Nothing gets me in the mood for Christmas more than a cozy fireplace, a warm cup of cocoa and unraveling the mystery surrounding the dubious events of a murder. Of course, I am aware that I may just be in a minority in this particular regard. When you think of this festive time of year, certain tropes come to mind of good will and shared experiences amongst your family members. However, as a gamer there is often that need on Christmas to have your own chill out period to catch up on your favorite video games. Whether you have bought the latest chart topper or have just decided to revisit an old classic; the urge to mash a few buttons for a while can strike in the midst of a hectic day spent with loved ones. For me in particular, I find that I crave an alternative to the “cheery” nature that the holidays do tend to bring out in all of us. The ambition to feel a sense of accomplishment on a lazy Christmas day is required – this feeling can come from getting myself entwined in the grim situation of a winters tale that requires my adept skills to fix it. Fahrenheit for the Playstation 2 console ticks my criteria for an ideal holiday game.
Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy in North America) is developed by Quantic Dream studios, founded by writer and director of the game, David Cage. At the time of its launch, it was a unique concept that married elements of a cinematic story with the presentation package of a video game. The overall idea being to create an interactive tale focused heavily on plot, but designed to integrate quick-time events to make you feel like you are involved in how the story is swayed.
Traditionally on Boss Rush, We have analyzed key villains or encounters with baddies that improve the gaming experience as a whole. Fahrenheit will be a different breed. To understand the villain of Fahrenheit, we must delve into the story briefly.
There are three lead characters. The player will assume control of each of them at different points of the plot as it advances. We have Lucas Kane. He is a vigilante on the run for a murder that he committed while in a state of trance. His memory is hazy of the details and it is left in your hands to uncover the cause of his metamorphosis into a zombified killer. The detectives in charge of apprehending him are Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles, our other two playable characters. The dynamic of the narrative is hinged on you covering your tracks as Lucas whilst you also attempt to find clues to his whereabouts and other unknown factors that are at play as the two NYPD detectives. It’s a back and forth suspense drama which sees a fascinating curve-ball in its early hours when Lucas discovers an odd power that is beginning to manifest.
This is the gist of how the story unfolds. The tone is atmospheric and brutal in terms of the harsh winter backdrop that overlays the somber setting of a man looking for salvation for his sins to end his guilt. A careful and slow pace is built upon in order to lead up to a reveal of a fiendish puppet master of sorts, who we know from the beginning to be pulling the strings of Lucas.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
The Oracle is a supernatural being draped in a hooded garb that turns out to be the main antagonist of Fahrenheit. Through flashes of Lucas memory, we are treated to snippets of a dark, ominous figure that uses his wits to entrance victims. The heavy implication of the game is that he is a member of a cult. In actuality, we find that he is a sacrificial priest for an ancient Mayan civilization that has granted him super powers. A hype is generated from the mystique of The Oracle at each event in the games timeline. All roads had pointed to a subdued character who perhaps practiced black arts. Instead, we are treated to a telekinetic powerhouse boss that can fly and destroy buildings with the flick of his palm in the vein of a Justice League super-villain. It was a drastic tonal change that saw fans abhorring Fahrenheit based on its ridiculous turn of plot. Many saw it as an insult to the finely crafted story of redemption that had now been tarnished in favor of a dramatic culminating fight scenes Lucas’ power increases tenfold as you engage in a Matrix style battle in mid-air using quick time events during the ending. To a story that seemed to pride itself on being a murder mystery with vague supernatural aspects, we’ve transferred into a supercharged action set piece that detracts from the rest of the product. It is a sour note on the thoroughly enjoyable previous acts of Fahrenheit. A boss battle where one was not needed. The image of a potentially intelligent and devious villain shattered in favor of a pointlessly destructive maniac.
Despite its shortcomings, it still remains one of my favorites in terms of it having a more well-realized story and gameplay style than any of the other ill-fated Quantic Dream games. Let us forget The Oracle’s last two acts of madness and remember the good times when we knew very little about him . After all, that is what Christmas is all about, shoving down painful memories with lots of food and a serving of eggnog. Merry Christmas!