Sometimes a memory is left best untouched. Such is the case with my revisit of Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered. I first played this game in 2005 on the original Xbox and remembered loving it. I recalled a rich story (though unconventional) and a break from what I considered the norm at the time. This was a monumental game for me then; crossing into more of an “interactive movie” genre, which I was excited for. This melded some of my favorite gaming memories: Dragon’s Lair type fully animated sequences with adventure game style exploration and problem solving. Perhaps that fulfillment is why I chose not to recall so much of what I found to be so frustrating on this second play through with the rerelease. But despite some frustrating elements this game contains a unique approach to the characters with interesting control elements that I feel are worth experiencing.
Fahrenheit was written and directed by David Cage, founder of developer Quantic Dream and published by Atari. Winner of several awards and originally shipping over 700,000 units, Fahrenheit (known as The Indigo Prophecy here in the States) did well for its self when first released, though I always thought of it as a hidden gem. Quantic Dream has gone on to develop Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls for the PS3. Both of these games carry on the interactive movie aspect presented in Fahrenheit. The score, which for me was one of the most beautiful and striking things of the game, was composed by Angelo Badalamenti. Anyone familiar with David Lynch’s films will know his work if not his name but he has been a composer for many, many great movies.
The story begins with a murder as a blizzard sets in on New York, basically shutting the city down. This really sets the lonesome, ominous tone of the game while also (I’m thinking positively here) explaining why the entire city feels empty because, seriously, there is just not a lot going on in any of the chapters as far as surroundings. But I think that Quantic took a technical limitation and used it to enhance the isolation of this chilling atmosphere that you feel while playing. It is true that most of the NPCs I saw just stood around and there is only ever one door to open if you have to search for a destination, but the bleak environment makes the desperation felt by the characters have some weight. You control three main characters throughout most of the game: two on one side of the law and one on the other. Interestingly enough, you are sometimes able to thwart yourself in the investigative process. Being both interrogator and the interrogated is a fun concept but I found that sometimes I could not tell whom I was controlling at which point and therefore would make a decision I had intended for another character. The player picks who to begin with each chapter of the game with but will ultimately end up playing as all of the characters during each section. Quick time events dominate the action sequences and a timer based conversation element maintains a sense of urgency during the slower dialogue periods. I enjoyed both of these aspects but depending on how you feel about quick time events this is a persistent enough mechanic that it could bother some people.
The game really plays more as an interactive story than most games out there. Tyler Miles and Carla Velenti are the two NYPD detectives in charge of the murder case and Lucas Kane is the suspect who does not remember committing the crimes. You control all of the character’s movements in 3rd person and are responsible for interacting with objects and gathering clues, though the interactions with objects and other characters (including NPCs) are limited to what the story allows. In other words, this is not a game with tons of exploration. Conversations progress with multiple dialogue options set to a timer that will automatically pick a negative if allowed to run out. Action scenes like fights are controlled either by quick time event or rapidly alternating button sequences (e.g. rapidly tapping the L & R shoulder buttons on controllers or “a” & “d” on the keyboard). Slightly branching storylines from different conversational outcomes allow for repeat plays but I am not sure exactly how varied or expansive these are. But with multiple endings this is less of an issue. The supporting cast, though small, is enough to add depth to the main characters and flesh them out as the story progresses.
The murder investigation progresses slowly through the first half of the game. In some cases (most of the apartment scenes for Tyler and Carla) the game was just plain tedious, though these portions were useful for character development. After the midway point the pace picks up and the story gets… weird…er. We go from an occult murder story to ancient Mayan Matrix beat’em-up in a half beat. It was almost as if the writers just ran out of time or didn’t know how to wrap the whole thing up. While the first half of the story felt like it dragged on, the second half felt rushed. I know the change happened at about the 50% mark because the character’s PDA (that’s a “personal data assistant”, when was the last time you heard that?) gives you a progress status.
I used a PS3 controller for the entirety of the game and ran into no problems. The quick time events are managed with the two control sticks and indicated onscreen with two colored indicators that correspond. During third person control, while exploring environments, the camera is controlled with the upper shoulder or bumper buttons and objects are interacted with by controller movement commands issued at the top of the screen. Occasionally which side of a cabinet your player was searching was unclear and this could be frustrating but could be due more to user error with camera control than the controls themselves. However, this was a common problem for me in the apartments. The quick time events give warning before beginning and were forgiving, but precise in what was required. In a few places a certain chapter would require some stealth and these proved frustrating more for lack of instruction and implementation than control. Again, one more aspect that felt tacked on or underdeveloped.
I instinctively went for the controller when I played Fahrenheit because that is how I played previously, but I may have done myself a disservice. In going back and replaying a little bit with the keyboard and mouse I found the controls to be more fluid and responsive. The jerkiness I experience with the controller was smoothed out a bit and I found that my fingers did not tire out quite as easily as when I used the controller. Also the movement inputs to interact with objects felt more natural when using the mouse as opposed to the analog stick.
So here we are with a remastered version of Fahrenheit and the graphical update is okay. Not astonishing, but good. A true widescreen mode has been added and this is the unedited version. The graphics for Indigo Prophecy were not spectacular upon release in 2005, but that was never really the draw for this game in the first place. You can switch between the original graphics and the remastered if you are interested in seeing what Aspyr had to work with. As far as gameplay, I would have been ok with playing an edited version of this game that streamlined some of the problems but I really appreciate Aspyr’s time and efforts preserving the original. I think that for those of us with fond memories of cult hits like this a rerelease with a graphical update is almost a gift. I’d love to see more games given this treatment.
While there are more games in this genre now than ever before, Fahrenheit is a predecessor worth looking into. I don’t think we would have other big hits like Telltale’s story driven, character based games without Quantum Dreams first foray into the field. And yes, the first half of the game was slow. Really slow. Searching Carla’s apartment for wine glasses was not necessary ten years ago and it is not necessary now. The sex scene was… awkward. And Tyler irritated the crap out of me for the first half of the game. Was his girlfriend even worse? Yes. But if I hated them it was because of a well-scripted story and how intimately you get to see the characters. And after all of Fahrenheit’s faults I do still think that Quantic Dream came close to realizing a hard thing; an interactive movie about a cultish murder mystery told from multiple angles. That was a hard thing to accomplish, much less sell to a publisher, ten years ago. Heck, try it now. So perhaps it can be forgiven for turning Matrix-like towards the end and trying to be a little more commercially approachable. I wouldn’t say that Fahrenheit has aged well so much as withstood time, but I do think Aspyr has done a great thing by reintroducing this classic game.
- Great story/control mechanics
- Use of tech limitations to enhance game’s ambiance
- Characters with depth
- Musical score
- Extraneous activities that do not progress story
- Slow plot for first half/Wacky second half
- Can be tedious