Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy review

Format played: PS2. Also available on: PC, Xbox. Current prices: £20 new, £15 pre-owned.
Where found: In Gamestation, as part of there "£20 if bought with anything else in store" offer.
Developer: Quantic Dream. Publisher: Atari. Genre: Adventure.

A few years back, when the Dreamcast was still a relatively new format, a developer by the name of Quantic Dream created a rather ambitious adventure game by the name of Omikron: The Nomad Soul. It's most notable feature was that it contained the music and tlikewiseise of David Bowie, and despite not quite living up to the promise it was (and still is) a decent game and would be well worth checking out if you found it pre owned for about £5.

Nothing has been heard of Quantic Dream for quite some time, until now, with the release of Fahrenheit (or The Indigo Prophecy as it is known in the US). I first became aware of this game around last July when the Next Gen Videos E3 DVD box set was released. The director, David Cage, talked viewers through the opening part of the game, which shows a man in a tracommittingting a brutal murder in the toilets of a New York diner, only to come to and realise horrificrifc act he'd just done. This is where players take control of Lucas Kane, the game's main character and the catalyst of the story. You have to quickly decide whether to clean up after yourself, or just get out of there as fast as you can. You must make sure the cop in the diner doesn't catch you though. The game takes a stylistic leaf out of 24's book, with split screens showing what's happening simultaneously at once. It works really well, and really builds up the tension and atmosphere in the game.

Another factor which is always very important for the general atmosphere of a game is the soundtrack, and Fahrenheit gets top marks in this respect. The haunting style of film composer Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, A Very Long Engagement) can be heard in the main theme of the game. Unfortunately, he only composed a couple of tunes and they get re-used all the way through the game, so by the end the impact is lessened somewhat. There is also an array of licensed tunes - not your usual stuff either, a surprisingly eclectic mix of classic funk and dance tracks, and some pretty average "rock" from a new band called... oh er... I forget their name they're that memorable. Anyway, apart from the naff rock, the soundtrack is very competent. Voice acting is generally top quality too, which is quite important when you're going for a moody, atmospheric tone for much of the game and your characters have to sound believable. Not that there isn't any humour in the game, there's quite a few little jokes to make you chuckle along the way.

Graphically, Fahrenheit is by no means the best I've ever seen on the PS2, but it isn't bad either. Animation, lip synching, the afore-mentioned split screen effects and particle effects for weather all help to uphold the believe that your taking part in a Hollywood film (or, *shudder* an Interactive Movie). Some of the textures looked a little drab and low detail sometimes and the characters have a rather chunky look to them though, so it loses a few marks there.

Now I'm afraid I must get on to the negative comments. The controls, while quite "innovative" are often quite horrible and a real struggle to use. The method of choosing whconversationtion tree to go down or what object to look at by pushing the right stick in various directions works fine, but the camera can be really annoying. Many times the camera angle shifted on me and I ended up walking in a different direction than the one I was trying to go in. You can hold down the L1 or R1 buttons to rotate the camera (in theory) but I found it would just shift back to where it was as soon as I let the button go, which is less than ideal.

Then we come to the story. I loved the first half and the whole mystery surrounding the murder. The other controllable characters (that's right, Lucas isn't the only one) are likeable and well crafted. But then the whole story tends to go up its own arse in the second half and it's almost as if the director was trying to create the gaming equivalent of The Matrix trilogy. If by that you meapretentiousious, over hyped, ludicrous pile of drivel then you'd be right (I'm not to keen on The Matrix, apart from the first film, as you can tell). There is also something else that happens in the story that really annoyed me, but I won't mention it here as it's a major spoiler. Check after the pictures if you have completed the game already and see if you agree with me.

Finally, the game doesn't really pose much of a challenge and is fairly short. It would probably only take you a few evenings of effort to complete the game. While there are a few diverging paths you can take and a few different endings, the game is nowhere near as free as openingeing chapter might lead you to believe.

All these thiconspirepire together and detract from the good things about the game. If you're looking for a good adventure for the PS2 or Xbox there isn't really much else on offer, so this is worth a look. If you are a PC owner though you have much more choice and there are many better games available. If I had paid full price for the game I would have been very upset, but as it is it only cost £20, which I still think is a bit too much. Maybe in a year or two, when it has gone down to £10, would it really be worth the money. As it is, if you like the sound of Fahrenheit, I would suggest that you rent it.

The RetroModern Gaming Score: 7 out of 10.

The opening chapters are probably the best part of the game.

There are various mini games and action sequences, but most of them boil down to a simple "Simon says" style. Fun once maybe, but gets rather old on repeated plays.

Spoiler Warning

Near the end of the game, Lucas and Carla (the female cop that's been on his trail most of the game) decide to call a truce and try to work together to find out what's really going on. Seemingly moments after agreeing to work together, they are shagging in the back of a derelict train! I found this very far fetched, out of keeping with the character that they'd portrayed for Carla for most of the game, and rather gratuitous. Plus the fact that Lucas was actually dead when they did in, which would make Carla a necrophiliac. Eww.

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