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Here’s another: Fahrenheit takes time to give its characters a sense of life and personality. It’s not afraid to put in a scene that does little to propel the story onward, but just hits a note to emphasise Carla’s loneliness or Tyler’s conflict between his work-life and his love-life. Fahrenheit might not quite make you weep, but it can certainly touch you in ways you won’t expect.
What’s more, Fahrenheit has a superb, heavily cinematic way of presenting the action. It’s not that the graphics are anything particularly special on a technical level – the character models and locations are detailed enough to make the story work, but there’s nothing here to make your jaw drop – it’s the way the game uses split-screen framing, movie-style compositions and snappy editing to build a mood or keep you on the edge of your seat. Kudos, too, to whomever had the sense to go to David Lunch-regular Angelo Badelamenti for help on the soundtrack: the brooding orchestral themes go a long way to creating the game’s potent atmosphere.
This is all really, really good stuff; exactly the sort of thing that would make Fahrenheit appeal to those who would watch CSI on TV or The Sixth Sense at the cinema, but who would never play Metal Gear Solid 4 or Legend of Zelda. However, Fahrenheit is the victim of one slightly dubious decision. It’s very heavily reliant on the sort of “event” sequences that characterised Shenmue. In key action sequences, the words “Get Ready” appear and you’re suddenly trying to duplicate patterns with the analogue sticks or hammer the shoulder buttons in repetitive fashion. On the one hand, these give the game a few moments of action and a little variety, but on the other they can prove extremely frustrating and for some will seem out of place. Imagine you were reading a detective novel and you suddenly had to stop to complete a particularly tough cryptic crossword before the next clue was revealed, or that your episode of ER paused for you to play a game of Operation every time there was a procedure. It might be fun, but wouldn’t you find it annoying?
Still, these never hold you up for too long, and the pull of Fahrenheit is strong enough that you’ll persevere just to find out what happens next. All the same, that’s me writing as a gamer that has put up with these things before and will doubtless put up with them again. The sad thing is that they will put off some of the mainstream audience that Fahrenheit has made such sterling efforts to reach. One day a game will come along that takes the ideas and skills displayed here and uses them to create a masterpiece. Fahrenheit isn’t it, but it feels new and extraordinary all the same. For now, that’s more than enough.
You will either love or hate the action sequences, but Fahrenheit would never leave you cold. A taut supernatural thriller with real emotional impact.
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