In 1718, Gabriel Fahrenheit created something new. The German instrument maker constructed the first mercury thermometer in Amsterdam; to calibrate it, he devised his own temperature scale. For the zero point, according to legend, he measured the coldest outside temperature that winter reached where he lived. To set 100 degrees Fahrenheit, he took his body heat; ects often very evocative images.
In 2005 the French developer Quantic Dream created something new. This Fahrenheit is also measured on a hundreds scale. Seldom has it been so difficult for us to categorize: The amazing action adventure brought some colleagues to the boil with cinema excitement, while for others it was a failed push-button monster that froze all gaming fun.
Murderer and persecutor
Lucas Kane, 31, single, a computer scientist at the Naser & Jones Bank in New York, has killed one person. Smeared with blood, he storms out of the restaurant toilet and jumps past the protesting cashier into the open. Or like this: hectically he flushes the blood from his arms, drags the corpse into the cabin, pushes himself through the back door and takes off in a taxi. Or so: He carefully hides the body and the murder weapon, cleans the room, returns to the restaurant and pays his bill. As a present policeman shuffles towards the toilet, Lucas says goodbye to the subway. Cut, next scene, change of perspective: Detective Carla Valenti and her colleague Tyler Miles inspect the crime scene. You can feel yourself in the skin of the two policemen: What you did as Lucas and what you left behind will now become an indication of the perpetrator hunt. Murder Night is the dramatic introduction to a mystery adventure about the three protagonists Lucas, Carla and Tyler, between whom you constantly switch and run away, investigate, hunt and uncover a secret in artistically entangled scenes - why does the innocent Lucas Kane have murdered a stranger?
The art of the window
First of all: the restaurant scene makes many promises that remain unfulfilled. The game will never give you as many choices as in Lucas' Escape. The clues Carla and Tyler collect changes minimal details of the investigation, but not the plot - the two cops track down Lucas one way or another. And the fact that you visit the same place twice in alternating roles and uncover your own secrets only happens once again. Instead, the game initially follows parallel courses of action. Trying to return to his normal life, Lucas is plagued by strange visions and eventually begins to look for answers. Meanwhile, Carla and Tyler are sorting out facts in the police station, visiting witnesses and rummaging through archives and libraries. The closer the two Lucas get, the more often the storylines cross. Fahrenheit stages these dicey situations with film-like drama.
If events happen at the same time, the game view breaks up into several windows that (as in TV series 24) cleverly play with the perspectives of the protagonists. The fugitive Lucas paces through a motel room, at the same time another camera shows Carla and Tyler approaching the room with pistols drawn - escape is impossible! In another scene, Lucas has to rummage through a crime scene for clues, while in the lower third of the screen a speeding police car makes it clear that time is running out. The game also uses window technology for helpful hints.
No inventory, no puzzles
When Lucas covers up traces or Carla investigates clues, it has nothing to do with conventional adventure games. Fahrenheit has no inventory, no standard commands and - in the traditional sense - no puzzles. When you control the currently active protagonist with the arrow keys or a gamepad through the narrowly limited locations, symbols at the top of the screen show when an action with an object is possible: pick up the phone, open the refrigerator, read a note. A movement is assigned to the action, which you perform with the mouse or the analog stick of the pad. A short mouse move to the left then opens the left desk drawer. The original way of controlling works properly and allows Fahrenheit to do without mouse pointers and menus.
With the simple context commands you can solve tasks that are always clear from the situation and often remain banal. Sometimes Lucas collects two boxes for his ex-girlfriend Tiffany, sometimes Tyler gets champagne from the fridge and fills glasses - such gap fillers bridge the pause between plot scenes. Whenever an object is needed, it is clearly visible. At crime scenes you can switch between Carla and Tyler as you like while looking for clues. The two question witnesses differently and discover other things, which is not always logical; only Tyler can rummage through a trash can, but Carla cannot. In dialogs, you select one of up to four keywords with a mouse gesture. The conversations do not branch. Instead, the game limits the number of questions Carla can ask during interrogation, even if there is no time pressure during the chat.
Much of the action influences the mood of the protagonists that Fahrenheit records. Every blurred trace lifts Lucas' mood, but it falls when you look at the murder article in the newspaper. If one of the heroes falls into depression, it's game over. You cannot see beforehand what effects an action has on the mind. However, you have to be very short-sighted rushing through the plot to ever hit rock bottom.
Fahrenheit uses the mouse gestures not only for leisurely examinations, but also for simple action interludes. A couple of times, for example, you have to alternately draw left and right ticks so that Lucas climbs over a lattice fence step by step. You master a good part of the situations in the game through reaction games. Because Fahrenheit contains around half a dozen spectacularly staged action sequences. Lucas beats up police officers in a flawless matrix manner, dives through the rush hour traffic crashing around him and clings to the runners of a lurching police helicopter. Later he engages in brutal fistfighting duels whose cameras, slow-motion sequences and perfectly choreographed animations are among the best that has ever been seen on the PC. All you have to do is keep the scenes moving like on rails by pressing both gamepad sticks or two keypads in sync with the movement. A touch too late and Lucas will lose a life; are all gone, you go back to the last of the automatically created memory points - there is no free saving. Fahrenheit also uses the keyboard game to make quick decisions in time-critical situations. In this way, Lucas can guess Carla's thoughts during interrogation - but only if you spontaneously enter the key combination that lights up. Similarly, Carla draws conclusions while attending a body dissection. You can cope with other situations by varying the push-button system, for example when Lucas balances on a pole with left-right movements or when the claustrophobic Carla has to take regular breaths in the gloomy police archive.
Weaknesses and sex
As you can see, playful depth is not Fahrenheit's strength. Instead, the reaction exercises, which often start suddenly, maintain a basic tension that goes well with the thriller tingling of the plot. The main focus of the game is on the story and the characters who wear them. With narrative elegance, Fahrenheit interrupts the progress of the story again and again to get closer to the heroes. Carla and Tyler meet up for a boxing match, in which the everyday stress falls away from both of them and they wrestle with each other in silly and gesticulating. Tyler is having a romantic second anniversary at home with girlfriend Samantha, but Sam worries. Lucas gets a late night visit from his ex-girlfriend Tiffany, who wants to pick up her things; In this wonderful scene, Fahrenheit gently shows the fragility of two lonely people - and it is up to you whether they go their separate ways or end up in bed. It's not the only sex scene left in the game. The hypothermic Carla gets out of the shower one evening and sits alone in her apartment - until the doorbell rings. The way Fahrenheit turns the shimmering scene from tension to disenchantment to drama is one of the highlights of the narrative. (CS)
You can read the complete test in GameStar issue 10/2005.