Monday, March 26, 2007

Fahrenheit (Xbox)

I'd heard Very Good Things about this, so I borrowed a copy off a colleague, since it's on the 360 backwards compatibility list. And now I wish I'd never bothered, since it firmly sits in the camp of "games that everyone else seems to love but I can't get on with at all, but people will probably only think I'm saying I don't like it to be edgy and cool about games".

First, the good: It's got nice animation, and generally looks nice enough, in a slightly cartoony style. And the story seemed like it might be good.

Then, the bad. A much bigger list, as almost everything about the game's mechanics annoyed me, to the point that I gave up when I hit my first 'game over' about an hour in.

The worst thing by far was the dodgy camera-relative controls that didn't update when the camera moved, and updated immediately when the camera cut - exactly the opposite of the way camera relative controls should work.

It has quick-time event games where you have to press the analogue sticks in certain directions. The graphic for this looks exactly like the coloured indicators of a "Simon" game. Since they'd deliberately chosen that look, I'd foolishly concluded that the game must work like "Simon" - it would show me a sequence, then I would copy it. No, you have to do the sequence at the same time. The HUD element is just pointlessly misleading.

Another 'action' element it features is timed events - sometimes in locations that the player character knows, but the player doesn't. It's my first time in "my" flat, so I have no idea where the bathroom is, where my character usually puts his keys, or what the furniture layout is like - but the game wants me to search for my misplaced apartment keys without any clues as to where they might be.

The game features a sanity bar that seems to work slightly like health - if it empties completely then it's game over, I'm told. Except that totally arbitrary interactions cause the meter to drop, so you have to guess which things are important to the game, and steer clear of everything else, since looking at something as innocent as a photo in your apartment causes him to drop closer to madness. If the picture's that depressing why the bloody hell does he have it next to his computer in his bedroom?

My final gripe is that both of the police characters have different skill sets. Usually not a bad thing, except this game's idea of skill sets is things like "the man can flush toilets, while the woman can inspect holes". So you have to search each location twice, in case there's some odd interaction that only one or the other can complete.

Still, I'm sure if it doesn't infuriate you at every step, it could be quite good. It's certainly the first time I've ever felt myself thinking "I wish I could just read this game as a book and not have to put up with the tiresome game part of it".

(Incidentally, I've been on holiday for a few days, which is why there's been a lack of posts. I wonder what exciting games-related news I've missed...)

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