Archive for September, 2005


Monday, September 19th, 2005

I’ve been looking forward to Fahrenheit ever since I first heard about it: Quantic Dream’s last game, Omikron: The Nomad Soul was a hugely ambitious – but flawed – action/adventure title which blended genres and brought a bunch of whole new gameplay ideas to the table; it also focussed heavily on having cinematic quality graphics, production, direction and plotting – and by and large, it pulled it off. Sadly, it proved almost too ambitious, and what should have been one of the most important games ever ended up getting mediocre 70%-odd reviews and disappearing into obscurity.

Fahrenheit is a hugely ambitions, but flawed, adventure game which – stop me if you’ve heard this before – focuses heavily on a cinematic gameplay experience, using movie-style direction and production. Okay, there’s less genre-blending this time, and it’s a much more constrained experience than Omikron was, but the common ideas are still very much in evidence. David Cage, the writer and director, is clearly a man of great vision; he, and his team, need first and foremost to be applauded for pulling off something really damned impressive; rhis is a gaming diamond – but sadly, a rough one.

The game opens with a scene showing the central protagonist, Lucas Kane, emerging from a toilet stall in a New York diner and stabbing another man to death. The trouble is, Lucas has no idea why he’s just done this and, in fact, no memory of doing so. So, the point of the game is to find out just what the hell is going on. During the course of the game, you play not only as Lucas, but as both of the police officers investigating the case, and you’ll discover dark secrets about humanity, get involved in a power struggle over the future of the world, and see some naked ladies – well, in the European release, anyway.

The actual gameplay is a curious mix of fairly standard adventuring – albeit with some nice twists to make it more “open-ended” – and cutscenes from the Shenmue Quick-time Event school of gaming – sort of like a rhythm-action game, without music. During the adventure sections, you’ll often find yourself in situations with a very limited amount of time to make a decision and no way to go back on that decision. Decisions that kill you play out pretty quickly, so there’s no danger of taking the wrong path and only finding out hours later; but the point is to make the game flow better and put more emphasis on the story and immersion – and it works.

Ultimately, for all the open-ended appearance of the game, the story itself is still very linear (although there are several possible endings, these only depend on a decision you make just before the end of the game). You do influence details of the story – for example, whether you pick up the knife you used to kill the guy or not will affect how the investigation plays out later on – but ultimately the plot itself remains intact with just the odd scene here and there changing.

Technically, the game is a massive achievement – once completed, you can unlock various “Making of…” movies, which give some idea of just how much work has gone into it; the motion-capture videos are particularly impressive. Visually, it’s stunning, and Angelo Baddelamenti’s score provides a haunting backdrop to the game.

However. It’s not perfect: the plot is cliched – sure, by gaming standards, it’s excellent, but in terms of originality it’s up there with your no-brainer summer blockbusters – and the script is, in places, somewhat cringeworthy, which isn’t helped by the often heavy-handed cuts during dialogue. A somewhat bigger problem, though, is in the action sequences – you spend so much time concentrating on the little Simon-style rings of light in the middle of the screen that you can easily miss what’s playing out in the action behind them; fortunately, you can replay these without the rings of light once you’ve completed the game, but it does mean that things aren’t always completely clear.

And speaking of things that aren’t completely clear, part of the way through, the plot sort of lurches in a new and unexpected direction without much in the way of immediate explanation, instead saving the revelation for the end of the game. Now, whilst this trick works in the cinema, I’m not so sure that it’s so good for games – it leaves the player wondering exactly what’s going on and what they’re supposed to be doing for a couple of hours, and disengages you from the action for a while.

But anyway, I’ve got to be careful because I’m making it sound like I didn’t enjoy it, which isn’t true. I did; it was massive fun and it’s a brilliant game. The trouble is that when you make a game which promises so much and asks to be held up and considered against cinematic standards (which it does) you have to hold it to those much higher standards and inevitably, brilliant though it is, it just doesn’t quite make good on everything it claims to be. However. In spite of this, it’s still absolutely a game that you should play, and it’s set to become an important piece of gaming history. The developers need to be applauded for what they’ve achieved, and encouraged to improve on it for their next project – whatever that may be.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

Monday, September 19th, 2005

I can’t be bothered being cynical again this year. Talk like a pirate day has rolled around again and I shall be drinking grog and counting my pieces of eight and looting and pillaging and having my wicked way with the buxom wenches like a good’un.

(well, actually, I’m sitting on work IRC saying Yarrr! a lot, and will probably go to the pub and drink some rum later, but close enough)


Monday, September 19th, 2005

I seems that Trebbers has been informed of PenguinTracker so I can link to it here now.


Saturday, September 17th, 2005

My brother just found this in his back garden. Apparently, it was about 8-10cm long. Suddenly, I’m an awful lot less keen to go and live in Japan.

I love Nintendo

Friday, September 16th, 2005

The Nintendo Revolution Controller. That, right there, is total genius.

Also, see the video on Satan’s Own Gaming Website if you’re still not convinced.

It’s a miracle!

Thursday, September 15th, 2005

The Burninator has posted an article that not only does not offend me in a million different ways, but that is actually worth reading. I mean, I still don’t completely agree with everything he says, but still, pretty amazing nonetheless.

A very good article

Thursday, September 15th, 2005

Christianity Today has an article on Impractical Christianity which is well worth a read. Sin and holiness aren’t two of my favourite topics, but I like “lifestyle” Christianity even less 🙂


Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

Whatever you’re doing right now, stop it, head over to Play Asia or Lik Sang and order yourself a copy of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! If you don’t have a DS, you’ll want to buy one of those, too. Why should you buy it? This is why:

A big-ass samurai dude is trying to make pots. He is having difficulty with his pots. They’re all coming out wrong, like little tree spirit things, rather than like pots. He’s getting very angry and frustrated, and he can’t sell his pots to make any money. So, finally, desperate, he yells out “OUENDAN!”, and the super-special Ouendan taskforce turned up. These are no normal superheroes, though. Ouendan are three six-foot tall dudes with slick hairstyles and sunglasses, wearing long black trenchcoats. Oh, and they’re cheerleaders, too. As they dance to the funky sounds of Japan’s hottest pop artists, the pot maker finds his mojo again: he spies a young lady emerging from a lake and creates a pot with a mermaid on it; he goes to a club and uses the turntables as a pottery wheel, creating funky pottery for the dancers in the club! He is happy! Ouendan have done their job and another citizen can rest easy knowing everything is back to normal. Hoorah!

You see now?

And that’s just one level of this game.

People Are Retarded

Monday, September 12th, 2005

Merseyside Police have asked people not to ring 999 to ask where to buy fuel after phone lines became strained.

The Internet

Monday, September 12th, 2005

At 8:00am local time, on a train on his way to work in Tokyo, my brother emails me a picture of his new girlfriend from using his mobile phone. It pops up in my inbox in Manchester whilst I’m talking to an old schoolfriend who now lives in Boston, USA. I reply to my brother expressing my approval of his choice in ladies, and he replies to me recommending some strange Japanese post-punk industrial extreme hardcore band he saw last night. At the same time, Cathy and I are arguing the morality of animal testing from the perspective of a vegetarian. For a short while, from the comfort of my sofa in Manchester, my world spans nearly two-thirds of the way around the globe and covers 13 hours of timezone difference. The world is simultaneously enormous and tiny, and even though I’ve got a pretty good idea of how most of it works, the sheer scale of the internet never ceases to amaze me.