A few of my colleagues at Coin Arcade have written reviews and editorials about games that really influenced them or hold a special place in their hearts. I think it’s time to talk about a game that means a lot to me, namely Fahrenheit.
Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in North American regions) was a game released in 2005 by French developers Quantic Dream whose credentials up to this point only included Omikron: The Nomad Soul, a turn of the millennium game released on PC and Dreamcast, having not owned either one of these at the time, I never got to play it. But it did reasonably well at the time, leading to the development of Fahrenheit under the oversight of gaming monolith of the day, Atari. (Who I understand are now in financial peril).
I’m going to say right off the bat that calling Fahrenheit a game is about as rational as calling North Korea a democracy where people can do what they want — but much like North Korea, it isn’t trying to be. Quantic Dream reiterated that they viewed their creation as more of an interactive drama than a game in the conventional sense and given its approach to interactive storytelling, it’s probably worthy of this pretentious moniker.
Real emphasis is placed on the storyline, which revolves around a conspiracy involving a series of murders and the wider implications of them. Fahrenheit stands out here in that you don’t just assume the role of one character, but four who all link together in the events of the game. The protagonist, Lucas Kane, who perpetrates one of these murders as shown in the opening cinematic as though under some sort of trance whose plot revolves around understanding what happened and why. His brother, Markus Kane, who is essentially just a support character who can only be described as having less personality than a pubic louse and all the likeability, and two detectives who are pursuing Lucas for aforementioned crime.
The jumping back and forth between these characters means that in some sections you’ll be concealing evidence of your crimes and in others actively trying to prove your own guilt. Now as far as experiences go, that’s pretty fucking schizophrenic. Although, it does allow for interesting character development and creates moments of tension when it seems likely that Lucas will be caught by the actions of the player themselves. Outside of this there are numerous other characters that each fit it this spider web of a plot that all connects to the overhanging conspiracy of Damocles that seems likely to come down at any moment, which given that the plot has more twists and turns than the Nemesis roller coaster, makes things all the more exhilarating.
The interactive portion of the game results from choices the player makes that influence the endings the player may receive, not limited to a happy ending or less happy one’s including several where the protagonists may decide to remove themselves from the gene pool in a variety of interesting ways. The classic conversational wheels make an appearance and allow players to answer in a variety of different emotions including sarcastic, aggressive, passive and aroused. The results of these choices can influence the players actions via an in-game sanity and well-being mechanic, an attempt is made to represent these emotions graphically but there is a feeling that they were limited by the technology of the era.
Graphics are also a little below par, even for the PS2/XBOX era, with very low-res textures being used which are indistinguishable from other neighbouring textures making everything fuzzy. Something that isn’t helped by most of the game taking place in snow environments which puts things in a sort of white grain. These texture conflicts become particularly noticeable in certain instances, for example when one of the female characters is nude. This may have explained why a certain 15 year old, testosterone-loaded reviewer liked it so much back in 2008, so in a typically French move, Quantic Dream earn points for sleaze, something which seems to be a recurring theme in their titles.
The game also has a great original score which works in tandem to create a profound, emotional experience and features several bonus tracks from alternative rock band Theory of a Deadman, including “Santa Monica” which ties in with a plot element in a way I won’t mention in this review, because I actually want readers to play this game for themselves.
I wouldn’t be a critic if I just gave this a tonguing, so here’s something to rip on. Gameplay, which it would be possible to criticize, if there was actually any what so ever. Quantic Dream, building an interactive drama is fine, but making the only player interaction with it through the use of the analogue sticks is equivalent to making a person run a 100m sprint by doing the worm breakdance to the finish, it looks fancy but isn’t the most efficient way to do it and before long something is going to get sore. For the most part I felt like I was watching cut scenes with thumbstick DDR sections in them that somehow check if I’m still paying attention and epic fight sequences should not be determined by how well I can twiddle my thumbs, that’s just counter-intuitive and only sightly more involving than watching any of the metal gear solid films (sorry, “games“.)
In summary, the plot is a combination of conspiracies, the occult and a classic wrongly accused fugitive story on LSD with gameplay that is mostly absent and unimpressive when in action. Despite this, it is remarkably well written and David Cage, the writer and director of both this and multiple other Quantic Dream titles, should be singled out in particular for his remarkably brilliant story-driven approach.
Despite its shortcomings, the game was very popular with other critics than myself and went some way to establishing Quantic Dream as an icon of the interactive story genre leading to the spawning of Heavy Rain in 2010, which in many ways felt like a natural evolution of their approach, but that’s a whole different review entirely.
Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy is available on XBOX/PS2/PC and can be picked up for £1-5 at most secondhand games retailers or Amazon and I’d recommend the hell out of it.