Fahrenheit - Turning up the Heat
Fahrenheit – Turning up the Heat
Well, last night I finished a run through of Fahrenheit (released in the US as Project Indigo) and I have to say – I’m impressed.
I don’t mean that in a small way either, I’ve seen too many games (even worked on a few) to be impressed easily. It’s not sparkly graphics that impress me – the graphics are nice but no Half-Life 2 or Far Cry – and its not multiplayer fragfests that impress me – Fahrenheit has no multiplayer.
No, what impresses me is that the company have done exactly what they set out to do, and what they set out to do was redefine the almost-dead adventure game genre, whilst creating what may be the first real “Interactive Movie” experience.
The entire game revolves around this idea of an interactive movie. The tutorial is even presented to you by the Director who talks about the game as if it were taking place in a movie studio. Once the game starts, we’re treated to cinematic camera shots, multiple controllable characters and, most importantly, a truly cinematic plot.
The main ‘hero’ of our story is Lucas Kane, and ordinary man in the wrong place at the wrong time. The story begins as he comes out of a trance, having just stabbed a man to death in a restaurant rest-room. We’re plunged straight into the action as we have to figure out how to get away without being caught by the police – one of which, unfortunately for Lucas, is sitting at the counter inside the restaurant enjoying a coffee.
The story and game itself is fairly linear but at each point there are many choices that can affect the way the story unravels. The whole game can be finished somewhere around 7-8 hrs however even knowing the plot, I’m still tempted to go back and play again making different choices. What, for instance would have happened had the character just tried to run at that point, instead of trying to clean up some of the evidence? What if the police that come to investigate after Lucas gets way (who you get to control as well) were apathetic about investigating and did a slip-shod job?
I could go on, but I don’t want to ruin the story.
The game takes its cinematic roots very seriously, borrowing liberally from popular movies and stories of the last few decades. There are scenes that could have been taken straight from the matrix later in the game and one scene that is very reminiscent of Silence of the Lambs. Rather then detract with their sameness however these scenes are quite well done, and show an attention to action and detail that most current games – particularly the reasonably poor adventure games released in recent years – lack.
The control system also deserves a mention as it provides a lot of the feel that draws you into the game. Your character is controlled with the cursor keys, in a resident evil style control pattern that has you pressing up to walk forward and left or right to turn, whilst down makes you do a quick one-eighty turn to face behind you.
To interact with objects in the world however, you use the mouse and a mouse gesture system similar to the one used by Black & White, though simpler and more forgiving which is a bonus. To walk through a door for instance, you hold down the left mouse button and push the mouse away from you (if the door opens outward) or towards you (if it opens inwards). The required gestures for actions you can perform are always displayed at the top of the screen next to icons that display the action. Obviously these are context sensitive – if you’re near a door, it will show you what gesture to perform to open it, and perhaps what gesture to perform to look through the peephole and see who is behind it. If you’re near a fridge it will show you what gesture opens it. Once its open, there is a gesture to close it, and perhaps a gesture to grab a carton of milk and take a swig.
It takes a little getting used to, but after about ten minutes it feels so natural you’ll wonder why anyone ever used point and click.
Then there are the action sequences, which are liberally sprinkled throughout the game. Normally I’m reluctant to play “Action Adventures” as they tend to be twitch fests with a few adventure trappings however the scenes in Fahrenheit add to the tension and plot rather than detract from it.
There are three types of controls used in the action sequence, the first is pressing left and right alternatively as fast as you can – a control method that harkens back to the days of the Commodore 64 and other early computers. This method is used when you need to do something that requires strength, such as lifting something heavy or resisting something strong.
The second is again pressing left and right, but this time more carefully, trying to keep a bar from getting to close to either edge. This is used in times of stress, for keeping calm or balancing.
The third control method is used in all the most impressive action sequences, often in conjunction with the first method. It’s a Parappa the rapper style sequence hitting game, where you’ve got to use both the cursor keys and the numberpad and press the right direction at the right moment. The directions often seem to mirror what’s going on on-screen and are quite a clever way for giving the user control of the success of failure of very complicatated action sequences. You’ll make the main character jump, dive, kick, struggle and… well no, that would be spoiling the story.
One final point, this game is trying, and succeeding to be an interactive movie. It has everything you would expect from a modern, adult-oriented action film (including clichés – angry police chief anyone?). There are killings, gun-play, mysteries, chases, escapes, evil villans, good-hearted love-interests, plenty of time with each main character exploring their inner (and outer) motivations, and sex.
Oh yes, did I mention the sex? Fahrenheit has really turned up the heat with full love scenes (and no, they aren’t just writhing on each others laps with their underpants still on a-la Playboy Mansion) and one of the scenes even includes a mini-game. This bears talking about with all the controversy surrounding GTA:SA and the Hot Coffee mod, because from what I’ve seen, Hot Coffee has nothing on the scenes in Fahrenheit.
That’s not to say they’re excessive, and they certainly don’t contain anything you would see on an M15+ movie here in Australia. A shock for some gamers perhaps, we’re not used to getting to see CG nipples on screen – normally even when the breasts are bared and bouncing (Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines for instance), theres still something covering the nipple. In that way, games seem to be about four decades behind movie, for some reason it is seen as worse to show something in a game, that’s made of digital characters (IE, Computer Generated. Not Real) that can be seen at 9:30pm on free-to-air TV any night of the week.
It also remains to be pointed out that unlike Hot Coffee, the love scenes in Fahrenheit are there for a purpose. They explore the characters, create links and help form an emotional bond in the mind of the player so that when events occur later in the game we actually care. This is one of the main artistic reasons movies also include such scenes (also, it sells. But I’m talking about –good- movies).
Overall, I can’t recommend this game enough. Theres enough replayability that the shortness of the playing time isn’t that much of a problem – as it will be interesting to see how different scenes can play out with different choices and the game gives you the option to replay any scene you’ve already played in a particular account to see how it could have been different, and there are extras to unlock as well – movies, an art gallery, and many of the action sequences are available to be played on their own, or watched without being played so you can enjoy the scene without paying attention to the twitch-action.
If you like action movies, if you like adventure games, if you like good stories – if you just want to try something a bit more involved than the average “modern” game, then you must buy this game.