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SummaryA unique, genre-bending experience
The GoodThe basic idea behind "Fahrenheit" is quite simple - how to tell a story using a video game console controller? The game provides an answer by creating a unique, simple and very effective control method that is the core of the game and allows for storytelling in a way previously unknown in video games. Yes, it really is revolutionary.
Unfortunately, the term "interactive film" has already been reserved for the rather embarrassing trend of the early 90s. If it weren't, "Fahrenheit" would deserve it like no other. The game has solved the old dilemma stating that we either watch a cutscene or play a game. In "Fahrenheit", you do both at once. The method is crude enough - two times four symbols appear on the screen and you have to press the button corresponding to the symbol that lights up. If you manage to do it on time, the character you control succeeds at whatever he or she is doing at the moment. Of course the game is not all about that - there are plenty of scenes resembling the traditional adventure games, where you walk around, talk to people and interact with objects, but here the controls are also as simplified as possible - all the actions are done via mouse gestures (at the top of the screen, there appears a sort of a mouse-gesture menu and you perform the gesture corresponding to the icon representing what you want to do). Very easy to learn and fun to use - what more could one want?
The heart of "Fahrenheit" really is the story, even though not particularly original. The pacing of the storytelling is diabolical (you quite often get time limits for your actions to speed everything up even more), almost everything you do just fuels the action and builds up suspense. Even doing such ordinary tasks as waking up in the morning, getting a shower, getting dressed and leaving to work is surprisingly enough fun to play, probably because the control method is something so new.
But the game is of course not only about that - the rest of it is a fast thriller full of police investigations, action and world-domination conspiracies, inspired a lot by the Matrix film franchise. What's also great about it is the way it is shaped by the way you play (there are quite a lot variants of the final confrontation depending on what you did before, but unlike many other games, this diversity can be seen in almost the whole game, not only the ending). You don't ever have to worry about messing something up and having to return - if you fail to do anything non-fatal to the character you control (and it can be quite fundamental things), you can carry on, the story is flexible enough to cope with it. No reload-and-try-again here.
The best feature of the story, easily, is that it is told from two basic points of view - of the "innocent murderer" and of the two police officers who are investigating the murder; and you actually get to control all three of them. So you, as the murderer, can leave clues behind, and later, as a police officer, locate these clues and connect them together - you are, in a way, framing yourself. And believe me, that is very cool.
Another amazing feature of "Fahrenheit" is that it is probably almost as much fun to watch as to play. The "cinematography" is excellent. You will see some truly amazing work with split-screens and the action sequences have brilliant, very well thought-out choreography and unbelievable pacing (you'll see some Matrix-style one-on-one fighting, bullet-dodging, car chases, jumping from one rooftop to another and then on helicopters, you name it). The character movement is very fluid (lots and lots of motion capturing with stunts-men went into this game) and perfectly realistic, even though the 3D models are not that great. It really feels as if you are watching an exciting film, and if you add that throughout all of the action sequences you have your fingers dancing on the buttons of your keyboard and you concentrate really hard not to mess anything up, you get an absolutely overwhelming experience that literally had me open my mouth in awe.
The BadThere are small gripes, of course. The story is quite banal, not that well-written, the characters sometimes behave in very mysterious (or rather stupid) ways - *very minor spoiler here* especially Carla's behavior towards the end of the game is quite hard to believe in a police officer - and there are several pretty major plot-holes.
The controls, even though I really consider them unique and brilliant, make things sometimes difficult - the meaning of the icons at the top of the screen is sometimes not quite clear and you may end up doing something you didn't want to. Notoriously, when standing in front of two cupboards, I always kept opening the one I didn't want, because their icons are absolutely identical. It is even worse in dialogues - they are carried out in the same mouse-gesture fashion, except that instead of icons, you get one or two words that represent dialogue choices and sometimes these words are just too vague and you really don't know what they stand for; and you can't think about it for too long, because there is a time limit for making dialogue choices that I found pretty annoying.
Some scenes are a lot weaker than others, but that's probably natural - especially the small-boys-at-a-military-base sequences are particularly irritating, because the controls aren't really suited for this kind of gameplay (hiding behind buildings and running when the soldiers aren't looking). There are also the notorious sex scenes (only in the European version), one of them even "interactive" (badly), that, even though really I don't have anything against sex and they are quite tastefully done, are annoying because they are so utterly pointless. They are not serving the story in any way and, well, are not even remotely erotic (3D models of clothed people are already quite convincing, but I guess it will take a lot of time to create a naked 3D model that wouldn't look so much like a blow-up doll. I know there are fans of the polygon love, but it just isn't me). I guess I'm just not a teenager anymore.