's tale unfold is key to enjoying it. A small set-up should suffice. 
 

 Lucas's life suddenly takes a turn for the worse
 Lucas's life suddenly takes a turn for the worse

Fahrenheit opens with the main protagonist, Lucas Kane, waking up from some sort of trance and finding that he has stabbed a man to death in the bathroom of one of those stereotypical New York diners. This displeases him and promptly sends him spiraling down into a depression. He makes a break for it, and a couple of hours later, two police officers enter the crime scene. They're called Carla Valenti and Tyler, and they've been charged with the investigation. You'll take control of these three characters and experience their woes along with them. You might think it weird that you're playing both sides of the game here, but Lucas doesn't know why he was driven to commit this murder either, which makes for some interesting story mechanics as Lucas is attempting to uncover the mystery with the coppers chasing him every step of the way.
 
If you don't like QTEs, then you won't like Fahrenheit. You'll probably despise it. You can walk around freely, and you can run by holding down the A button. That's probably the closest thing the game has to traditional control mechanics. If you run past an object that can be interacted with, an icon will pop up at the top of the screen, representing a specific direction to push the right stick in. Upon doing so, Lucas, Carla or Tyler, depending on whom you're controlling, will do his or her thing with the object. There's a lot of stuff that can be examined or influenced in some way or another. Depending on the stuff you touch, the game's events will see slight changes. For example, as you are trying to flee the diner at the start of the game, you may forget to pay your bill (because, let's face it, if you're playing a game, going back to your table to pay your coffee bill isn't the first thing that comes to your mind.) Failure to leave money at the bill will lead to the waitress calling you back. The fact that you didn't pay your bill will cause the waitress to mention this in the police interrogation. It's not on Silent Hill: Shattered Memories' scale, but these little touches do make the game slightly more immersive.
 
When you're not walking around an environment, looking at stuff, you tend to be in some sort of action sequence. These events are always governed by your ability to push both sticks in the right directions as the icon is lighting up on screen. These moments come in all manner of contexts, from some truly crazy hand-to-hand battles to activating thought processes. You get a number of lives at the start of each one, and if you fail to hit the buttons correctly a couple of times, you will have to start the whole thing over again. This can actually be quite frustrating, because the QTEs tend to go on for a really long time, to the point of being too drawn-out. However, on the Normal difficulty setting, I've never failed a quick-time-event, so assuming you're decent at following on-screen instructions quickly and correctly, you shouldn't have too much trouble. The game tries to vary its QTE mechanics a bit over the course of the game, and does so successfully. Not all of them are good, but apart from a single “breathing” quick-time-event, none of them made me wish I was playing something else.
 

 Action sequences are controlled by long QTEs
 Action sequences are controlled by long QTEs

There is another way to fail the game. Basically, all three of the protagonists have a “mental health” meter. If you do something that displeases them, such as causing Tyler's girlfriend to get mad at him, the meter will drop. Doing stuff that makes them happy, like putting on some music while roaming Lucas's appartment, makes the meter rise a bit. Keeping Carla's and Tyler's meter up isn't too hard, unless you specifically aim to make them feel bad, but Lucas is going through some rough times, so you may activate something, thinking that it won't do any harm, and then see it turn into something painful, killing his optimism. Also, certain events have to be completed in a specific way. Failure to execute the script will completely kill off any mental health Lucas has and send you careening towards a reload screen.
 
A couple of instances also force you into a clunky stealth sequence. Put simply, they are terrible, and almost made me stop playing the game. The controls are imprecise, so in the rare cases that you're actually forced to put them to good use, they really don't do the job. There is no guard AI to speak of present either. The watchers will just stand there, frozen, and the only way to remove them is by activating an object. Truly, these moments would've been better off cut out of the game, or turned into an action sequence.
 
Fahrenheit was somewhat controversial back when it came out, due to two uncensored (in the non-NTSC version, that is) sex scenes. The first scene is over in a flash, and nothing special, but the second one is slightly more explicit. Still, the naughtiest thing you'll see is a low-resolution nipple. These days, what you see here is nothing special, and the somewhat aged graphics further make the inclusion of naked people irrelevant, even to the hardest-core of soccer moms. The love-making is quite well done, though, in the context of the story, it seemed a weird moment to indulge in copulation.
 

 The NTSC version contains censorship
 The NTSC version contains censorship

Most of the game consists of canned animations, and they look quite good for it. Indigo Prophecy is an original XBOX game, so by today's standards, it looks passable. It's no looker anymore, but it didn't bother me at all. The music is pretty fantastic, which is a great plus, and the voice-work is solid across the board. The game presents itself as a movie, having the tutorial take place in a recording studio, and the menus have these DVD-like selection options, like the “Play” arrow pointing right.
 
If Fahrenheit's story doesn't click with you, you'll probably dislike the game. However, chances are it does, and in that case, you're in for quite an experience. Around the half-way point, the script pulls a one-eighty, which you may not like either, but personally, I enjoyed it pretty much the whole way through. I'd say it's definitely worth checking out. Fahrenheit is one of those games that I feel you should definitely at least try at some point, if only to get excited or lose all interest for Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain.

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