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Indigo Prophecy (Xbox) artwork

Indigo Prophecy (Xbox) review

"And then it's over; the mental images cease. A revolted Kane looks down at the corpse he's still kneeling over and at the bloody knife still clasped in his soiled hands. What just took place defies explanation, but the more pressing fact is that corpse laying on the bathroom floor. A corpse that's not getting any less dead. What do you do? This isn't for Lucas to decided; this choice is entirely yours."

Lucas Kane leads a normal, humdrum existence. Working in a major bank's IT department by day, he whittles away his hours fiddling with computers, strumming on his electric guitar or just fretting over his fragmented love-life. So it comes as no surprise when we join this rather ordinary individual grabbing something to eat in a local diner. Within, we find him seated in one of the diner's grotty toilets with his eyes rolled back in his skull, carving pagan symbols into his own forearms with a shaky hand and a steak knife. With strange, occult visions of a cloaked figure surrounded by an ocean of candles flashing through his mind, Lucas finds himself shuffling zombie-like out of his cubicle only to plunge his knife into the chest of the unlucky fellow who had been innocently urinating as people in toilets are wont to do.

And then it's over; the mental images cease. A revolted Kane looks down at the corpse he's still kneeling over and at the bloody knife still clasped in his soiled hands. What just took place defies explanation, but the more pressing fact is that corpse laying on the bathroom floor. A corpse that's not getting any less dead. What do you do? This isn't for Lucas to decided; this choice is entirely yours.

Do you run out into the diner, still panicky and covered in blood, to throw yourself at the mercy of the off-duty cop who had stopped in for a quick coffee before he goes home? Do you attempt to sneak out the fire escape at the back of the eatery without being detected? Or do you take the time to hide the body and murder weapon before cleaning yourself and the scene up as much as you can before returning to your table and finishing your meal? Whatever choices you make, even the most seemingly insignificant, will have ramifications later on. So select your path carefully and quickly!

A simple pebble thrown into the sea will create infinite ripples.

This philosophy is what drives Fahrenheit. As the unfortunate Mr Kane continues to try and make sense of his situation, you must always be thinking ahead to what actions will serve you best. Do you lie to your brother, the reverent Marcus, about the tragic events or do you confide in him? Do you try and seek redemption or try and bury the events in the back of your mind? Do you seek help or do you seek an escape?

These choices not only pertain to Lucas, but to the police officers investigating the murder as well. In a rather nifty twist, not only do you play the game through the eyes of Kane, but through Carla and Tyler, the two detectives working the case, as well. But even when your leading protagonist is switched, those little choices still affect the game.

This multi-tiered interaction is carried out flawlessly by utilising each significant scene into chapters that can be replayed again as the player wishes. What this means is that you can screw something up and only have to reply a few minutes rather than have to sit through a recycled hour of dialogue. This system works perfectly and is in great keeping with the feel of the game. These events take place simultaneously to each other, each character shareing same time-frame. It's a snug, simple and manageable way to run a somewhat complex system.

Not all the in-game cast has going for them either; they also look the part. Impressively individualistic traits such as Tyler's stride having a confident swagger to it while compared to Carla's more feminine hip wiggle help cement the fact that each member of the cast is entirely different to the other. Add to that some almost perfect lip-synching and hugely competent voice actors taking the reigns of each character and you have an audio and visual treat awaiting you from the hard working boys at Quantic Dreams.

But as great as the people within this inventive and engrossing universe are, getting them from A to B sometimes proves something of a nightmare. Taking a very cinematic approach with the game employing stylistic and rapidly-changing camera angles, your fleet-footed character will move happily in the exact direction you nudge your analogue stick in. So consider this: Tyler is in a triple-floored book store searching for explanations on a book that was found at the crime scene. Where bookcases aren't assembled in an organised mess of bureaucracy, you have other obstacles, such as reading tables, sets of stairs and the wizened little Asian guy who runs the place to contend with. You start innocently towards the steps leading down to the first floor and navigate them simply, but when you come to the foot of the staircase, the camera angle shifts focus and you find that the same movement that once had you descending now turns you around to begin climbing back to where you started. This isn't uncommon; start to move around an innocent stack of books and watch the angle change again, making you charge headfirst into a pile of paperbacks.

What doesn't help is that time is often ticking away. Some tasks must be done within a set time. For instance, Lucas will awake the morning after his crime to the accompaniment of his door being hammered. It's only those pesky police investigating the source of some inconvenient screaming the night before! You then only have a set amount of time to get up and make yourself presentable as well as hide any suspicious elements laying around your flat before the officer's patience gives out and he kicks the door in. The biggest threat to the completion of this task is not the rapidly diminishing time-bar at the top of the screen nor the trail of clues you need to seek out and conceal, but the fact that you'll probably get stuck behind the bloody sofa for a spell while every step you take to try and correct this misdemeanour is reversed by the constantly switching camera angle.

This insolence is happily forgotten when it comes to some of the more breathtaking set sequences that take place in Fahrenheit. Rather than rely on static cut-scenes to tell the story in between chapters, these sections too are made interactive. Whenever your lead must perform some physical task, the trigger buttons need to be hammered a la Track & Field whereas other actions need to follow a simplistic version of Simon Says with the twin analogue sticks. The difficulty of these sections can be tampered without any comeback on the overall plot, but more importantly, they lend an air of trepidation and suspense to what follows. Screwing up these sections could mean something mundane like Carla not connecting with a kick during a sparring session or something more relevant like Lucas being splattered across the pavement by oncoming traffic. These sequences are the difference between life and death, between success and failure, but at the same time are not distracting enough to distract from the action that takes place on screen.

And while these action-orientated elements will undoubtedly climb as the game goes on, the excellently-paced story starts to diminish slightly. Lucas Kane starts off as an everyday normal guy with an extraordinary dilemma, but as his ordeal unfolds, aspects of his journey feel rushed. It's a shame that the almost flawless noir feeling that the opening chapters set are so quickly forgotten in favour of a less subtle and more in-your-face approach. Coupled with the fact that some of the chapters will undoubtedly overstay their welcome (especially the uncomfortable-feeling stealth sections which feel forced and unnatural when compared to the more free-flowing segments the game showcases) may suggest that the latter half of the game was a little more rushed than the phenomenal start.

But even such hiccups are made manageable and ultimately overlookable when you see what Fahrenheit accomplishes. Quantic Dreams haven't even tried to make a video game here; they've wanted to make an interactive movie that doesn't actually suck. As most 3DO owners will tell you, this is a lofty aspiration indeed but one that has been pulled off here with a lot of class. Control Lucas Kane's world as it falls apart around him. Help Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles unravel a string of horrific murders that stretch back decades. Be the cat and the mouse, but always search for the truth. And find it before it finds you.

The clock is ticking, and time is Lucas' worst enemy. Aside from the camera.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (October 09, 2005)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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