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Fahrenheit

   
Known as Indigo Prophecy in the States, this ambitious title was Quantic Dream's magnum opus until the release of Heavy Rain. Mere days before their newest title was about to be released, Steven O'Dell and I embarked on the mission of playing the game through together. What was revealed over time was an in-depth analysis of Fahrenheit's timeless artistic style, characterisation and design principles. The following article contains lots of spoilers.

 Michelle's iconMichelle Baldwin
Pioneer Project

“In short I am blown away.”

This is my first experience with Fahrenheit, and my subsequent reaction must not be that different from those people experiencing Heavy Rain for the first time. What becomes apparent very quickly in the game’s opening moments is Fahrenheit is quite unlike anything I have played before. My first instinct is to reflect on how much I have underestimated this game, and astonishment firstly at both it’s subject matter, then how I’ve successfully managed to avoid the little details of what makes it stylistically and narratively quite remarkable for quite so long.

The fact it asks me from the outset to create a “New Movie” is very telling; the cinematic style is extremely compelling. As a massive internet multitasker I can’t help but quietly withdraw from the other things that I have running and sink into the style and power of the opening moments of the game. The first shot of Lucas is incredibly emotive and I’m already getting a sense of the hopelessness of his character, as the opening moments of the game has already flirted with the issues of murder, suicide, and existentialism. I feel inspired by the feelings that Fahrenheit is creating, most notably tension and intrigue.

Lucas stands over the murder victim.Lucas is haunted by a vision of the murder victim.

Unlike most games where I feel I have a good understanding of the boundaries of the game from the offset, Fahrenheit undermines this by dumping me at the heart of a murder performed by Lucas that I have no control over – much like himself I am disorientated and confused for a good portion of the game, running from one moment to another my actions are reactionary caused by quick fire decisions and tension. Fahrenheit seems to follow the typical movie archetype of crises, calm and climax that even the best games frequently fall short of, in short I am blown away.

Fahrenheit’s gestures and actions deserve a mention at this point – I am not a massive fan of Quick Time Events, but I will concede that this game marks a rare moment in gaming where they are a) completely suited to the subject matter and b) completely justifiable given the context, so far at least. I will have to see if my feelings about this change.

I like the character of Carla, it’s extremely refreshing to see an intelligent female character in a position of authority in a videogame. I secretly hope that she finds Lucas, but I am deeply torn between the varying desires of the main characters, how to influence them, and who to help. I’m sure I’ve already made a few mistakes but I am playing with my own moral compass, choosing to save the child knowing it would reveal Lucas to the police officer – a deeply powerful moment of quiet recognition – but also completely messing up the suspect photo-fit by not taking the situation at all seriously. I suspect both of these differently motivated decisions will come back to haunt me in different ways.

Steven's iconSteven O’Dell
Raptured Reality

“Attempts to push the boundaries of the medium in ways that it needs to be pushed in.”

Before I go on with the things I’m eager to speak about, I find it interesting that you’re almost certain you have made mistakes. That’s an interesting way to look at how your reactionary actions in gameplay affect not only the events/story occurring on screen, but also the way you reflect upon those situations afterwards. I can understand it, and the haste with which some decisions need to be made can leave the feeling that your choice was the wrong one, but at the same time that seems to be exactly the point of the game. The choice in actions, both positive and negative, are there to not only offer everyone something different or make way for water-cooler discussions afterwards, but to also ensure that what your experience is with the game is truly yours, no matter how you’ve interpreted the events or responded to them. With this in mind, I wouldn’t consider any of the decisions I’ve made to be mistakes per se, but rather the result of my mental reflexes and what that quick-fire response deemed to be the right answer. Call it instinct, call it an uninformed choice based on what seemed best at the time, but whatever it can be called, it was mine and that’s the story that I have participated in — for better or for worse. I just thought the distinction between our approaches was worth considering, momentarily. Thoughts?

