Capsule Review: Fahrenheit

(A note on versions - this game was originally released in North America as Indigo Prophecy and in Europe as Fahrenheit. Later remasters and ports have combined the titles as Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy.)

A genre-defying supernatural thriller that has you playing as a handful of characters investigating a murder mystery from different sides. Controls are nontraditional and designed to immerse the player in the game’s world and the characters' emotions, and the player’s actions result in bends and branches in the game’s story.

Unlike most action games, controls are almost universally contextual. The player walks with the left stick and performs an available action by moving the right stick in an approximation of the character’s motions - a quarter turn from right to down to turn a door handle, for example. Other tricks are used too - the player may have to mash buttons rapidly for an extended period to reflect the character performing a feat of physical endurance, or keep up with a slow but continuous series of button prompts to enable the character to concentrate. It takes a bit of getting used to but it’s surprisingly effective at putting the player in the character’s emotional state. It’s used to good effect both in action sequences and scenes that give the player the opportunity to just inhabit a character for a while - getting ready for work or puttering around at home to relax before a visitor arrives.

Creator David Cage referred to the game’s story as a “rubber band” that can be reshaped and stretched but not broken by what the player does. In most scenes, the player makes many choices that will have consequences later, but does so by directing their character to take particular actions rather than picking an option from a list. This implicit decision-making gives the player a lot of freedom and makes the world feel more real and reactive.

For an illustrative example that lightly spoils the game’s opening - the player starts as a man regaining consciousness in a diner bathroom over the body of a stranger he has unwillingly murdered. He has just a few minutes before one of the other customers - a cop - will enter the bathroom. It’s up to the player to find ways to remove evidence and delay the detection of the corpse long enough to make an escape. In the next scene, control moves to the homicide detectives called to investigate the diner. How much evidence there is to find, how cold the trail is, and what the witnesses have to say all depends on what actions the player took in the previous scene.

This idea is carried forward throughout the game, though it’s never again quite as rich and impactful. The plot unfortunately unravels in the last hour or two (David Cage acknowledged in a fascinating but spoiler-heavy postmortem that he didn’t devote enough time to this portion of the game) but there are still a lot of impressive and enjoyable scenes along the way.

While the game isn’t without its flaws, it presents an amazing experience. It’s a bold and mostly successful experiment that advances the state of the art of interactive storytelling.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished the game. Then I convinced my friend Iceman to play it too and let me watch so I could see what choices he made. I was not disappointed.

Docprof's Rating:

Four Stars: Great. Not only did I finish the game, I probably played through the whole thing again and/or completed any optional objectives. It's an easy recommendation for any genre fan.

You can get it or learn more here.