On Monday at E3, alongside the big franchise announcements such as God of War, Crysis and Assassin’s Creed that were destined to grab attention, a game from small French developer, Quantic Dream, was quietly demanding column inches. A cinematic but allusive trailer featuring mostly only the fairly inspired combination of a virtual Ellen Page and explosions has ramped up excited wonderings about what exactly is in store for expectant gamers following the critically acclaimed previous release on the PS3, Heavy Rain.
Heavy Rain was heralded as revolutionary, boasting a Metacritic score of 87 with buzzwords such as cinematic, groundbreaking and “interactive movie” being liberally scattered around by a variety of critics. Heavy Rain distanced itself from standard console fare by being predominantly based on character interaction as (without wanting to give too much away) you alternately took control of a cast of protagonists trying to get to the bottom of a series of murders. The game succeeded in layering some real emotional depth into its hard boiled narrative with events that twisted and turned in time with your own investigations, supplemented by the at times uncannily realistic motion captured acting of the characters. An intuitive control system that took advantage of the PS3 controller’s motion sensitivity meant that the “quick time event” action sequences didn’t feel like unwelcome interruptions to your sleuthing, instead acting as adrenaline charged diversions that prevented you from passively slouching your way through the investigation.
Before the much championed Heavy Rain attracted sales that extended into the millions Quantic Dream released another title on the previous generation of consoles called Fahrenheit (also known by the atrocious North American title Indigo Prophecy). Despite sharing many of the same characteristics that led to Heavy Rain being so heavily praised it somehow went relatively unnoticed by the general public, despite being praised as a breakthrough for videogames by the critics.
…the only real difference being what now seems to be quite a rustic graphical veneer…
Following the buzz surrounding Beyond: Two Souls and the acclaim of Heavy Rain there has now never been a better time to delve into Quantic Dream’s back catalogue, especially as Fahrenheit has been re-released on the Xbox Live Arcade to download and play (fairly) instantly. While its pricing at around a tenner might cause a double take, a quick scout of eBay and Amazon shows the original Xbox version selling for up to £30, (although you can still grab it at a smidgeon of this price on PC and PS2) showing just how ahead of its time Fahrenheit was.
Fahrenheit plays almost identically to its younger sibling Heavy Rain, the only real difference being what now seems to be quite a rustic graphical veneer. The boxier environments and characters don’t detract from an experience that is just as immersive as the game Quantic Dream went on to release five years later though. The opening sequence of Fahrenheit warrants a purchase in itself, ranking as what has to be one of the best in videogame history. Who couldn’t be hooked after being immediately introduced to the game by being placed in control of a blood splattered every man who has just regained consciousness in a grimy restaurant toilet next to a recently murdered corpse? All the innovations that have been so lauded in Heavy Rain are just as impressive and intriguing a generation of consoles earlier, and if you can forgive a story that veers a little too far into the incredible in the final third you will find a truly innovative game that will only whet your appetite for Quantic Dream’s next offering even further.