Now onto my personal experience with the opening few hours of the game. As you know this isn’t the first time I have played through Fahrenheit; way back in 2005 when the game was originally released I played through it and found it then to be incredible, precisely for the same reasons you’re contemplating now. It was — and I’d argue still is — unlike anything else I had played previously, and its mature approach to the stories it was trying to tell was perfect in a time where juvenile humour (such as in the GTA games), things that explode (insert FPS game here) and the excitement for the next generation of consoles were the order of the day. But what got to me the most back then was two things in particular: the cinematic, film-styled presentation that you’ve already mentioned and, more importantly, the way it develops its four main characters — all of which, for those who may not be aware of the game, are fully playable.

A typical character select screen, with Lucas and Carla.A splitscreen view of Tyler and Carla both on the phone.

It was here where the game shined for me and again came at a time that I needed it to, my transition into maturity and adulthood an integral part of my life back then. Instead of faceless mutes or characters with the depth of a piece of cheese, Fahrenheit presented four remarkably different characters that each had their own backgrounds, were intriguing enough to compel me to find out more and, perhaps most importantly, were grounded in reality during the time of space marines and aliens. It was just sublime back then and now that I’m revisiting it, I can safely say that it still holds up superbly today.

The first thing that struck me upon this subsequent playthrough was just how well it holds up. It may not look that good anymore, with character models in particular looking blocky at times, but the general presentation and fidelity of the graphics is still impressive by today’s standards. Perhaps this is helped, in part, by the cinematic presentation the game so desperately tries to convey, and admittedly the game’s ‘levels’ are quite linear — the play possibilities within coming from mundane yet necessary interactions (such as getting a glass of water; more on this soon) as opposed to grand scale action-affairs — but regardless of the reasons why, it was a pleasant surprise for someone who is perhaps too familiar with current generation flair and spectacle.

Sam waits patiently next to the kitchen counter.Lucas searches for his brother in the snow.

Aside from that, the most interesting thing for me was how easily and quickly it hooked me in. I was expecting this playthrough to just be a nostalgic distraction: to reminisce about a game I loved and always felt was underrated, as well as preparation for what Heavy Rain may bring; but instead I got a game whose intrigue, mystery and fittingly (given the game’s focus on such matters), its abundance of small yet effective choices, combine to form something that truly is unlike anything else out there. It’s this last point that has been hammered home the most, and the one I cannot emphasise enough when discussing it now: Fahrenheit is utterly unique, attempts to push the boundaries of the medium in ways that it needs to be pushed in, even if such efforts end up being unsuccessful, and provides a central story that is defined by its maturity, mystery and measured characters. There are no stereotypical characters created to appeal as conduits to the gameplay here, just four people each with their own idiosyncrasies and personalities that are captivating in an industry still obsessed with generic no-names.

Which conveniently brings me to my segue-way over to you; now that you’ve had time to play it and consider some of your thoughts, how do you feel about the characters and the depth they bring to both the game and our impressions (not to mention interest) of them? And the story? Has that been interesting to you as well? What would you consider Fahrenheit’s primary focus: plot, or the characters that drive it? I’m particularly interested in your thoughts on Carla, as well as smaller female characters such as Tiffany.

Michelle's iconMichelle Baldwin
Pioneer Project

“Some of the weirder influences of the game are starting to creep through now.

I say mistakes because I’ve noticed that while this is a game that is deeply aware of the player’s personal decisions there are also clearly choices that do lead to a “game over” screen, either by complete accident or when I simply dabbled with the rules of the game, trying to figure out how clever its boundaries were. Could I pull the child from the frozen lake and then run? The answer is no, I was found and caught; there was no room for half-decision or wily intellect. Some of the finer moments of the game are distinctly black and white despite moments that suggest otherwise.

So far I like all the little insights into the character lives – what makes them tick, the locations in the game seem very linear with the emphasis being on the character driven moments; their decisions and their motives, this along with the rapid fire decision making that you’ve mentioned allows multiple people to experience Fahrenheit in a number of different ways. So you’ve picked up on moments and detail that I wouldn’t have looked twice at, and the differences are stark and interesting. Fahrenheit does look much better than I thought it would be I must admit – part of this is because of the upscaling due to playing it on the 360, but regardless it’s still a beautiful game; and mostly because the atmosphere produces both dramatic and artistic moments. The colour palettes are distinctive, that almost sepia filter styling the game. It’s no high definition action adventure title, but it does have a beautiful charm to both the setting and characterisation choices. I don’t need to see the individuals pores in Lucas’ skin, his expressions and carefully cultivated emotions show more than the detail could.

