Gaming has evolved and apparently adventure gaming is considered too archaic for "modern-day" gamers today. Hoping to revive this dying genre, Quantic Dream's David Cage once said, "The genre needs a new perspective". To deliver upon his words, Cage came up with a sort of new re-imagining the genre needed in the form of Fahrenheit (known as Indigo Prophecy in North America for some strange reason).
Calling Fahrenheit "different" would be an understatement. It plays like anything but a conventional game. To start off, it controls differently. Instead of the usual use of analog sticks you would expect in a third-person perspective game, Fahrenheit comes up innovative control design. With tighter controls which aim at making character movements seem realistic rather than exaggerated this game definitely gets the re-imagining part of adventure games on consoles spot-on. But, Quantic Dream doesn't stop there. Instead they go one step ahead and bring out "intuitive, immersive controls" (as put forward quite humorously by David Cage in the game's tutorial) which really sets Fahrenheit apart from any game of it's time.
These "intuitive controls" are nothing but a simple but unique refinement of console controls. So if your character wants to open a door, you have to do push the analog stick forward to push the door open. Similarly if you want to pick up a mug, you push the right analog up. Such actions always appear on the top of the screen whenever you approach any such "interactive" objects, so you always have an idea of which direction of analog stick will do what. It's a smart idea and is implemented pretty well to an extent.
The game also uses quick-time events (QTE) in generous (and in latter stages, excessive) amounts to involve you in the action taking place on-screen. Most of the times, QTEs are used in fight sequences taking place on-screen but they're also used for different slightly irrelevant purposes like playing a guitar, dodging and scoring a basket in a one-on-one basketball match etc. It's not unique (unlike much of the game) and remains as a bleak contrast to the rest of the game.
Fahrenheit's story is a psychological thriller. It begins with easily one of the most tense, exciting sequences I've played in a game. You are Lucas Kane, an average Joe that has apparently been "manipulated" into committing a cold-blooded murder in the restroom of a diner in New York City. The game begins here and you take control of Kane. In a thrilling split-screen set-piece, you're supposed to clear the crime scene of any evidence before a cop sitting in the diner finishes his coffee and visits the restroom to wash his hands. Everything best about the genre is put to use here. Keen visual observation, quick thinking and strong reflexes of player are put to test here. Miss cleaning out bloodstains off your shirt or hiding the knife and you'll probably see a Game Over screen in less than two minutes of the game.
The game features a pretty likeable cast. Lucas Kane as the grim, depressive, paranoid "victim" of an unknown force is probably the most likeable since you'll be playing as him for most of the game. Other playable characters include Carla Valenti, a NYPD agent and her sidekick, Tyler Miles. Their camaraderie is the humor relief of the game. There's also Marcus Kane, Lucas' estranged brother who is a Catholic priest. All of them are voice-acted in an "okay, good" kind of way you would generally expect from a game.
Calling Fahrenheit an "interactive movie" wouldn't be too wrong to an extent. Much of the game progresses in the form of cutscenes many of which are interactive and all of which are very stylishly shot. David Cage uses the game's camera like a movie director would. Never shying away from utilizing different angles during conversations nor using split screen sequences during numerous cutscenes. There are gameplay sequences similar to the first mentioned above all of them being as exciting. The game is so ambitious on its style and design that it even uses sepia-textured art design in flashback sequences. The game is definitely heavy on cut-scenes but unlike some other games of its type, Fahrenheit has so many tricks up its sleeves that make most of the scenes interesting enough.
Despite all of the mentioned praise-worthy elements, Fahrenheit stumbles at many places. Most of these flaws are concentrated or highlighted repeatedly in the absolutely awful second-half of the game. In fact to be honest, calling Fahrenheit's 2nd half a bleak contrast to the first would be an understatement.
For instance, the game relies on quick-time events (QTE) a LOT. They were used restrictively in the 1st half but the game goes overboard with them in later stages. At times, there are three to four long-winded QTEs performed to emerge victorious in a battle. Fail in any one of those QTEs and you're subject to being tortured with again right from the first QTE.
Add to that the annoying use of QTE in things as simple as watching a cutscene. Later in the game, Lucas has the ability to "see the unseen" through his dreams (in other words, parallel universe). However, while you're seeing his dream via a cutscene you're subjected to constant QTE that needs to be pressed without fail if you want to watch the cutscene. The problem with this and with every QTE is its core idea. The developers apparently wanted to involve gamers in the action of cutscenes by the use of QTE. The problem with that is that you're SO busy in pressing controls as displayed by QTE that you actually don't give a damn about what goes on in the cutscene beyond. You're just too scared about missing a QTE and starting from all over again.
Certain flashback sequences involve you infiltrating an army base. You have to use stealth here. Ironically for a game that uses a variety of camera modes otherwise, these flashback "stealth" sequences have a fixed camera that hinders you from getting any proper view of the surrounding and turns out to be a major annoyance.
All of this might have been still acceptable had Fahrenheit's story not deserted it in the 2nd half. There's a twist almost midway through the game which turns the story from a psychological thriller into a supernatural Mayan mythology one. After this there's no looking back. The game ditches logic and sense and brings about every possible cliché and bizarre twist in the book turning a murder mystery into "saving the world". You're expected to digest the fact when a realistic, mature story turns into something where "the world is controlled by three clans-Indigo Clan, Orange Clan, Purple Clan". You're expected to digest the fact that the protagonist who until sometime was a paranoid, suspiciously psychotic but nonetheless likeable person turns into a superhuman who can blow cars away just by the movement of a finger (and no it doesn't utilize any of those "intuitive controls" ). You're expected to also digest that two of the leads who were earlier on opposite paths thinking of each other as enemies, suddenly come across each other, say sorry and have a gimmicky sex scene. If this is how shockingly a great game is going to degrade into a mindlessly numb one, then it is tragic.
Characters that you earlier empathized for start taking weird decisions, blurting out dialogues you would have otherwise never expected from this well-written game. This apparently leads to a feeling that the game was rushed in development. The story definitely feels rushed by the end and every bizarre twist the game puts makes you feel that the game did not live upto its potential in the 1st half. Wince-inducing is a polite remark to what I would call 2nd half.
Maybe it's not as bad as I make it sound, but it still remains like a dark shadow of the game's excellent 1st half.
Quantic Dream are a rare breed of developers. They're highly ambitious and don't mind taking unconventional steps if needed to achieve that. Their last game, Omnikron : The Nomad Soul was a sci-fi genre masher that wasn't a particularly good game and not "better than sum of it's parts" unfortunately.
Fahrenheit is definitely better. It will dazzle and amaze you with it's brilliantly shot and directed cut scenes. It will create a feeling of tension and excitement with the split-screen sequences. It's story will initially make you wonder upon the sanity of your own character. Yeah, it's that powerful. But the over-reliance of quick-time events and the pathetic degradation of game's into a mindless, clichéd one are easily the two most glaring downfalls of the game. Give Fahrenheit a try but with caution of its possible shortcomings. It's a shining but flawed example of what adventure genre can potentially achieve.