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Indigo Prophecy (PlayStation 2) artwork

Indigo Prophecy (PlayStation 2) review

"As one of my closest friends used to say, there are too many identical-looking sequels and too much unoriginality out there in the video game industry. After all, why bother changing the formula if it sells? It is a shame, because we rarely do see fresh, innovative titles nowadays. Bearing this in mind, Quantic Dream knew they were taking a big risk when they started on adventure title Fahrenheit, especially considering that they were experimenting in a genre that was fading away to first..."

As one of my closest friends used to say, there are too many identical-looking sequels and too much unoriginality out there in the video game industry. After all, why bother changing the formula if it sells? It is a shame, because we rarely do see fresh, innovative titles nowadays. Bearing this in mind, Quantic Dream knew they were taking a big risk when they started on adventure title Fahrenheit, especially considering that they were experimenting in a genre that was fading away to first-person shooters and role-playing games quickly. Called Indigo Prophecy in the US, this is quite possibly one of the most original titles in years, managing to seamlessly merge the plot and gameplay elements together and ending up giving you a truly unique experience.

Fahrenheit primarily focuses on the key protagonist, Lucas Kane, who on one unnaturally cold winter’s day commits a murder in the toilets of a usually serene diner. The twist is, he was possessed. Something or someone had taken control of him in order to kill that particular man, and throughout the game, you must help to unravel what really happened and the conspiracy behind all the peculiar events. The story for the most part is wonderfully constructed and is certainly one of the best seen in recent years, despite faltering towards the end. Throughout, you get to know and warm towards Lucas’ character as he desperately searches for answers. Heck, if you were to spot him on the street, you’d class him as another ordinary guy: He’s handy with the guitar, has strong feelings for his ex-girlfriend, and is as good-natured as the next person. He was just incredibly unfortunate to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and for the duration of the game, you will be keen to help him set the record straight.

While Lucas is the central character, the game shifts to three other people too. Most often out of the three, you take control of Carla Valenti, an NYPD detective who is in charge of the murder investigation in the diner. She too is searching for answers but of a different kind, trying to solve the case. As well as the young detective, you get the chance to play as Tyler Miles, Carla’s work partner, and Lucas’ brother and devout Catholic, Markus. Each of them, like Lucas, has much character depth; for instance, you see Markus torn between his beliefs and his love for his brother. Even many of the minor characters, such as Lucas’ ex-girlfriend Tiffany, have you connecting with them and are likeable too. In addition, the voice actors in Fahrenheit do a superb job in making their respective characters come to life. The dialogue may be occasionally cheesy, but you will be very pushed to fault any of the voices.

The gameplay is remarkably simple and ties in with the story neatly; there are two main sections, exploring and action sequences. The exploring sections have you controlling the respective character and playing the story out. For example, Lucas may have to escape the diner without getting arrested or Carla may have to investigate the crime scene in order to find out more clues about the ‘murderer’. What makes Fahrenheit different is the way you interact with people and objects. If you come within a certain range with something or someone interactive, you have to move your control stick in a particular direction to interact with it. With conversations, pushing the control stick in different directions will bring out different responses. And occasionally you have to perform strenuous exercise, such as moving the victim’s body, which is done by quickly pressing L1 and R1 alternatively.

There is also a decent amount of freedom in many of the scenarios. Back in the bloodied toilet of the diner, you have the option as Lucas to clean yourself up and walk out as casually as you can or make a run for it through the back exit. Moments later at the crime scene, you can choose as Carla which questions to ask the witnesses and where to investigate. Ultimately though, whatever you do does not affect the overall story structure much at all, but it is nice to have some choices, which in turn makes the game more gripping. Finally, for each of the four main characters, there is a stress meter. If any character gets too stressed, it is game over, just like when anyone dies or when Lucas gets arrested. This rarely happens though and it is incredibly easy to keep the meters high.

The action sequences are unsurprisingly more involved in comparison and occur mostly during fight scenes or attacks. Using both your control sticks, you must push them in the right direction corresponding to what is shown on the screen to survive, reminiscent of Dance Dance Revolution. In places, you may have to press L1 and R1 alternatively too. Upping the difficulty level causes these sequences to be more challenging, though putting it on the hardest difficulty makes the game a little frustrating, especially during the ‘L1 and R1’ segments. Thus, you would be better off settling for the middle difficulty to keep yourself completely attached to the story and the personalities concerned.

After all, this is what Fahrenheit is about, telling a good story. Really, the gameplay sections serve to get you involved and help you care more about the events surrounding Lucas. One could even describe this as an interactive film. However, in the final hour of the game, the storytelling becomes so rushed and disjointed that the game concludes very sourly, leaving you wanting more. This is a huge pity, considering that the rest of Fahrenheit is extremely polished. What adds to the shame is the fact that the game only lasts for six to eight hours on one playthrough. Plus, with only unlockable artwork, lacklustre multiple endings, and pointless action sequences as extras, there is not much incentive to play through it a second time.

If you are expecting the game to be a visual stunner, try not to get your hopes too high, as the graphics too are not that impressive. The models do not look as smooth and well-constructed as they could have been, and character animations look jarring in places. However, do bear in mind that the on-screen graphics are not supposed to be the selling point of Fahrenheit; in reality, they are of sufficient quality not to dampen the experience you will have with it. Besides, you may play through it and not notice the slight oddities in animation at all, since you will probably find yourself fully engrossed in its powerful atmosphere--thanks to a moving soundtrack. The beautiful score does an excellent job keeping you gripped to whatever is happening on your television and makes the game’s events feel much more vivid and lifelike. In retrospect, it is even more of a shame that the story deteriorates so close to the finish line with everything else the game does right.

Regardless of its major flaws though, Fahrenheit still delivers a very strong adventure, backed up by some simple but solid gameplay. The simplicity of the gameplay, the extremely likeable characters, the brilliant music, and for the majority of the game, the top-class storytelling do well to make itself accessible to a broad range of gamers. This is a fine achievement by Quantic Dream in a genre that deserves much more recognition. Fahrenheit may not last you even ten hours, but nonetheless it is a title that will be fondly remembered for a long time. Anyone who can appreciate a good story or film should give this a chance.

Rating: 8/10

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Community review by hobunn (September 08, 2006)

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