Carla peers into the glare of a computer screen.Tyler and Carla let off some steam in the kickboxing ring.

I’ve mentioned how much I like the character of Carla, I can’t convey enough how much as a female gamer I have to watch women in games simplified to caricature, lying in wait for their hero to wait to rescue them, and if they are blighted by some character problem which makes them unable to function without a leading man. Strong leading or supporting women are rare, and as such the majority of female characters are extremely difficult to relate to. I particularly liked her character driven moments, her playful fight with Tyler to help her unwind and her strong sense of camaraderie even while she’s in the ring with him, those playful pats and smiles shared between them were lovely.

So the moments I spent trying to navigate her through the police archives were very frustrating for me as a player, but an inspired choice for character development – her phobia was a perfect way to bookmark how ordinary she is, full of fear and indecision just like everyone else. I think I’d have dis-agreements with Quantic Dream about if that was the best way to approach it, having to juggle controlling her fear through breathing in a time consuming QTE which provoked my first major frustration in the game.

I fear I am not growing as attached to Tyler as I should be. Out of everyone in the cast he’s an extremely pragmatic sort of guy – but to me it also feels he’s the main comic interest to the story. That may just be down to chance, his appearances coincide with the funnier moments of the game: such as the book owner putting on a fake Chinese accent, a late rush to work, and two very tongue in cheek instances of breaking the fourth wall. You mentioned Tiffany, but Sam – Tyler’s partner – made more of an impression on me, she was a very real face on the risks involved in the fly away stories that games often create. Sam reminded me that we’re only ever a few steps away from tragedy (or worry about someone) and games don’t always manage to convey that sense of loss when the worst happens at all effectively. It was a bittersweet moment that deserved a pause for thought.

The oracle acts out the murder scene.Agatha talks in her wheelchair.

Some of the weirder influences of the game are starting to creep through now – I’m no longer entirely sure what the darker influences controlling Lucas are, who he’s being controlled by, and just who all these shadowy creatures drawn to him actually are; his conscience? Something fallible? I can only speculate. But what is clear is that the nostalgia scene of his past makes it unclear just how long he’s been marked by this shadow. I imagine that scene was included to help place further doubt on Lucas’ recollection of events. That said I didn’t completely enjoy the retrospective part with Marcus and Lucas as children, I felt it was a distinct change of pace from the rest of the game, but Fahrenheit has the right balance of adventure, intrigue and annoyances. It’s well paced, throwing in another curveball as soon as the drama is starting to tail off.

The introduction of Agatha was a particularly interesting moment, exploring the darker themes of the game that the opening scene explored, through that kooky house, slanted camera angles and rooms full of birds. And I must say I think this is a game exploring the ideas of innocence and experience, how even the most intellectual and open-minded people (such as the four main leads) understand very little about the true boundaries of the world they find themselves in. Revisiting the murder scene with the gaps in Lucas’ memory return was a moment of intrigue – a fabulous plot device – just a shame that it had to be endlessly punctuated by QTEs, although I get on with Fahrenheit’s usage of QTEs quite well they distract from the cinematic moments a great deal and are used a little too often. I imagine Agatha has a particularly interesting backstory that I hope is developed more, as I no longer fully understand what is going on spiritually with the game anymore; I am still on tenterhooks.

Steven's iconSteven O’Dell
Raptured Reality

“The very fact that Quantic Dream tried these things says a lot for their ambition as a developer.”

Well, without trying to spoil anything that will come up in the future, you and I are both probably in the area of the game where things start to change up and head towards that confusion you appear to be already going through. When most people speak about Fahrenheit they praise it, but also always mention the third act’s abrupt change of pace, and how it impacts on the overall experience. Back when I originally played the game, it didn’t bother me too much because the overall experience was so unlike anything else I had previously played, but I could always understand their concerns. But this is something that will no doubt be discussed later, so I’ll save any further thoughts for then.

