I’ve just stabbed a man in a restroom. I couldn’t control myself – it was like watching some ghastly movie! I hide the body as best I can in one of the stalls and mop the blood from the floor. My wrists are bleeding. I wash the wounds at the sink and pull my sleeves down to hide them; I’ve got to get out of here! The only window is barred; I’ll have to go back out through the diner: I steel myself and walk slowly out of the restroom. I drop some money on my table, and step out into the snowy night…
Fahrenheit is best categorised as an adventure game, but it has little in common with the point-and-click greats; the first scene I described can happen many different ways, and it will have an influence on what you find in the next scene; where you play the detectives called in to investigate the murder you just committed; I found the knife lying on the floor, but what if I’d hidden it in a toilet cistern in the last scene? In truth, nothing much – I’d just have been able to find it there instead.
Fahrenheit is an interactive movie; it does a magnificent job of offering the illusion of choice, but it always tells the same story. That said, the manner in which this story is laid before you is compelling; although the scenes will always lead to the same overall outcome, the manner in which you reach it can vary markedly. Of course, if one is forced to follow a certain story, it’s important that it be a good one, and here Fahrenheit stumbles.
The story is interesting, certainly, and quite engaging at first. As you investigate the murder you committed, and flee from your own pursuit, the interplay between the different viewpoints is executed with remarkable skill. The movie-like nature of the game is made evident too in the more mundane scenes: making a cup of coffee with your wife, or chatting with your neighbour over a glass of wine. There is an unusual sense that these characters are people; that they have lives beyond the plot.
Sadly, this doesn’t last. As the story progresses, it gains an increasingly strong element of the fantastic, which while intriguing at first, rapidly becomes completely ridiculous. Even so, if you can relax and enjoy the ride, the last part of the game is still fun, albeit lacking the promise and anticipation of the beginning. Story aside, there’s little to Fahrenheit. The gameplay is unusual: the use of mouse-gestures to interact with objects brings a sense of immediacy that’s rare, and the quick-time-event based action sequences are a passable method of creating tension and challenge, but there’s nothing to it that stands on its own merits.
By any normal measure, Fahrenheit is not a good game. If you want an adventure game filled with clever puzzles and witty jokes, or you want a well-told and mature story, it’s not for you. If you want something unusual though, something wonderfully unlike any other game, then Fahrenheit is exactly what you want.