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Fahrenheit (Sega CD) artwork

Fahrenheit (Sega CD) review

"Iíve been gaming long enough to know what I enjoy. Itís not like there are certain games Iím not into just because Iím unaware of them Ė the genres I donít play, I donít play for a reason. "

Iíve been gaming long enough to know what I enjoy. Itís not like there are certain games Iím not into just because Iím unaware of them Ė the genres I donít play, I donít play for a reason.

So this is the second time now that Iíve tried to play Fahrenheit, or to be more specific, the second time a reviewing contest on HonestGamers has prompted me to do so. On the first attempt, the contest in question had its judges assigning the reviewers games to play and write about, based on, I donít know, their own personal distaste for the contestants in question. (The name of the contest was ďBecause We Hate You.Ē) Through some tragic twist of fate, presumably inspired by my assertion that Iím one of the few people to ever bother with Sega CD emulation, I was assigned Fahrenheit, an old FMV game about, of all things, firefighting. This is an activity I can hardly imagine delivering any genuine excitement in the video game medium, unless Iím playing Conkerís Bad Fur Day, and Conker is getting drunk and pissing on little fire demons. I totally love that level.

Anyway: Yeah, firefighting. I gave the game a try, of course, but being unmotivated and (to be blunt) bored out of my fucking mind, I closed the window after about five minutes and was fairly certain I would never have to play the game again. But destiny, ever the ironic phenomenon that it is, came back to bite me square in the butt cheek, as now I have been tasked with reviewing a genre I have yet to tackle. Fate, it seems, is hell-bent on coaxing me into reviewing the graphic adventure (which may not be the correct term, but damned if I care). I accepted that Fahrenheit would haunt me like an ethereal stalker until I got this review out of the way, so itís time to kill two birds with one stone. If the fine gentlemen behind BWHY are reading this: I hope youíve got a backup plan in place for me this year.

So, Fahrenheit. Itís easiest to simply say that the game is exactly what it sounds like, and that if FMV-punctuated graphic adventure things are your cup of tea, and if one based around the concept of firefighting sounds even better, then sure, Fahrenheit will fit the ticket. To everyone else, itís just as ridiculous as it sounds. Graphic adventures are something I avoid anyway, only barely touching upon the whole ďinteractivityĒ element thatís supposed to make video games so unique in the first place. I'd guess a good script and solid production values could rectify this Ė in fact, thatís probably the point Ė but in the primitive age of Fahrenheit, how great a presentation could you REALLY expect? I suppose the acting is passable and the environments really do look like actual burning buildings (suggesting that whoeverís responsible for making this game gave it more attention than it deserved), but even then: This is a game about firefighting. You just donít go into something like this expecting a particularly compelling narrative.

My point is, if the judges of this contest are expecting anything but complete, unadulterated bias on the subject of a genre Iím entirely indifferent to, theyíre kidding themselves. But Iíll approach anything with as open a mind as I can afford, even knowing what to expect. The extent to which you ďplayĒ Fahrenheit boils down to navigating burning houses and such by hitting arrow buttons under the pressure of a ten-second timer. If youíre too slow, the game will choose a direction for you, which on average leads to the same results. The FMV sequences are meant to follow your firefighter as he explores various rooms in each level, but theyíre strung together so haphazardly that thereís no sense of direction; when my female companion warns me that weíre going in circles, I think, ďReally? I thought we were making impeccable progress.Ē You never know what youíre supposed to be doing or where youíre supposed to be going, and as such, letting the game play itself (i.e. masturbate) and leaving the results up to pure chance is as smart a tactic as any Ė plus itís more entertaining, since you can do something less boring in the meantime.

My most significant venture into the first burning house (this was after a failed attempt, in which I somehow blew up) led me through a number of key events: My partner found a gas-powered lamp. I wandered into a room wherein someone commented on its valuable contents being burned to ashes, and I cringed at the realization that they probably had to actually burn this stuff to make this footage. What a waste. My character opened a cabinet and nearly got his face blown off by a lick of stray flame. And then, stairs. Evidently, my mission was to rescue some child (or maybe it was a pet), and it occurred to me that whatever Iím meant to save is probably upstairs, because why not, that makes things more inconvenient. So, up I went.

