By: Tristan Jones on March 13, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Platform: Xbox
Also available on: PS2, PC
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Quantic Dream
OFLC Rating: MA15+
AKA: Indigo Prophecy
It's been a long time since games provided a completely interactive experience, or near enough to. So often games seem to come down to driving fast, beating the Christ out of someone, or straight up blowing them to hell. Sure you get RPG's but they're a very select (though large) minority in comparison, but even they aren't truly interactive and rely more on story and adventure, and you get your larger adventures or puzzlers where the interactivity varies but the most it really ever comes to is looking and touching with constant and repeated results that only ever incite a proper reaction when a key object is programmed to do so. Finally, Quantic Dream and Atari have teamed together to bring us one of the most in-depth and thought through adventures available.

Fahrenheit, or Indigo Prophecy in case you're reading this in the United States, is a supernatural thriller that sees gamers take on the role of Lucas Kane, a man who finds himself under the control of a supernatural power and forced to murder a man in the bathroom of a small diner in New York. When he comes to, he has no idea what has happened and discovers that his perception has broadened allowing him to see into a world no others can. Sounds kinda new, but here's the interesting bit, you also play as Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles, the two detectives investigating the murder Kane committed. So while you try to help Kane survive and avoid being caught by the police, you must also play as the cops trying to solve the case and actually catch him, and depending on how you play each section, you can make things easier or more difficult for yourself when it comes to playing the other. It's an interesting spin on gameplay that I haven't come across much before, and those games that do similar things haven't been as well executed as in the case of Fahrenheit.

The gameplay is truly what sets this game apart, but that said, it's also the gameplay that ultimately detracts from particular segments of the title. The world is totally immersive and has been made as 'realistic' as possible. Sure the graphics aren't up to scratch for the X-box, but the realism comes in the environment and your interactions with it. Just about anything not nailed down or shut can be moved or opened, and everything is logically placed so a lot of this game comes down to real world thinking. I found myself thinking a number of times that because this was a video game, there'd be certain ways of obtaining things, when really they were just there were they should be, not locked in a room which needs such and such a key to unlock it, but said key is locked in a box requiring you to solve a puzzle before opening it. The interactivity between characters is the most interesting aspect of the game, and the timing that comes with it. For instance, the morning after the murder, the police come to your house, and you are presented with a large number of things that might arouse the suspicions of the officers outside. Take too long and their suspicion rises, leave certain things out, hide things in the wrong place, leave cupboards ajar, not make your bed or wash your face, literally all manner of things can incriminate you. It really does raise a level of paranoia in the gamer to make sure you're covering your tracks perfectly, but even overdoing it can lead to trouble, so there's a very fine line you have to walk to remain a free man. On the flip side, sloppy police work will result in severe problems for Carla and Tyler. There's an identikit moment where the player must piece together an image of Lucas for the detectives based on predesignated features. I thought I actually came pretty close, but the results told me otherwise, not even reaching twenty percent accuracy, and because of this, the identikit image becomes useless. When talking to people it's as close to real world logic as in game conversations can come. You are literally given split seconds to steer the conversation. In a number of games you are given a number of questions you can choose from to acquire the information needed to progress. Here you are given only so many one word 'ideas' or paths to send to conversation, and if you fail to choose one in time you can ruin the chances of obtaining any info at all, similarly if you choose to take to wrong path in conversation you can effectively kill opportunities for progression or lower your characters 'zen' level.

The 'zen' level is basically the health metre. It's an interesting idea, similar to the sanity metre in Eternal Darkness, where certain events can alter the mood of the character. The best you can reach is Neutral, and it drops down to Tense, Anxious, or Depressed and if it gets too low your character will commit suicide. While you do have control over the Zen metre, there are moments where your mood will drop or rise during moments you have no control over (such as cut scenes). There are huge amounts of things that can vary the mood level, having a snack or drink, cleaning up a bit, making progress in the investigations, talking to the right people, heck, even taking a whiz puts it up. The most hilarious one is the sex scene though. That's right, sex scene! I'll explain a bit more a little later, but perform well and you get a massive Zen boost, perform poorly and obviously it goes the other way.

In spite of so many moments of gaming brilliance, there are a number of drawbacks that are especially noticeable on the X-box. The most obvious is the graphics. They are good at best, but nowhere near what it likely could and should be on the X-box. It feels more like a game that was developed for PlayStation 2 and ported across, but even the PS2 is capable of better graphics than what is present here. The frame rate is constant and everything is smooth, it's just that the textures are muddy and rather behind the times for a game as recent as this one. The biggest detractor in my mind though is the use of rhythmic pattern or button mashing puzzle situations where you must co-ordinate button actions with commands on screen in order to progress past certain areas. Sometimes it works, like playing the guitar and the sex scene, but most of the time it gets in the way horribly, particularly during action sequences. You want to see what's going on in the back, but you can't because you have to keep your eyes glued to the button commands in order to survive. It would have been far better if there were ways to play these sections of the game out instead of letting button patterns dictate the survival of a character who you can't really pay enough attention to to realise what he's truly in danger of. And when you do catch what's going on in the back it's a shame because it looks like a really exciting section of the game!

The game is also a little on the short side and even on the normal difficulty, players who can get the right mindset when playing will have it finished it in a day or two of solid playing. There's a huge amount of replayability though if you want to try taking different courses of action to see how it alters the game's progression, and there are a number of alternative endings to the title.

Fahrenheit's atmosphere is terrific. As you delve deeper and deeper into the supernatural elements of the game, the score (written and composed by Angelo Badalamenti, who worked on the soundtrack to David Lynch's film, Lost Highway) really comes into it's own. At the beginning it feels a little out of place with the creaking violins and such (and the fact that it's constantly repeated), but as things go on it builds more and more and really heightens the mood the game intends to evoke. There are also some licensed tracks from Theory of a Dead Man which are worth a listen to. The sound effects are all perfectly placed and though some are stock standard, the majority work where they're placed, but the real draw card here is the voice acting. It's lip-synched perfectly for the most and the acting really is very genuine, though no notable names are among the cast.

Now, before I wrap it up, I really do have to mention the sex scene, because it's hilarious. I never thought I would play a game outside of the Leisure Suit Larry games, with such a gratuitous sex scene. Kane's ex-girlfriend comes around, she's a bit of a push over when it comes to getting into her pants and before you know what's happened, you find yourself having to control a sex scene with a Theory of a Dead Man song playing over the top. I'm sure it's meant to be meaningful and slightly erotic, but it's really, really funny. There's also Carla's shower scene later in the game which is kinda funny too.

Anyway, Fahrenheit, or Indigo Prophecy is worth a look into, it may not please horror enthusiasts looking for bloodshed, but fans of the older Sierra titles such as the Police Quest games, the Gabriel Knight games or Dagger of Amon-Ra will likely enjoy this one. It's nowhere near perfect, and will probably feel more at home on a PlayStation 2 than the PC or X-Box, but it does try a number of new things in terms of gameplay that might well garner it a bit of a cult following among gamers across all systems.
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