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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Game of the Year #7: Fahrenheit (Xbox)

I feel a bit mixed about this one. Fahrenheit (a.k.a. "Indigo Prophecy") is the only truly original game in this list, and I feel a bit bad that it's only at #7. But with all of its flaws, and with "fun" being the primary factor in deciding Game of the Year honours, I can't in all conscience place it any higher, even though it's the most "worthy" game of the year, and I'd feel better about placing it higher up.

I've said a lot about this game - I even spoke on a panel about it. Basically, it's worth a look if you're interested in talking about games, or if you're curious as to where they might be headed. Heck, bits of it were even quite good fun. But it's not the future. Not just yet. It's overwrought, ridiculous and up its own arse. There: I said it. Its "I really wanna be a movie" pretensions grate on me, and the Simon-esque "interactive" cut scenes pretty much just serve to underline how pointless and misguided it is to try to make a game like a film.

On the other hand, it does a great job in providing the illusion of freedom of choice, while maintaining a (usually) well-paced narrative that's actually fairly linear. Not a bad trick. The use of multiple scripted cameras is a brilliant innovation. Bringing time-pressure successfully to an adventure game, and managing branching conversations in a satisfying and common-sense manner are also significant achievements, and to be applauded. The voice-acting is a bit better than usual, and the rest of the sound design is spectacular. Best soundtrack in ages. What's more, the game provides a compelling atmosphere, interesting characters, and a genuine sense of intrigue... for about two thirds of the game.

Sadly, the game's final act is an absolute turd. Dude, you got your "Matrix" in my "Twin Peaks".

It's one of those games I'm glad exists - there's a lot to learn from it, good and bad. It's adventurous, risky, and forward-thinking. That's all too rare these days. It's a game I'm glad I've played, but not one I'll play again. I'd recommend it to some of my friends, but not most of them. It's food for thought, and will be an interesting one to look back on when some of the questions it raises have been answered. I'm glad I'm not a reviewer. You could give this a 9 or about a 3, and you'd be equally justified. I paid full price for this game, and played it through to completion just for fun. I considered it a pretty good value, despite the fact I groaned and whined a bit in the last couple of hours. A mixed bag, then, but one I'm glad I opened.


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