There’s no denying that Fahrenheit explores some really interesting themes and subjects, and I think some of the scenes you have mentioned are prime examples of this. We have insight into Lucas’ past, which elaborates not only on him and his relationship with his brother Marcus, but also the weird and vague mental issues Lucas appears to have. As far as Carla is concerned, we see that she’s a normal person who sometimes needs to do something to unwind every once and a while, to clear her mind and distract her from what she has been focusing so hard on — namely the murder. We also learn of her Claustrophobia, and the inclusion of such a normal fear in a videogame is a remarkable point when compared to other games in the industry. Claustrophobia is a natural fear that countless people go through, and they each deal with it in different ways.

Marcus has a heart-to-heart with Lucas.Carla struggles with her phobia in the police archives.

Unfortunately for us, as the players, we have to deal with it by pressing the left and right triggers in tandem to simulate (awkwardly) the act of breathing. Do it too fast and we fail; don’t do it enough and Carla gets scared and has to run out of the archive. Balancing the moment whilst also trying to find the Kirsten file is, frankly, quite tedious, and it’s too easy to focus on one action while forgetting to do the other. However, the scene is admirable in its attempt to not only feature a commonly-found fear in a videogame, but for also having the guts to try and make it related to gameplay. That’s the thing that stands out to me the most about Fahrenheit overall: what it attempts to do may or may not be successful, but exploring more realistic themes within a narrative is a step in the right direction for the maturity and continued growth of the videogame medium, and the very fact that Quantic Dream tried these things says a lot for their ambition as a developer, their passion for the medium and their desire for it to progress. I share these qualities, which is why I was so excited to see what Heavy Rain may deliver, but that’s a topic for another day.

The last thing I wanted to mention today is my disdain towards the Quick-Time Events. Out of all of the games out there, I would suggest that Fahrenheit utilises QTEs in the most interesting and exemplary sense, but when I think about that further I realise that it depends on the context. When performing the more mundane tasks in the game — such as getting a drink, checking email on a computer or playing the guitar — the corresponding buttons make sense and aren’t a chore. The gentle pushes of the right control stick required to perform a task are controls that flow well within the context of the game and thus, feel natural to do on the controller. But whenever the two coloured circles — both of which have four directional movements that light up whenever we need to press each control stick in that direction — appear, that’s when things become awkward and arbitrary. It shouldn’t be difficult to punch a punching bag or shoot hoops in a one-on-one game of Basketball, but it is because of the quick reaction times needed to push both control sticks in the directions displayed on screen. We only have seconds to react, and it’s very easy — because both circles look exactly the same — to get confused and press the wrong one. This problem is exacerbated in the more intense action sequences, where our ability to hit these commands as required defines our success in them. It is very easy to fail and get game over because you didn’t react to these convoluted sequences quick enough, or because you made mistakes under the heat of the moment.

Lucas kicks a punchbag during a quick time event.Reliving the murder through a red first person view.

Which brings me to another flaw that I think Fahrenheit has: it’s far too easy to fail and have to redo scenes again. For example, the scene in Lucas’ apartment where you need to clean up after the murder and before too long a cop comes to investigate some screams reported by the neighbours; here you have a whole bunch of menial tasks you can do, either to clean up or to relax Lucas who is distressed over his recent actions. The order in which you go about these tasks, or even whether you do them at all, is mostly irrelevant; but if you’re not observant and completely aware of the evidence you need to deal with, then it’s too easy to get busted (game over) by the incoming cop, meaning you’ll have to start again. This is also possible in the opening murder scene — whereby if you’re not quick enough to get out of there, or don’t do certain things like pay your restaurant bill, you will fail — and a few other scenes. For a game that emphasises the human factor in terms of both character development and the actions that are available, the ease with which failing is possible seems at odds with the overall intended experience.

But really, despite the frustrations that these flaws derive, it’s very easy to forgive and forget as the game’s positives completely outweigh its negatives. What about you? Are there any particular flaws (aside from the QTEs you’ve already mentioned) that you are finding particularly cumbersome?

Michelle's iconMichelle Baldwin
Pioneer Project

“I’m certainly not surprised that the content Fahrenheit’s revealing now has confused and alienated some players.”

