- Innovative game engine and story-based gameplay
- Well-rounded characters backed up by good voice acting and motion capture.
- Ridiculous story
- Pretentious vibe
- Has aged extremely poorly. Is outclassed by essentially any adventure game released in the past five years.
Fun fact: I played this game way back in the day when it originally came out on the PS2. Back then I knew it as “Indigo Prophecy”, and my teenage self was intrigued by its emphasis on cinematics and interactive storytelling, so I rented it for a weekend. I didn’t finish it during that rental period, and needless to say, I didn’t rent it a second time. The game’s story was just too weird. I think it was about the time that the main character began developing superpowers that I decided to let Blockbuster keep this one. So, ten years later and here I am playing this game again. Ten years older, ten years wiser… I’ve aged pretty well. Can the same be said for Fahrenheit?
The game gets off to a bad start when I’m greeted by French menus. This isn’t a big deal, but it’s a weird, lazy oversight, and it sets the tone for what’s to come. It’s especially weird considering this is supposed to be the “definitive” remastered edition of the game, but it just ends up feeling like a lazy port of a previous PC release. It does feature some updated textures for the new HD resolutions, but I honestly could barely tell any difference. Also, in another weird, lazy oversight, the game mode that features HD textures is actually the one with the old, low-res text and menus. I don’t know how the developers in charge of the port messed that one up. Anyway, after switching to English, I’m quickly reminded of director David Cage’s quest to create “interactive film” when, instead of “New Game” being an option on the main menu, there’s instead the option for “New Movie”. This, coupled with the game’s tutorial consisting of an in-game, low-poly version of Cage himself in a virtual movie set “directing” me, the player, through the game’s controls and promising a world where “anything can happen” creates an annoyingly pretentious vibe. Why must Cage remind me at every turn that this is an interactive movie? Can’t the product just speak for itself? Shouldn’t a game, or an interactive story, or whatever you choose to call it stand on its own as an experience instead of relying on the strengths of another medium?
I have to admit that I do like the game’s engine and core gameplay. Quantic Dream came up with a pretty good control scheme and game mechanics for a title focused on storytelling. Interacting with the environment and selecting dialogue choices is all done with the right stick, which is both intuitive and immersive. Holding left to slide open a closet door to the left, for instance, feels natural, and actions that require holding a direction longer, like turning on a light, do a good job of putting the player in the character’s shoes. It’s simple, but it works. With this engine you could conceivably tell any film-like story interactively, with quick-time events provided for action sequences or scenes in which characters must exert themselves physically. The characters are also all well-animated due to extensive motion capture, and are generally well-voice acted. David Gasman in particular gives a grounded, believable performance as main character Lucas, which is actually saying a lot given the ridiculous material.
That’s really where the problem lies. Despite the game functioning fairly well and providing a good system for telling an interactive story, the story itself is, ironically, the game’s downfall. It’s just poorly conceived. Cage is ok with dialogue and basic character emotions and relationships, but for some reason he isn’t content with just telling character driven stories. Fahrenheit is full of supernatural nonsense that only serves to alienate the player from any connection they might have felt to the characters. Full disclosure: I still haven’t finished the game, even after writing this review. I honestly can’t bring myself to; it’s such an unenjoyable experience. As a kid I stopped when Lucas developed superpowers; this time I couldn’t make it past the giant termites. I wish I were making that sentence up. Every now and then I will indeed feel as though I’m in the shoes of a character, making dramatic decisions with consequence in the film of their lives. I like the scene where Lucas’s estranged brother Markus gives him a call. It’s legitimately dramatic and interesting, and then it’s immediately ruined when Lucas tries to explain that he only committed a murder because of some magic mumbo jumbo. I instantly stopped caring. The vast majority of the time spent playing Fahrenheit feels like this; it feels like playing a stupid video game. A poorly written one that takes itself too seriously and comes across as pretentious for it. I find this quote from Cage extremely ironic and extremely telling:
Why couldn’t the game have just been full of moments like this, like the phone call between brothers who haven’t seen each other in years? Simple, relatable moments between real people with real problems.
Because of this I can’t really recommend Fahrenheit, even to fans of the adventure genre, except as maybe a historical curiosity. In the end, Fahrenheit is an admittedly ambitious, but extremely flawed and ultimately unenjoyable experience. It is interesting to see some of the strides it made, and its lineage can indeed be seen in modern adventure games like The Walking Dead, but in a genre that’s all about storytelling, and with a story as uneven and poorly-executed as this one, you may as well just watch a real movie instead of this cheap virtual knock-off. Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered is the pretentious poeticals of a college freshman.