You'll have noticed that I'm deliberately not giving away any of the plot. Let's get that clear right away. Fahrenheit is completely plot-driven and to reveal anything except the basic premise (already revealed in previous issues, or by playing the demo on this month's cover discs) would completely ruin your own experience. Suffice to say, what starts out as an intriguing murder thriller soon spirals outwards to encompass everything from The X-Files to The Matrix to The Terminator, even to Silence Of The Lambs and Hitchcock.
Incredibly, Cage has taken an almost unprecedented step in game character development by exploring each of the main characters' personal lives and private flaws. Hence we have playable domestic arguments, phobias about the dark and heights, tender love scenes, exploration of depression and anxiety, all interactive (even the sex!) and all running alongside the main plot. In that sense alone, Cage is pulling off his goal of creating a near-film quality emotional experience that genuinely makes you care about the fate of these people as they grow and change. A staggering achievement considering that most Hollywood scriptwriters these days seem incapable of producing anything beyond mere ciphers to tie their over-blown action sequences around. For once it seems as though games are maturing while films are going backwards. Hoorah for us!
Helping this is the acting. It was always going to be asking a lot for the voice actors to get us to see past the Mafia-style dead-eyed mannequins that are used for 3D models (although there has definitely been some improvement in facial expression animation since then), but they've done it. This is top quality work and combined with the realistic dialogue serves to make Fahrenheit's script one of the most absorbing ever written for a game. You're sucked in like an industrial vacuum almost from the start and as the layers of plot unfold you can't help but play on for just ?one more scene to see where it leads.
Simple Simon Says
Which just leaves the actual 'gaming' part of things I suppose. As I said earlier, this isn't really a game in the traditional sense. Sure you get to walk around each location (some with more freedom than others), and in some places the interface is spot on. Conversation trees that give you limited time to choose a question add to the tension - during vital interrogations, for instance.
But the action sequences have one slight flaw in them - and by action I'm referring to almost anything from hanging from a helicopter to playing the guitar. Mostly, you have a rhythm action thing to contend with. Follow the flashing lights with your arrow and WASD keys to successfully negotiate a scene, with an occasional Track And Field style left-right button bashing for more strenuous activities. The only real problem with all this is that your concentration is so focused on watching the mini-game interface that you often miss the on-screen action you're performing as a result, really only seeing it through your peripheral vision.
In some places though it has been used in an inspired fashion. Question a suspect, for instance, and if you follow the lights correctly while he answers, you'll observe greater details and be given better clues ?to follow.
What impresses most about all this is how everything ties together, despite the multiple choice routes and the multi character control. This could easily have been a sprawling half-baked mess of Lucasian proportions. Luckily, Cage seems to have had his head screwed on properly for most of the planning stages and there are very few scenes that leave you feeling anything less than satisfied with their construction. Nothing feels superfluous. Everything has a point. Tight. Sculpted. Well-crafted scriptwriting.