And hereís where things get weird: I got attacked by a dinosaur.

Yes, a dinosaur. Like, one of those big reptilian beasts that have been extinct for millions of years. One of those inexplicably reared its head through a second-story wall, sending the already weak foundations of the building crumbling. Ever faithful to its ten-second deadline, Fahrenheit gave me that long to find a way out, and the three arrows presented to me on screen left little doubt: AWAY from the inexplicable dinosaur would probably be best. I told you I only played about five minutes of this game the first time, which means I must not have made it to the dinosaur part back then. I would surely have remembered this, and subsequently kept playing.

Oddly enough, this was the last mention made of the dinosaur. In the next room, the tone of the constant babble between my firefighter buddies and our correspondents outside remained suitably tense, but Iíd attribute this to that fact that we were in a burning building; in retrospect, my partnerís inability to acknowledge the fact that a fucking dinosaur had just smashed into the house, other than a cautionary ďwatch out,Ē was hilarious. I wish Iíd had more time to reflect upon this, but I had to trudge on, lest the ten-second time limit make the worst of me.

The next room was on fire. The room after that was not, and thatís where I found the little boy, sitting at a table, playing chess. With no one. Across from him was an empty chair, and the on-screen arrows made my choice clear: Go forward, and sit. I made this decision somehow completely resigned to the fact that there was no fire in THIS particular part of the house. No urgency. Even the radio chatter had cut out, my partner seemed to have wandered off, and the meter on the side of the screen displaying my own O2 consumption had vanished. I was clearly meant to sit at this table and play chess with this boy.

In a rather poignant scene, my firefighter waved his flashlight in the direction of the table and examined the chess board. I, of course, had no time to study the layout of the pieces very thoroughly (still under a ten-second deadline), but I was nevertheless prompted to make my move, with a choice of three arrows. Left? Sure, why not. My character silently moved a knight, to which the child countered with his queen. And then, the game returning to first-person, my character looked in the childís eyes. They were solid white, with no pupils or irises. He spoke in a deep, almost demonic voice: ďThe time has come to make a decision, Michael.Ē How did the game know my name? When once again prompted with the three arrows, I didnít know what to do. I let the timer tick down, my character nervously panning to and fro, until he finally settled on ďright.Ē

The house was gone. My firefighter was sitting in a forest in broad daylight, still in front of the chess table. Across from him was an old man, frail, on his last breath. Only three pieces remained: My king, and his king and queen. Was my firefighter attempting to stall into an eventual stalemate, knowing full well that a victory was entirely out of his reach, according to the rules of chess? I was prompted once again to make a move, and, in a confused, dreamlike state, I chose up. My king moved one space. The old man smiled, displaying toothless gums in the process, and moved his queen into its final position. Checkmate. The man coughed and laid his head down to rest upon the chess board. The finality of death embraced him.

And I lifted my own head. Half of my face was wet, plastered with saliva. I stared hazy-eyed at my laptop screen, where my Fahrenheit ROM was still running on autopilot, my character still wandering aimlessly (and rather stupidly) through that first burning house. I scanned the dark room I was sitting in, looked at the clock, chuckled almost drunkenly, and closed the window of my Sega CD emulator. I have made peace with Fahrenheit at last.

And to think: I canít even play this game when itís required of me. Why play it for fun?


Suskie's avatar
Community review by Suskie (March 23, 2009)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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If you enjoyed this Fahrenheit review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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pickhut posted March 24, 2009:

Okay... wasn't expecting that.

Made me laugh, though.
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wolfqueen001 posted March 24, 2009:

Bahaha. Awesome. I am amused.
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Suskie posted March 24, 2009:

I fully accept whatever verdict the judges deliver.
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zippdementia posted March 24, 2009:

I knew what you were up to about halfway through the chess game, but I loved it nonetheless. I didn't think you could actually pull that off in a review, but this is brilliant. Your version of the game sounds amazing.
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EmP posted March 24, 2009:

Though I remain unsure how you'll take negativity from me, I'll voice my opinion, anyway. I honestly hated this one.