Given the amount of games I have played with truly awful QTEs, Fahrenheit just about gets away with them, but for two very specific reasons; the warning you get about each and every QTE ahead of time is incredibly helpful – so you have some buffer time to think and aren’t just reacting to the flashes on screen. I haven’t “failed” as often as I do in other games and I think this is why. The fact that the QTEs also follow the speed of the action is refreshing too, they speed up and slow down noticeably as the pace of the action on screen winds up or down. I do agree though that their duration is sometimes frustrating, some of the events go on far beyond what they should do – the destruction of Lucas’ apartment is a prime example of this, I didn’t need to see the entire inventory of his flat tumble towards him in minute QTE detail, a few key pieces of furniture would have been enough. Mainly the QTEs often border on distracting; sometimes something really compelling is happening on the screen but it’s so hard to tell because of the button mashing.

The gestures you’ve mentioned for actions are well designed, but it is difficult within the timed chat options to distinguish what you’re actually choosing from one word; sometimes the topic I choose bears no relation to what I actually wanted to know, and out of four or five options why limit the player to hearing only two or three? I sense that Quantic Dream is deliberately trying to keep me in the dark at just about every stage of the game, while I do understand their reasons for doing so it feels at odds with the tone of the game. In videogame terms I’m an explorer: I like to look in all the cupboards, all the rooms, talk to everyone and exhaust all options; but there’s little room for maneuver in Fahrenheit, you’re basically limited to trying to keep the characters sane and it frequently feels like I don’t have enough options or time to do this as I’d like to.

Four conversation choices while talking to Tiffany.Enormous bug-like creatures haunt Lucas' office.

Without wishing to lay into the design of the game too much, I think the saving mechanism has room for improvement, it’s sometimes very difficult to know when the game has saved. I appreciate that auto saving prevents the narrative of the game from being too broken up, so all that needed to be done was to make the red flashing save icon more visible and visible for longer.

I’m not disliking the change of tone to the game so far, there are moments that it could have been handled more delicately (mainly through less QTEs so I could properly see the cutscenes with the more gothic themes coming through.) This is a game that clearly wears it’s influences on it’s sleeves. It’s been a while since I read The Tempest but that was a play with the struggle between art and fantasy at its heart, most of the early scenes are glances towards theatrical metaphor, so every character in this game is crucial adding to the mystical warp and weft of the game structure, with each decision impacting on the rest. Shakespeare’s plays – his tragedies in particular – were frequently about discovery, particularly of the darker unexplained forces that pushed characters together. The story that’s unfolding in this portion of the game may seem at odds with that dramatic, quite straight, almost beautiful introduction, but I think it explains it even more; I’m certainly not surprised that the content Fahrenheit’s revealing now has confused and alienated some players, as it bends the lines between supernatural and factual in a contemporary setting. This is an uncomfortable mix even for gamers used to the far-fetched content of space operas and fantasy epics.

The Indigo child reaches out towards the screen.A dark circle of elders chat in an unknown place.

The interview with Tyler and Carla’s boss after Lucas’ escape started to show the in-game confusion about what is being seen. They both saw something happening that neither character could explain, this combined with the doubt surrounding Lucas’ narration of his experience means we are unsure of either his sanity upon seeing Agatha after her death, or the full depth of what he’s experiencing. Fahrenheit feels like an old, familiar story; something lifted from the pages of the old bard, challenging us to explain it away as the net circles in on Lucas.

Now seems like a good time to discuss the game’s name – as you know it was called Fahrenheit in the PAL region, but Indigo Prophecy everywhere else. Which name do you think suits the nature of the game better?

Steven's iconSteven O’Dell
Raptured Reality

“Not only was the change in pace severely abrupt, it was immersion-breaking and arguably entirely unnecessary.”

Indigo Prophecy, definitely. Why? Because it makes sense within the context of the third act, when more of the unique aspects of the game’s story start to reveal themselves. Indigo gets explained through another character; prophecy through explanations of what is happening, and what has already taken place. Fahrenheit on the other hand seems harder to associate with the game. Sure, it’s a reference to the worsening cold front that is happening simultaneously with the events of the plot, and it’s continual decline as things progress, but when compared to the other name it comes across as a distant link that isn’t as important. On a pure, unrelated to the game level, I prefer the name Fahrenheit, but that might be because I have a bias towards Mother Nature, so make of that what you will.

