Amidst all of the sequels and me-too titles crowding the games market, it's sometimes hard to keep up the enthusiasm about gaming. Look, another WWII-based shooter. Oooh, yet more real-time stategy with a historical setting. Aaah, another car combat/gangsta' street racing title. How fun.
And then along comes a game like Fahrenheit, and everything seems right with the world again. Sure its gameplay doesn't always shine, but its dogged determination to be unlike anything else on the market wins it kudos from us.
Fahrenheit is for the most part more an interactive movie than game. We realise, of course, that the term 'interactive movie' has been thrown about far too many times in gaming circles before, but trust us, Fahrenheit is the real deal. Unlike traditional games which allow players to pause, take stock or even backtrack through levels, Fahrenheit sweeps players through its narrative without any pause, forcing them to make decisions on the fly. Structured like an old Choose Your Own Adventure book, most decisions made in the game can affect later events, with Fahrenheit having several different endings depending on the course a player takes.
The story itself is part X-Files and part Silence of the Lambs, with a little bit of Matrix-style action thrown in. All of the plot's myriad twists and turns add up to be the game's highlight - if you're eager for a game story that doesn't feel tacked on, then Fahrenheit will please. It's by no means breaking new ground, but it has mined its genre sources well enough to come up with a compelling adventure.
The game starts off brilliantly - it opens in the restroom of a small restaurant. In one of the stalls, an unknown man is convulsing, seemingly in some sort of trance. He carves symbols into his arms with a knife. The unknown man lurches out of the stall, approaches another person washing his hands, and violently stabs him to death. Seconds later, the unknown man breaks out of his trance. He sees the dead man on the floor, the knife in his hand, the blood on his arms. The game then splits the screen in half to show players that outside of the restroom, a policeman sits quietly drinking coffee. You're then put in control of Lucas Kane, the unfortunate soul in the restroom with evidence of murder all over him. Do you rush out of the stalls? Do you try to hide the body? Fahrenheit gives you no clues as to what should be done, leaving you to decide how to best extricate Lucas from this situation.
The story not only follows Kane as he tries to discover the forces driving him to murder, but also lets players control the actions of the two police officers investigating the murder - Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles. While Kane's sections of Fahrenheit play like an episode of The X-Files, Valenti and Tyler's play like CSI. You'll need to gather evidence, question witnesses and piece clues together, all in an effort to track down Kane. Playing as both the hunted and the hunter is an innovative mix, and adds to the uniqueness of Fahrenheit.
Fahrenheit's control scheme is similarly unique, employing a mixture of Simon Says-like action, frenetic button mashing and analog control stick twirling. Most of the game's interactions utilises the PS2's control sticks, with on-screen indicators informing players what specific pushes on the sticks will do. These actions are context sensitive. Stand next to a cupboard, for example, and pushing up on the right analog stick will make your character open it. Stand next to a fence and doing a quarter turn on the joysticks will make your character climb. Dialogue is handled in a similar fashion, with conversation choices chosen either by pushing up, left, right or down.
The game's many action sequences use both analog sticks to tests your reflexes. Similar to the old Dragon's Lair arcade game, on-screen indicators will appear to tell you which direction to press the joysticks just before an event occurs. Dodging a car, for example, may require you to push both sticks to the right at the same time. Fail to do so in time and your character will get hit. Other action sequences will require to you tap the L1 and R1 buttons as rapidly as possible.
These action sequences can be quite enthralling. While early in the game the sequences you have to follow are quite simple, their complexity and speed ramp up considerably as you play through Fahrenheit. It's edge of the seat stuff for sure, as you'll need to be fast and accurate with your joystick responses. It's a double-edged sword for Fahrenheit, however, as concentrating on the on-screen indicators often means you'll miss what's happening on-screen. Kane does some pretty impressive moves throughout the game, but the chances are you won't really notice as you'll probably be focussing intently on what direction you should be pressing next. Another area of concern is that it's sometimes difficult to see the indicators on-screen, depending on what's in the background of the game.
Fahrenheit also suffers from occasional control issues which can range from mildly irritating to downright frustrating, depending on the urgency of the game's mission. The game sometimes has difficulty with a character's orientation when camera angles change, resulting in characters walking into walls when you're clearly pushing away from them.
Fahrenheit's graphics are for the most part unspectacular, although the game's designers went to great lengths to create realistic and articulate faces for all of the characters. Where the game shines is with its audio - the voice work is excellent, lending the sometimes fantastic events happening on screen some credibility.
Niggling control issues aside, the compelling storyline and innovative gameplay approach makes Fahrenheit a must-have title for players wanting some change in their gaming diet.
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