The theme that you're being forced to review a game you'd rather not play isn't a new angle, but it's one taken to such heights here that it becomes petulant. By the end of the review, I don't know if the game really does take surreal twist if you're simply making stuff up in some kind of dream state. As such, it's worthless as a review as I walk away knowing nothing at all.
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Suskie posted March 24, 2009:

And that's exactly the kind of reaction I'd anticipated. I'll say more about this review when I get the judges' verdicts, but for now I'll keep quiet.
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zippdementia posted March 24, 2009:

A part of me wants to agree with EMP... you know how much I stand by a review being a review and not useless commentary, but in this case I side with Suskie.


Not because he paid me a lot of money, no. But because Suskie takes pains at the beginning of the review to tell us that the game is shit. He explains the gameplay. He explains the scenario. He shows how boring and dull they are. The review is over.

And then he has 750 words left to spend.

I applaud Suskie for taking those 750 words and doing something interesting with them. I didn't feel slighted. It's made very clear that he doesn't like the game, and why. Had he just launched into a dream sequence, I would've complained, but he made sure that his shit was backed up first.

Congrats, Suskie, this may not get first place, but you would get a high score from me.
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overdrive posted March 25, 2009:

I agree with everyone (but not about everything, as that'd be kinda contradictory, even by my standards).

I like the utter disdain for the game. I'm not the biggest fan of putting much of the review in "fantasy-dream land", but I agree with Zipp that the nuts-and-bolts of the game were brought up. Besides, after I read that the game was about firefighting.....let's face it, if you hadn't almost immediately spiced it up (ala Mr. Dino), I'd have clicked out of your review pretty quickly. And as a fan of the completely off-the-wall rantings you get on places like seanbaby and somethingawful, I did find that aspect of your review to be kinda neat.

I'd actually say the part I most had a qualm about was the repeated references to site contests and how this review's existence factored into them. To me, that's the sort of thing that would have next-to-no meaning to any reader who isn't a site regular who's familiar with our contests and, if anything, kinda comes off as an inside joke that we'll get.....but no one else will.
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zippdementia posted March 25, 2009:

Good Point, Overdrive (AKA: GP OD)!

The whole site contest thing got to me a bit, too. I was like "ooookay, so.... on to the review?" You could actually stand to edit those out, Suskie. But maybe that's not your style.
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Suskie posted March 25, 2009:

Once again I'll say that I'll be happy to respond to everyone once the judges' verdicts are in. All I'm going to say for now is that I was 100% aware of all of the issues you guys point out before I even wrote the review, and that everything I did, I did for a reason :)
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zippdementia posted March 25, 2009:

You arrogant bastard, you ^_^
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zigfried posted March 25, 2009:

* Burning Rangers is a great firefighting game.
* Road Avenger is a great FMV game that uses the "press arrows" mechanics.
* Snatcher and Shadowgate are great story-based graphic adventures that pre-date the supposedly primitive age of Fahrenheit.

I'm fine with the gimmicks. The "contest" one explains why he was playing a game that looked crappy when it came out and looks even crappier now. The "dream" one actually paints an image of a game that would have been surreal and possibly even deep in that Twin Peaks way. It's a clever variant on the "wouldn't it have been nice if the game did X instead of Y".

I just have no idea whether or not I'd actually enjoy Fahrenheit since its primary flaws (as presented in the review) are its theme and genre, both of which have bred great games in the past.

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Suskie posted March 27, 2009:

Okay, I didn't want to go into great detail explaining this review before the results of True's comp came in, as I didn't want to sway the judging at all. Now that it's over with, I can finally address some of the things that have been said in this topic.

First of all, I want to clarify what's going on in the second half of this review, for those still confused: I'm describing a dream I'm having after I fall asleep trying to play Fahrenheit. My original idea was to get intentionally sidetracked and talk about something completely unrelated for most of the review, with the eventual thesis narrowing down to something like, "This game is so uninteresting, I can't even talk about it when I have to." My revised thesis, expressed in the last two sentences of the review, is pretty similar.

Basically, when I received my assignment, I decided I could approach it from one of two angles: I could make an honest attempt to provide a fair, unbiased analysis of a game belonging to a genre I hate, or I could accept the fact that any such attempt would come off as forced and completely half-assed, and thus approach the review with complete self-awareness instead. Guess which route I took?