I have now finished the game, for a second time (remembering that I did so once when it originally released, too) and came away from my experience with some really interesting thoughts.

When everything was new and I was playing it for the first time, I appreciated it for its mature approach to both its characters and story: their personalities were filled with depth, intrigue and mystery whilst their situations were mostly grounded in reality. As the third act took place, the well-known and perhaps infamous abrupt change of pace was definitely noticeable, with some stranger things taking place, but even so I was able to take it on its own merits and accept everything that was happening. On my second playthrough however, this was different. Instead of accepting it on its own terms and ignoring some of the strange twists the narrative took, I found myself reacting to it like most people who have played it seemingly do: not only was the change in pace severely abrupt, it was immersion-breaking and arguably entirely unnecessary. Events in the story chopped and changed too quickly; what the characters did and how they reacted to what was occurring seemed at odds with their personalities developed in the previous chapters; and the information we’re expected to take in is overwhelming and delivered far too quickly. This combined with the intensity of the situations and the faster pace of both the story and our interactions through it culminate in a very hastily done — in terms of design, presentation to the player (the overwhelming information) and also what we can and can’t do as gameplay — third act that leaves you feeling confused, exhausted and uncertain as to what has just taken place.

The police team assess another murder scene.Lucas and Carla look out from a car window.

These feelings are exacerbated by frustration with the mechanics that exist in this act, the abrupt and hasty interactions feeling like a convoluted mess whereas before it was a bit more moderate and composed. Sure, you are still performing the same sort of actions that you were before, but the added speed and intensity of these moments puts pressure on the player to focus on what they’re doing while they are trying to comprehend, understand and show an interest in what is occurring in the narrative. Throw in scenes like the one with Carla in the Asylum and it just makes for a very frustrating, barely enjoyable experience. And my god, the mechanics where you must rapidly alternate between the Left and Right Triggers is just infuriating — instead of working like they have in previous scenes, the threshold for success or failure varies depending on which interactive moment you’re playing at the time. Some let you succeed when you get near the opposite end of the bar — or in other words, the right hand side after starting from the left — whilst others expect you to go all the way and maintain it for a prolonged period of time.

Failure to do so doesn’t result in just a failure of that particular quick-time event interaction, it also results in the loss of a life or complete and utter failure to progress any further in the game, resulting in a game over screen and a need to try again. Under the already overwhelming, intense pressure of the game’s final moments, this is just insulting and I wouldn’t be surprised if many players out there turned the game off in disgust. It’s poor game design — arguably something that covers the entire game, not just the final act — and hinders your experience rather than compliments it. It’s just such a disappointment after the first half of the game and while I was able to overlook the third act’s flaws on my initial playthrough, the more critically inclined and analytical side of me can’t ignore them on my subsequent one. They disrupt the flow of the game, alter the player’s perception of both its story and characters and, as evidenced by many people’s disdain with the final act, ultimately changes the perspective of those playing the game.

Sam and Tyler kiss.The mysterious yellow AI reaches out to Lucas.

It is really unfortunate because, as I’ve described in our previous exchanges, I really like Fahrenheit. I admire what Quantic Dream attempted to do with, I appreciate their more mature approach with a story grounded in reality which featured characters with a lot of depth, and I really believe that we need unique, intriguing and compelling experiences like it in the videogame medium. Linear, open-world, narrative based or gameplay based, videogames have the potential to do a lot of things, and Fahrenheit demonstrates just one side of that spectrum. Precisely, then, why I’m so disappointed that its potential wasn’t quite met.

But, despite all this, I still have some things I’d like to say about the game’s narrative, and of course the characters as well. I’ll save those for when you’ve finished the game though, as I’m sure you have a response to what I’ve covered above as well as your own thoughts on what happened to Lucas, Carla, Tyler and Marcus. I just hope I haven’t tarnished your own experience with my disappointment described above, because really, flaws or not, Fahrenheit is a truly unique game that I firmly believe everyone should try at least once. Thoughts?

Michelle's iconMichelle Baldwin
Pioneer Project

“Fahrenheit is clearly a massively ambitious game – that was clear from the start – and it attempts to end on a similar high but crucially it loses some of the depth of its storytelling through repeated climax.”

