The return of the ‘interactive movie’
Being passed through several publishers, renamed “Indigo Prophecy” in the United States for reasons unknown and pretty much slipping underneath the gaming press radar the whole time, Fahrenheit is nonetheless a surprise hit and a welcoming departure from traditional action adventuring. The main allure behind it is the concept of the “interactive movie” – not of the god-awful FMV variety from the 90s, but rather a third-person 3D adventure with multiple characters having distinct choices on how they solve the mystery.
A branching storyline means you can replay many parts of the game differently, and the plot combined with interesting characters make it an intriguing journey. The cinematic concept in all of this is central – instead of “New Game” you choose “New Movie” from the menu, with a long but professionally done scene setting the stage. A ritualistic murder inside a New York diner restroom leaves your character – computer technician Lucas Kane – in a daze. Lucas awakes as if in a trance after committing the act, not understanding what just happened to him. You take control shortly after, presenting one of many tense situations where you have to think smart and fast – it’s only a matter of time before someone walks in and discovers the corpse, so what could you do? Bother hiding the body and murder weapon, wasting valuable minutes, or calmly walk towards the exit and hope you can flee the place?
Just as soon as Lucas escapes we cut to investigators Carla and groove side-kick Tyler arriving at the crime scene, and from there the story splits and splits again between multiple characters and time periods, painting a complex (and towards the end, very confusing) picture of what the hell is going on. Probably the most interesting twist here is that you get to play characters with conflicting goals – murderer Lucas on his quest to find out what happened, and NYPD investigator Carla out to catch him.
The story unfolds in expertly directed scenes that can be stacked into two categories – the traditional exploration phase where you can interact with the environment, talk to people and learn the story, and color-coded quick time events for action scenes. Here you mash the appropriate buttons in the appropriate time intervals for your alter ego to successfully pull off his or her stunts; screw up the timing and it’s game over. You’ll probably have to train yourself to focus on the color circles and not on the spectacular action scenes.
Overall, Fahrenheit / Indigo Prophecy is a unique and engaging experience. It succeeds admirably as far as creating tension and intrigue, even though the story isn’t hugely consistent towards the end. It starts as a spooky detective story and ends with something that looks like The Matrix. But while it’s a bit confusing to follow and short overall – 10 to 15 gameplay hours in total – the journey itself is fun enough to justify going through it.
System Requirements: PIV 800 MHz, 256 MB RAM, 2.5 GB HDD, 32 MB Video, Win 98/ME/XP