The point? This is not, by any stretch of imagination, a review. It's a contest entry, a response to the judges' request that I write about a game I don't want to write about. As Zig said, a fan of FMV games could read this and still have no idea whether or not he'd enjoy the game, and that's the point: I acknowledge that I have no business trying to convey an authoritative or resourceful tone in reviewing a game for which I demonstrate a natural bias. That's what the opening paragraphs of the review were meant to convey: It wasn't my choice to play this game in the first place, let alone write about it.

EmP is absolutely right -- this doesn't function as a review at all. It's not supposed to. I freely admit that I don't have more than 5-10 minutes of experience playing Fahrenheit; no one could build a fair in-depth analysis of a game based on so little playing time. And again, that's the point. I wouldn't have reviewed this game willingly, so I had no obligation to be fair.

Something I want to point out was that I actually tried as best as I could to make the review accessible to non-regulars. Some of you were wondering why I spent so much time explaining my situation with the two contests. I didn't want to just make passing references to them, hoping my target audience would pick up on it. I didn't want to leave anyone in the dust. I'd say I explained the contest thoroughly enough that someone who's unfamiliar with HG could at least read this and get the gist of what I was saying.

As for what led me to write the second half the way I did, well, there are multiple reasons. It was fictionalized -- I've never actually fallen asleep playing any game and Fahrenheit is not an exception. But I liked the conclusion that it hinted at, which is that I'm so uninterested in the game, I'm going to fall asleep playing and spend the length of my review describing the dream I had instead. And as OD pointed out, I needed something to keep people interested, since this is a fucking firefighting game we're talking about here.

But it's also perfectly accurate to say that I approached this project with a negative attitude, and the dream sequence I described was my way of making the process of writing this review as enjoyable for me as possible. And really, the best way to interpret this review is that it was written for me and no one else. No one who's interested in this game will come to any conclusions about it based on my review. And as I keep saying, that wasn't the point. This was my one chance to demonstrate to HG why I don't review these kinds of games, and why it's a bad idea to make me review these games. It's not a review; it's a statement.

I'm happy with the way the review turned out, and I'm pleasantly surprised that it inspired such mixed reactions. Zipp said it was brilliant; EmP hated it. Even the judges, who all liked it to some degree, came to very different conclusions: Janus warned me never to review another FMV game again (of course, the ideal course of action would have been to review none in the first place), while True saw this as a successful first stab at reviewing the genre and wants to see it again. Now I can understand why Lewis loves experimentation so much. Watching one review divide so many people is entertaining, and in some ways even more rewarding than being showered with praise.

I doubt my explanation here will actually change anyone's opinion on it, but I hope you all know where I'm coming from with this. Thanks for your feedback, everyone.
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honestgamer posted March 27, 2009:

I am confused by the (absurd, in my mind) suggestion that a game about firefighters is inherently going to be boring. There's really no reason it should be. After all, plenty of kids--adults, even--dream of being firefighters. As a fantasy, it's one of the most popular... up there with things like police officer, astronaut, movie star, dinosaur wrangler and President. Saying that it's going to be awful and treating that as a generally safe assumption loses me immediately.

When it comes to the rest of the criticisms, I agree with them. As has been admitted, this was not a review. Because of that fact, I'm afraid I really didn't care for it at all. This shouldn't come as a surprise, since I've demonstrated frequently that what I really want from reviews... is reviewing and in the process at least an attempt to describe the actual game. The scenarios described fictitiously would make a great game and wouldn't be particularly unexpected from the genre--that oddness is one of the very things that attracts many fans to it--so it wasn't until right at the end where the reference to the drool on the keyboard came into play that I was sure Suskie wasn't describing the actual game! And yeah, it sounded pretty cool, like the start of a potentially great novel.

As for Fahrenheit itself, I don't know enough about it to even be sure how the real thing stacks up against the fiction presented. The result is a rather lengthy bit of writing that scored higher across the board in the competition than I would've ever dreamed of rating it. Of course, me dreaming of rating a review wouldn't make for interesting reading, not compared to the idea of playing chess in an alternate dimension with a blind boy. Forget I said anything.
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zigfried posted March 27, 2009:

I've fallen asleep playing games before, but usually they're games I liked so much that I said "I'm going to just rest my eyes for 5 minutes before I pick the controller back up."