I have now also finished the game, so here are my thoughts on what I now realise to be quite a controversial ending. Overall I really enjoyed it, but it was undermined slightly by Fahrenheit’s deviation from its earlier simplicity; it is the simple ideas that worked best in this game, and the ending is a little at odds with the rest of the game because of it. I felt as though the narrative could have followed the pattern of earlier chapters and left far, far more to the discretion of the player. It meant that the finale was far too eager to answer too many questions. We didn’t really need to know about the full cast of characters controlling the Oracle, the conspiracy they had created or even how these people were able to control Lucas and others, it was all implied. The complete lack of speculation in the end game lost most of the mystique built up in the game’s first half.

That said lots of games leave lots of details to the imagination, so I agree that it was incredibly brave of Quantic Dream to take the direction they did, it just would have been pulled off with a lot more conviction if they had maintained the very careful, measured pacing of the rest of the game.

I continued to find the nostalgic scenes of Marcus and Lucas incredibly grating. I understood the depth of their bond, and I had picked up on the fact that there was something remarkable about Lucas from a very young age, but I honestly would have preferred more time spent on the game’s final playable scenes to allow more time for the bold ideas introduced so late on to develop, as the playable elements during these childhood stages were clunky and frustrating when compared to the relative fluidity of the rest of the game.

Marcus and Lucas attempt to play as children.Carla and Lucas lie next to each other.

The conclusion itself was a little too transparent, which meant that only the really out of the blue ideas were left unanswered mainly because they were so left-field. I wasn’t at all convinced by the relationship between Lucas and Carla for example, it felt at odds with both of their character paths, and smacked of having a clearly defined “end point” to the game that the narrative was snaking towards. I did like the sense of mistrust that grew throughout the game though, it was almost as if I couldn’t completely trust some of the narration going on, what details being said were correct and which weren’t, particularly the fact that the game alluded to the fact that Lucas was dead; but there were other facts contradicting that entirely, so there was still enough mystery to feel satisfied, just perhaps not as much as I would have liked.

Fahrenheit seemed to change the importance of some characters on a whim. Tyler was removed from the game all too quickly, while nice to see a conclusion to his story it left me wondering just how important Carla and Tyler’s partnership really was. Tiffany was sidelined extremely quickly after a tremendous sacrifice which was never really acknowledged, and in many ways Carla was too, moved from a very powerful lead to Lucas’ sidekick in effect. In fact, lots of characters got knocked down a few pegs in the later stages often to the story’s detriment – the Oracle, having been built up to be the main antagonist, was defeated all too easily; and the multiple bad guys that replaced him were never quite as convincing – the AI, the Mayan, the circle of elders – just didn’t have the momentum or sense of foreboding of that one shadowy figure that amply represented it all and made it far easier to take on board.

A ghostly looking Lucas speaks.The oracle roars with power during a quick time event.

 

To reiterate I did really enjoy the ending and the game as a whole, these thoughts are simply what I would have improved, but as you mentioned the great changes in characterisation were often too big of a leap to take on board. I just had a hard time believing the majority of actions of the characters which up until now I thought had been explained and handled relatively well. Fahrenheit is clearly a massively ambitious game – that was clear from the start – and it attempts to end on a similar high but crucially it loses some of the depth of its storytelling through repeated climax; there is simply little to no time to recover or digest what’s going on and the complete cycle of lull, build-up and cliffhanger was all but forgotten. Perhaps that’s what instigated the name change, an acknowledgement of the high octane sense of drama rather than the themes behind them? While the American name was far more subtle, both suit the game’s general message.

Overall, after all the events, and that beautiful, yet chilling ending, I was a little troubled by the amount of power that Lucas had at the end of the game. The world may be safe, but should the world really be content with one man and one family maintaining that much quiet influence? I’m not so sure.

Steven's iconSteven O’Dell
Raptured Reality

“It wasn’t perfect and it was definitely punctuated with countless flaws, but, like the majority of its story, it was human in an industry that knew more about aliens and monsters.”

Nice, some really interesting thoughts on the final act that are extra intriguing for me personally given the differences between how we played: you as a first-timer and me making a return visit.

