Fahrenheit, a DVD-ROM in English, produced by Quantic Dreams for Atari and distributed by Atari-Israel, requires Windows 98 and up and a 800 Mhz Pentium III PC or better, for ages 15 through adult, NIS 230. - Rating: *****
Countless people have awoken from tormented, restless sleep induced by this nightmare: They discover themselves with a bloodied knife in their hands and learn that they have murdered, without any motive, someone they didn't even know.
It happens, in this game, to the fictional Lucas Kane, an ordinary guy who goes into a seedy New York City diner for a bite to eat one snowy night. In the toilet, he suddenly loses control and, as if possessed by some external power, stabs to death an elderly gentleman as he washes his hands at the sink. This murder is only one case of several, in which ordinary people randomly kill absolute strangers in the Big Apple. The same pattern appears throughout, even though the killings are not connected.
In about 12 hours, you take on the personae of four characters: Kane; good-looking, 28-year-old New York Police Department detective Carla Valenti; former ghetto resident turned detective Tyler Miles; and Lucas's brother Marcus. You feel the terror and easily identify with each of them - even the blood-spattered Lucas - when you play them.
This highly innovative piece of software, a breathtaking psycho thriller, makes you feel as if you are taking part in an interactive movie rather than just shooting at anything that moves. It is a thinking person's movie, a supernatural manhunt story that unfolds differently each time you play it. Gameplay requires an understanding of psychology, making decisions in fractions of a second and questioning witnesses. Although I usually don't highly recommend murder mysteries, as they almost inevitably show gore for gore's sake, characters' mental states are more important in this game than the spilling of blood, which is not glorified.
Oddly, the game, produced by the French company Quantic Dream, was released with the title Fahrenheit in Europe and Israel and Indigo Prophesy in the US and the rest of the world. This is confusing, and also odd, since the temperature scale of Fahrenheit is used in the US while Celsius or Centigrade is the norm in Europe and Israel. No explanations are given for the different names.
David Cage, the talented writer and director, introduced his persona into the game, presenting himself as the computer-generated teacher for the tutorial. Balding and dressed simply in jeans and a wool sweater, the animated Cage demonstrates how to press arrow keys rapidly to produce a continuous action and control the cameras, and how to move characters with keys or mouse.
Then you are eerily brought to the scene of the crime, where Lucas comes from behind a bespectacled man named John and stabs him repeatedly. The picture is transformed into a ghostly blue-white. Taking up Lucas's character, you have to drag the body out of sight, mop up the blood, wash your arms and face and nonchalantly saunter out of Doc's Diner, paying your bill when the waitress reminds you and escaping just a moment before a cop stops eating and goes to the bathroom.
If you're not fast enough, the policeman will catch you on the scene and arrest you, which brings the game to an abrupt end. But if you manage to escape, you're far from out of the woods, as the police reach you in your apartment and continue to pursue you. Every decision you make will affect the story's outcome.
As you maneuver yourself freely in the multi-layered story and among the various environments, action in two places often appears on split screens. The characters' thoughts are sounded by skillful actors and written as text on the bottom of the screen. Tense background music sets the stage for each of the story paths you follow. Fortunately, Cage decided to forgo the near-universal requirement in adventure software of maintaining an inventory of weapons and other paraphernalia; instead, players have to keep their eye on a mood gauge that rises with the characters' anxiety and fear and prevent them from freezing into inaction. For example, not long after the inexplicable murder, Lucas - constantly hit by flashback memories - feels somewhat better when you help him take a shower, change his clothes and have something to eat.
The graphics engine is superb, giving the action a cinema-like quality. Whether you call it Indigo Prophesy or Fahrenheit, this pioneering new game will undoubtedly be hot.