However, as soon as Kane flees the scene something crucial happens. The game switches protagonists to focus on Carla and Tyler, the detective team investigating the crime. Where minutes ago you were trying to evade capture and hide crucial evidence, you’re now searching for clues and trying to uncover the killer’s identity.
This switching of view, from fugitive to detective and back again, continues throughout, and while it’s not a new idea in cinema, it works brilliantly here to a) help the player piece together the story and b) ratchet up the suspense. The latter is vital: the game has more than its share of nail-biting sequences where Kane attempts to evade discovery or not slip-up during questioning, and by switching between these more intense episodes and the more leisurely detective scenes, Fahrenheit maintains a tight pace with plenty of room for the tension to ebb and flow. I won’t say too much for fear of spoiling it. All I will say is that it gets darker and scarier as it goes on, not to mention chilling in more ways than one.
Now, the game’s basic structure is set in advance – this isn’t a plot you can reconstruct as you see fit. What you can do is ensure that Kane survives to follow the story to its conclusion, and make decisions that affect the emotional tone of each scene. The key thing here is an intuitive control system, with movement on the left analogue stick and a context-sensitive right stick control used to select options or route the dialogue along particular avenues.
Whatever you’re doing, time is nearly always a factor, but this helps to keep the action dynamic and the suspense at fever pitch. And the decisions you make – Kane’s actions in the washroom, the questions the detectives ask at a crime scene, a response to a phone call – have consequences for your protagonist’s wellbeing. It’s not just a question of emotional nuance, though this is an important part of the game’s appeal, it’s a vital practical consideration. Kane, Carla and Tyler all have an emotional gauge that tracks their mental state. If Kane’s reaches zero, he succumbs to the pressure and kills himself. Eating, sleeping, doing good deeds and getting somewhere with the mystery keeps him afloat. Failing tasks or opening emotional wounds drags him down. It’s a simple device that ties you to the character in a very real way.