Fahrenheit

I’ve just finished playing Fahrenheit, an intriguing game.

It caught my attention because it sets out to be different from many games of today. For a start, it’s not a sequel or subtitle (”Game: the second”), it’s new IP, and more importantly it recognises that games can be all about storytelling and direction. In fact, the game sets out to blur the line between participant/player and storyteller.

I was a bit disappointed by the visuals, partly I think from being spoilt by Half Life 2. The lip syncing and face rendering in general is nowhere near that level of fidelity. The character animation is also a little weak, there are obvious switches between motion capture sequences (walk to run etc). But when playing the game you really don’t notice these things. It is so immersive and engaging that your suspension of disbelief easily carries you past these aspects.

There are a combination of elements to the game. “Traditional” walking around, exploring a scene, looking for interesting aspects to investigate (which reminded me of Resident Evil in many ways; looking for that glistening item in the dark room) and the interactive actions, driving conversations and performing physical actions. This is a similar to the QTE mechanism in Shenmue (or at least the Dreamcast version that I played), although it’s more widely and better used. It consists of using the controls (the keyboard and mouse in my case) to ape the actions of the character on screen, to perform Track and field style button bashing for effort, or to follow Simon-says style colour sequences. They work well as a means to link you physically to the character in the game world, for example, using the controls to breath in a slow and measured way to keep the character calm. My main complaint about this is that I found myself focusing on the control overlays on screen, rather than the action that my character was performing behind them! Given some of the fantastic sequences the game contains, this is a shame.
The game is a little on the short side; it left me wanting more, but in many ways I prefer this to being forced to perform mundane/frustrating tasks that serve to artificially lengthen playing time. So often nowadays I never get to see the end of a game, despite investing hours of time. I did however, feel that the story had a slightly rushed feel towards the end, given the lesiurely pace at the start of the game. If this was a deliberate attempt to reach some sort of crescendo, it didn’t quite work.
Reading this back, it all sounds a bit negative: it isn’t meant to be! Despite it’s quirks this was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting game to play. If you’re into different gaming experiences I’d definitely give it a try.