We once had the dubious pleasure of visiting the offices of Fahrenheit developer, Quantic Dream. It was a stifling hot Paris day and we were there to see surrealist weird 'em up, The Nomad Soul. Details of the meeting are sketchy, but the one over-riding memory is of visiting the bogs only to be confronted with a stinking piss-stained mattress stood upright in the bath. French...
Funnily enough, Fahrenheit begins in a toilet, not of a Parisian development studio, but a New York diner, where Lucas Kane is taking a dump. Nothing unusual about that, but instead of flicking through a magazine while he releases the otters, he's carving strange symbols into his arms with a steak knife. Once he's suitably scarred, he wipes his clinkers and exits the cubicle, whereby he spots a Sven Goran-Eriksson lookalike washing his hands. Without so much as a cursory hello, he grapples Sven to the floor and viciously stabs him to death.
BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS
This is where you come in, picking up the character of Lucas as he attempts to extricate himself from the pickle that he's landed himself in, what with the cold-blooded murder of a stranger. Staring at the mutilated corpse of the slaphead, drenched in both your blood and his, you need to think quickly. Even more so when the screen splits into two to reveal a New York City cop who gets up from his feed and starts lumbering towards the gents.
The split-screen trick is a tried and tested cinematic technique, popularised by Brian De Palma in his 1976 horror classic Carrie, and more recently used to great effect in bonkers TV series 24. It's the latter that bears the most similarity to Fahrenheit, with the action in one screen often dictating how long you have to do something in the other.
In this case you need to hide the body, wash your hands, pay for your steak & frites and get the bejesus out of the diner before you're fingered. It's an undeniably tense business, made even more so by the unique control system. When faced with a number of choices, you select one by moving the mouse in a particular direction. So for instance, faced with a pair of taps, sliding the mouse left chooses the left one (which is out of order) and sliding the mouse right selects the right one (which emits a tepid dribble).
A unique approach, it seems that the idea is to create a more tactile experience in order to relate to the character and his particular predicament. There are also sections of the game that require you to complete a physical task by pumping the left and right keys in what will always be known as Daley Thompson style (in tribute to the Olympic decathlete's Spectrum-ruining game). Again, the idea is that if the onscreen character is exerting himself, then so should you be. As the writer/director David Cage says in the tutorial: "You'll be exhausted too." This might be somewhat overstating the case - although to be honest, it's the most exercise we've had for weeks.
The fact that Cage is credited for having written and directed the game is one of several overt nods to its cinematic qualities. See also the widescreen presentation and deliberately grainy texture. And if you were in any doubt, in the options menu you don't choose a 'New Game', you choose a 'New Movie'.
We thought the concept of an interactive movie had been consigned to the same bin as virtual reality headsets, but it's a term that could arguably be applied to Fahrenheit, something that sent acting editor Sefton into a tailspin when the news was broken to him, given that he signed up the exclusive review. There's no need to panic quite yet though, as there's a lot more to it than watching inane footage of D-list actors in between making occasional moribund decisions.