Jun 10, 2010

The unique experience that was Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy I guess)

fahrenheitWhen the Fahrenheit demo came out on PC, the gaming crowds seemed really impressed. Oddly, so were pure adventurers (of the point-and-click variety). This, you see, was a very unique and refreshingly innovative game with a demo that managed to brilliantly showcase all its best elements and leave you wanting. It was immediately evident that Fahrenheit was a game heavy on story, a game that was very proficient in using cinematographic techniques, a game that was obviously an adventure at heart, but also a game with beautiful graphics, impressive production values, excellent music and convincing atmosphere. The fact that it opened with the protagonist brutally murdering a random guy in a diner’s toilets did help establish the mood too.

What’s more, the full game, and that was a most refreshing change, mostly delivered on what the demo promised. Not that it didn’t have its mediocre bits, some incredibly bad writing or a shockingly silly ending, mind you, but it really was unique. And if you haven’t played it yet, it will still feel unique in 2010, as no other game, beside its PS3 exclusive sequel, dared pull its tricks again. First of all, its context sensitive interface had both an early Wii-like mentality and let you interact with almost anything in the game in a variety of ways, that almost provided you with the -perceived- interactivity of a text adventure. Secondly, the brilliant cinematics were turned into quasi-interactive ryth mini-games, and you also got to play a variety of different characters, solve some pretty interesting puzzles, intelligently interact with incredibly detailed environments and even get (almost) scared. Then, the use of multiple cameras went beyond mere aesthetics. It was a new gameplay element, that allowed you, for example, to see an adversary approaching while still trying to solve a puzzle or decide what to do next.

indigo prophecyStill, the strength of the game lay elsewhere. Fahrenheit, though admittedly only at times, managed to offer players a sense of complete freedom and the branching storyline to go with it. Take the game’s opening scene for example. You have just murdered a man you never knew and are standing bloody-handed in a toilet. You can simply try to escape unnoticed, you can try washing up and hiding the body, you can hide or simply ignore the murder weapon, you can panic and run out of the diner, you can go back and seat at your table pretending nothing happened, you can try to figure things out by examining the crime scene or even just leave via the back door. Assuming you actually left via the back door, you now had the option of either wasting time and talking to a weird yet intriguing homeless person, leaving the place on foot, going for a taxi or riding the tube. And then, when you assumed the role of the not totally unattractive detective chasing the former you, you’d have to actually deal with your former actions.

Intriguing, isn’t it? And it does get better, trust me. Sports a ton of minor innovations too. So, uhm, if you haven’t played Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in the US), and you can stomach a mediocre B-movie plot, I strongly suggest you give it a try. Here's the PC version demo.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:


  1. I'm glad you took a look at this one. Indigo Prophecy (the US name for the game) really shined because of its intensely moody, dramatic story. It was also the first game (at least the first game that I played) to feature quick-time events. I suppose the spiritual successor to this is Heavy Rain, though I haven't played this one myself.

  2. Haven't tried Heavy Rain myself dear Red Bull, but from what I hear it is indeed a true successor, though apparently -once again- the plot is quite a bit on the meh side of things.

    Mind you, I'd absolutely love have one -any- of the Infocom writers create a game in this style.

  3. I really enjoyed Indigo Prophecy for the fact that it dared to be different, didn't have me frustrated on silly puzzles that made no sense and that I am really quite fond of silly plots.

    One of the few games that I mentally classify as a 'post adventure game'. Maybe I just enjoy coming up with silly new genres.

    Anyway, I liked it, and consider it a very good example of pushing new boundaries that others are too afraid to push.

  4. Pleased to see you cover this too. I played the PS2 demo of Fahrenheit years ago and loved it for exactly the same reasons mentioned in your post (wii-style dual-stick actions, multiple choices etc).

    A recent mention on Twitter (that I can't find now - it may have been yourself!) reminded me so I picked up the PS2 version last week. I'm still playing through it, so i'll hold off on a proper review until I finish, but so far it's been a bit disappointing to be honest.

    I'm really enjoying the story and the characters, and the adventure game 'feel' (coming from an inexperienced aventure gamer mind), but it's mostly been an exercise in frustration.

    Despite the game offering choices, i'm constantly butting against things I can't do (I fully understand why, as it's unfeasible to make a game that caters for all of them, but still), and the quicktime events are a real pain. Now i've played plenty twitch games in my time, but now i'm finding that i'm turning to slower-paced games, and especially in a game like Fahrenheit where I want to explore and follow the dialogue, quicktime events are just an annoying distraction.

    It also doesn't help that the game presents an interesting world for you to explore, and then punishes you for doing so (simply looking at a picture of your ex makes you depressed), or that some of the animations take ages to play, especially when you're on a time limit.

    The action-oriented elements don't seem to gel comfortably with the smouldering plot for me, but I appreciate the open-ended structure and cinematic stylings. I'll persevere with it (currently on the stealthy childhood section), the plot's already going a bit wacky so we'll see. I haven't played Heavy Rain either, but i'd be interested if it offers something similar, albeit without the quicktime events.

  5. @ Ben304: I like the sound of post-adventure, despite the fact we lack a definition of adventure. And of course I liked it too. Also just remembered Codename Iceman...

    @Rambo: I can see what you mean. When the freedom stops where you'd expect it to really lift the game can be most disappointing. As for the quicktime events I just saw them as an interactive addition to cut-scenes. Nothing more, nothing less. Oh, and the stealthy childhood bits are by far the worse and most infuriating in the game.

    As for Heavy Rain, I believe it's almost a sequel.

  6. I was first shown Fahrenheit on Tokyo Game Show 2005 and I liked it. I tried to play it some time later and found it extremely annoying: unskippable sequences, long dialogues about nothing and this strange interface - often, I would know what I wanted to do, but couldn't do it, because interface reckoned pushed the wrong button at wrong time. As a result, my character wouldn't do what I wanted, which was very frustrating in the first moments especially, due to time limit.

    I gave it a re-try recently, partially due to write-up on Eurogamer, partially due to Gnome's suggestion. I had deja vu - it was annoying for me to play it, plus the graphics were really dated. I tried for some two hours and erased it from the disk.

    Sorry, it might have brilliant story and innovative puzzles, but I don't like it and won't spend precious hours of my remaining lifetime playing it.

  7. Well, it's not as if you didn't try dear Barts, but I guess we can't always agree on matters of taste.

    Mind you, you do make some valid points, though to be frank I never really struggled wit the interface. Oh, and the story is far from brilliant...

  8. I found the escape from the murder scene at the very beginning very well thought-out in terms of alternative paths the player can take - that's pretty much the only good thing I have to say about Fahrenheit.

    What followed was very cheesy and most importantly extremely boring - I stopped playing after a a few hours. I'd say, a rather disappointing experience after the very good Nomad Soul. I don't even see this game as trying anything innovative - everything it does was already done (better) in past titles.

  9. Oh my.. Harsh words those... Tried Heavy Rain dear Igor?

  10. Actually Heavy Rain looks quite interesting to me from the gameplay videos I saw, and I would definitely give it a try. However, I have no PS3 (or any new generation consoles for that matter), so either it will be released for PC or I can forget it.

  11. It's the same situation here. I'd definitely grab a PC version, but lack a PS3.