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zippdementia posted March 27, 2009:

I think Wextexill said it best.
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Suskie posted March 28, 2009:

I am confused by the (absurd, in my mind) suggestion that a game about firefighters is inherently going to be boring. There's really no reason it should be. After all, plenty of kids--adults, even--dream of being firefighters. As a fantasy, it's one of the most popular... up there with things like police officer, astronaut, movie star, dinosaur wrangler and President. Saying that it's going to be awful and treating that as a generally safe assumption loses me immediately.

Well, if you were to make a video game about firefighting, where would you start? What would you base it around? That Fahrenheit narrows down to little more than "running around aimlessly in a burning building" doesn't come as a surprise to me, and it isn't compelling game design.
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Felix_Arabia posted March 28, 2009:

I didn't like the review. I just gave it a lot of points because I felt you had gotten shafted with the color you chose and tried to make the best of your situation.
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zigfried posted March 28, 2009:

Well, if you were to make a video game about firefighting, where would you start? What would you base it around? That Fahrenheit narrows down to little more than "running around aimlessly in a burning building" doesn't come as a surprise to me, and it isn't compelling game design.

Games like GTA3 and Yakuza are little more than criminals running around aimlessly killing or assaulting people. Banjo Kazooie is little more than an animal running around aimlessly picking stuff up. Goldeneye is little more than some guy running around aimlessly shooting people. The film Terminator 2 is little more than a robot running around aimlessly killing humans.

Any concept can be summarized in a pithy phrase, and while it may (or may not) be true for the game in question, that doesn't make it true for the concept. Firefighting games could involve running around, yes, but I doubt it would be aimless. You'd have to locate the survivors before the heat and smoke overtook them. You'd have to choose your path carefully but quickly -- put out the fires you can, and avoid the ones you can't. And always, always watch out for hazards because in a fire, where the environment itself is under attack, anything can -- and will -- happen.

It's a rich concept.

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pickhut posted March 28, 2009:

What the... a topic about people talking about firefighter video games, and still not one mention of The Firemen 1 & 2 has been brought up yet?

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Suskie posted March 28, 2009:

But the key phrase is "little more than." There is so much more to the games you mentioned, to the point that a simple one-line summation does them a terrible injustice. That's what I'm saying: There really ISN'T more to Fahrenheit than that.

I think my skepticism comes from the double whammy of Fahrenheit also being an FMV game, which means most of your suggestions probably couldn't be incorporated well into the design without sacrificing the urgency of the setting (which is really all Fahrenheit has going for it). It could be done, of course, and in fact I don't deny that a really great firefighting game could be made. All I'm saying is that I didn't expect much out of Fahrenheit, which was a good decision because it meant I wasn't disappointed.

Hey, if you disagree, you're welcome to play Fahrenheit expecting it to be the best thing ever. I'd love to hear your reaction.
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zigfried posted March 28, 2009:

I thought you said you played the game for 5 or 10 minutes. If I played GTA4 for 5 to 10 minutes, then I could say "you don't even move, you just watch people talk". Some FMV games and digital comics actually incorporated exploration and item collection, so your position is pretty weak here. You don't know if there is or isn't more to the game... unless you've put more time into it than you're letting on.

Even if someone else plays Fahrenheit and totally agrees with everything you've said, it doesn't mean you were right to make those dismissive judgements. It just means you happened to get lucky ;)

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Suskie posted March 28, 2009:

That is correct: I am being completely dismissive, unfair and totally biased. I've already acknowledged that. There's really no point in arguing because it's not getting us anywhere.
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wolfqueen001 posted March 28, 2009:

Wow. Those firefighting games Pickhut linked looked awesome.
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Lewis posted October 08, 2009:

I've only just discovered this. It's the best piece of writing about games I've read in a very long time. Seriously. Of course it's not a review. But it makes its point far more clear than most actualy reviews do. It's also fucking hilarious, beautifully written and enormously creative.

See also: things like Quintin Smith reviewing WET without actually having played it.
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zippdementia posted October 09, 2009:

I still agree with Wextill.

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