Honestly, you covered my own thoughts about it well, aside from what I obviously conveyed myself earlier. The ending was quite beautiful, but in a “destroyed” sense rather than visual spectacle or, indeed, pleasure. Sure, it was nice to see various aspects of the story resolved and things become a little more peaceful — that alone makes it beautiful — but the quiet, perhaps sombre tone I think was intended to get us to reflect on the entirety of the game, rather than any specific part. That’s a welcome thing after the issues I described about the final act, particularly how abrupt it was, but with or without those concerns the entire story, the characters who drive it and even the interactive decisions we get to partake in are all worth reflecting on. What we come to know and understand at the beginning of the game is distinctively different to what we learn about the game upon conclusion, and the destruction (of our interpretations, understanding and the mystery delivered throughout) that takes place is beautiful for many, different but crucial reasons that each player will no doubt dwell on differently. Looking at it from a pure videogame medium point of view, I feel that it is significant in the sense that it needed to happen, to not only show a different direction games can follow, but to demonstrate that things don’t always have to be a certain way — a trap that I feel some developers, perhaps without even realising it, find themselves falling into time and time again.

Now that Heavy Rain is out, we don’t only get to see what Quantic Dream learned and how they iterated on and changed various things to improve their intended experiences, we also get to see the impact that the Fahrenheit experimentation, if you will, has had on them and indeed, the medium as a whole. Luckily, Heavy Rain was more of a success — both commercially and in terms of nailing what they wanted to achieve — so I can only hope that such attention bodes well for the future of the medium. Speaking of Heavy Rain, I’m definitely interested in hearing what you think of that game when you finally play it. My thoughts on it are well documented, but it will be interesting to see what you think having played Fahrenheit so closely to its (spiritual) sequel.

Lucas sits solemnly under a bright landscape.Carla touches Lucas' shoulder reassuringly.

Honestly though, I still can’t get over my disappointment with what that third act in Fahrenheit represents, not necessarily for the story but for its characters. All four characters were introduced as compelling people who all had their own unique traits, motivations and interests, which lead to a story that dealt with more realistic issues and themes. Once the more supernatural story elements started to seep in, it felt like those individual qualities either became irrelevant or completely redundant. For someone who appreciated such a stark difference to the generic stereotypes seen in other games, this difference is too imposing on my overall impression of the game. Perhaps playing it again has ruined that initial opinion somewhat, bringing down the flair on what was otherwise an utterly unique and rather amazing experience, but when I think about how Tyler was a pragmatic, happy-go-lucky kind of guy who seriously loved his girlfriend, enjoyed competitive play in a friendly game of Basketball and had a passion for music, I can’t help but feel disjointed with the abrupt changes the finale makes. Or what about Carla, a confident and authoritative kind of girl who obsessed over detail and was struggling to come to terms with her fear of confined spaces, a relaxing sparring session alleviating some of the stresses she constantly found herself dealing with?

These characters were just… human, and that feeling of emotion and perhaps soul was lost once the fate of the world, the supernatural forces and obligatory reveal of antagonists needed to occur to provide the game’s conclusion. Hell, even the severity of a crime such as murder was more relaxing and thus, enjoyable to investigate — both literally as Carla and Tyler, and figuratively as we continued to learn about Lucas’ plight — than anything expected of us in the end game. It just tarnished what was otherwise something really special, I thought, and I’m left feeling cold after ecstasy over such a special experience.

But, despite my reservations with it, I can overlook any qualms I have with the game and remember it as an experience that I’m thoroughly pleased to have participated in; a story that I was absolutely enthralled by; for featuring characters who resonated with me for multiple, unexpected reasons; and ultimately a game that had to happen, regardless of the success or failure of individual components or indeed, within the medium itself. It wasn’t perfect and it was definitely punctuated with countless flaws, but, like the majority of its story, it was human in an industry that knew more about aliens and monsters. That’s worth my love, admiration and respect, even if such strong feelings weren’t delivered in return.

 

My twitter icon - currently Gum from Jet Jet Radio Future. This examination of Fahrenheit was written by Michelle. If you enjoyed this article you may want to read about other games you might like. Don't forget to subscribe to my RSS feed or get updates by email so you can hear about my next game update.

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