Well. Can’t see this dividing opinion at all.
Back In The Day
Released in 2005 to general praise with a smattering of scepticism, Quantic Dream’s Fahrenheit was an attempt at making a straight up ‘interactive movie’. Staunch fans of choose-your-own-adventure novels were livid at being cast aside. Probably. It was a modest success, not lighting the world on fire with sales, but garnering enough interest to allow Quantic Dream to go on to make Heavy Rain (which was great) and Beyond : Two Souls (which was not as great).
Oh, fucking hell.
You play as several characters throughout Fahrenheit, beginning with Lucas Kane. Kane begins his journey in a hypnotic trance, causing him to straddle an old man in a diner bathroom and use a knife to practice his whack-a-mole skills on him. Kane then snaps out of his bizarre trance, mortified by what he’s done, and from there we’re off to the races!
You switch between Lucas, his brother Marcus, and Detectives Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles throughout the game, as the plot goes from confusing diner murder to utterly baffling Mayan prophecy come to life. It’s the sort of story that demands a lot of attention from the player, and in all honesty becomes less enjoyable the more convoluted it becomes. It’s still a very solid romp, but the mystic prophecy stuff simply isn’t as effective as the gritty psychological thriller elements from the beginning.
Fahrenheit looks like every other game that was made in 2005. The character models, though still retaining some blockiness and weird limbs, are well detailed, with each person nicely distinct from the next. The environments are nice enough, but the choice of setting the game in a snow storm does cause a few blips on the bullshit meter – a snow storm is a touch convenient with regards to fogging and draw distance.
In terms of sound, the voice acting is solid, though time has rendered it a little wooden and stilted. The score is great at what it does, building tension and dread where necessary, whilst still allowing for an appearance from the (somehow) whiter and trashier version of Nickelback, Theory Of A Deadman. Why, I could not say, but I’ll give them a pass solely because they had Donal Logue in one of their music videos, and he’s awesome.
Oh, fucking hell. Again.
With it’s tag of ‘interactive movie’, Fahrenheit is allowed a certain amount of slack when it comes to things we’d normally hate (like QTE’s). It actually works rather well, you walk around with the left thumbstick, whilst using the right thumbstick to interact with whatever objects take your fancy. In more frantic instances, things become something of a QTE clusterfuck, turning the game into a perverse version of Track & Field. And when we say perverse, we mean it – there are no fewer than two player controlled sex scenes.
The inherent problem with this, is that some of them just don’t work very well. In one particularly poltergeist-y instance in your apartment, you’re faced with a rapid fire hail of varying button mashes that will legitimately leave you with blisters, they’re that bloody difficult. It’s a good idea, don’t get us wrong, but it definitely needed some fine tuning. Which it got – it’s called Heavy Rain, and again, it’s great.
Another flawed but nice idea is the mood system, which shows the mental state of your character based on their actions. It really is a good idea, but it doesn’t bloody do anything except sometimes end the game (with an amazing Wonder Years-esque voiceover that essentially says “well, fuck!” every time) if it drops to zero. It’s good for a giggle though – “I was severely depressed after I murdered this man, but after a lovely hand wash, I’m only anxious! Wait, there’s bars on the window? I fucking hate bars, I’m so depressed!”
The meat of the game is derived from conversations you have with NPC’s, which allow you to choose how to react to them and their dumb problems and opinions. If it seems like we took too long to mention this, there is a reason – it’s effectively pointless, and no decisions you make will impact the game. Don’t you feel better now?
If it seems like we were harsh, it’s only because Quantic Dream have perfected their own formula in games since. And in truth, Fahrenheit is far from a bad game. If you’ve never played another Quantic Dream title, you’ll probably have a blast. As it stands, Fahrenheit is a neat little experiment full of great ideas that simply hasn’t aged very well.
Pros : chock full of innovations and ambition, fantastic opening scene, great score
Cons : cumbersome controls in parts, voice acting occasionaly gets a bit robotic, the story isn’t as big or clever as it thinks it is