Tex Murphy: Overseer review by Al Giovetti
By Al Giovetti
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In 1982, Bruce Carver founded Access Software in order to publish action-oriented computer games. The first fruits of this effort were Neutral Zone, a space combat game, and Beach Head, an arcade game where you defended a beach. Until the mid-80's, this style of game was Access' main contribution to the computer gaming world. In 1989, Access released the first Tex Murphy game, Mean Streets, the first in a long-line of detective adventures. The first game to make good on the promise of an interactive movie, Mean Streets combined the best of graphics with the incredible technology of RealSound. When Tex next hit the streets of New San Francisco, he solved the case of the Martian Memorandum. This time, the game used full-motion video and fully-synchonized digital speech for the complete cast of characters.
In 1994, Access went even farther in developing the ultimate in virtual detective reality. Combining 3D virtual rooms and cinematic videography, Tex fans entered a new world of computer sleuthing. Adding well-known professional actors enhanced the flavor of the interactive movie. In Under a Killing Moon, the search for clues becomes a real search, looking above things, under things, into things, and even on top of things, just like the real thing. Embroiled in a conspiracy of earth-shaking proportions, Tex has limited time to save the world.
1996 brought the next Tex Murphy adventure, The Pandora Directive. With enhanced video capabilities and professional directing by Adrian Carr (of Quigley Down Under fame), The Pandora Directive brought Tex fans the latest hair-raising adventure, as Tex tries to solve a missing person case and gets involved in a government coverup.
Now, 1998 reveals the beginnings of Tex Murphy as a private investigator in Tex Murphy: Overseer. How did Tex meet Chelsee Bando? How did he get married to Sylvia Linsky? These questions and more are answered with the release of the current game.
Tex Murphy Is Back In First Made For DVD Virtual World Mystery Tex Murphy: Overseer is the fifth installment in Access Software's award-winning series, and the first game built from the ground up for DVD.
Access Software announced today the February, 1998 release of Tex Murphy: Overseer, optimized for the PentiumŪ II platform featuring Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) technology. Tex, the unshaven P.I. of Under a Killing Moon and The Pandora Directive fame, will now race through a full-screen Virtual World via DVD technology.
"There is perhpas no other type of game that will benefit more from DVD technology than the Tex Murphy genre," explains Chris Jones - a.k.a. Tex Murphy - Executive VP at Access. "Our last adventure in this series contained over four gigabytes of graphics and source data to create an award-winning 3D Virtual World. To substantially raise the bar on technology with Tex Murphy: Overseer, we needed DVD."
New features in Tex Murphy: Overseer include a high color 3D Virtual World, AC-3 Dolby digital 5-channel surround sound and up to movie-quality video frame rates. Fans of the series will be pleased to learn that Hollywood director Adrian Carr is back, working with a new cast that includes Michael York and Rebecca Broussard. "The story begins with a suspicious suicide leap and ends with a finale guaranteed to blow the audience away," promises Chris Jones.
The new adventure will ship with both one DVD, and five CDs in each box to accommodate all users during this DVD conversion period. Some features are not available on the CD version.
Game play is your basic select from the list during conversations what you want to talk about next from a notepad list. Adding to this style of play and returning from the last two Tex Murphy outings is a selection from a short list of possible replies all of which seemed rather obvious to me except for a few while being interrogated by a killer and earlier when trying to retrieve the a briefcase from the killer's hotel room.
Many other puzzles require you to collect, combine, and use the correct item at the correct time. The large capacity inventory will allow you to use the item where appropriate and it will then disappear making the inventory more manageable. Most of these items are somewhat easy to figure out. For example, you combine a stick, a string, a box and a wind-up mouse to make a snake trap.
Of course there are puzzles such as the repeat the pattern puzzle in J. Saint Gideon's bedroom, and Simon-like match the colored buttons and tones to a tune, and others like the gears and sticks puzzle. Most of these puzzles can be bypassed by typing 911 into the puzzle screen.
While making the right choices with the hit man may have been somewhat difficult, the included help section of the game got you out of most problems. Where you may really get stuck is the obligatory arcade section where you must jump from a wall to a floor that is a maze complete with charged and uncharged portions of the floor, in an ever changing test pattern. No cheat or easy mode will help you past this point in the game and many people who hate arcade games will get stuck here and may be unable to complete the game.
Many game players find the logic behind including this type of unbypassable, and lethal trap unfathomable. These same game players shake their head in confusion and look toward the cheat pages for answers, but the only thing that we know which will bypass this problem is a save game after the charged floor.
The game starts with Tex and Chelsea Bando, his current love afair, talking about his past relationship with his first wife while on a dinner date. Chris Jones describes the background to the discussion, "Well... Tex, as it turns out, isn't completely over his first marriage... some of you may have noticed that Tex has worn a wedding ring... throughout UKM and Pandora, despite being happily divorced... Chelsee wants the skinny on Tex's hang-up... and that's what a lot of the "human" side of the Overseer story is about."
Tex Murphy: Overseer is a lot like Mean Streets an Early Tex Murphy game. According to Chris Jones, who playes the Tex Murphy character in the film game, "Basically, the idea was to give users who never got a chance to play MS... a little bit of Tex's history. We must emphasize, however... that the game is much more than Mean Streets was-- The plot is bigger and better, more characters, completely different gameplay... More and much better puzzles, etc., etc, etc..."
The plot is no longer multi-threaded, nor are there any dead ends. While we applaud the elimination of the dead ends, the flat and unfulfilling nature of a single path plot, with only two ways to go, death or success, at every turn in the road is a boring alternative. The excuse that Intel was paying them buckets of money to get the game out in less than a year, hardly justifies the poor quality of the otherwise, well-written, script.
AnimationThe Pandora Directive ran in 256 at 10 frames per second... the DVD version of Overseer runs run in 17 million colors with a 24-bit pallet at 30 frames per second. Adrian Carr says that it provides more nuance of expression and eliminates blotchiness on the faces.
Voice ActorsTex Murphy is a full motion video game, one of the only games of its type that does full motion video right. As a result there is a full stable of distinguished actors that can be found in the game. It was interesting that Sylvia Linsky, played by Rebecca Broussard, was described by Access executives at an online question fest as the woman living with Jack Nicholson. Other than these talents that the Access management is so impressed with, Rebecca is a very good actress and at times has our usually cool Tex, played by Chris Jones, Access Vice President and Cheif Financial Officer, obviously flustered in some of the scenes.
Also on the bill is the multitalented and vetran Michael York from radio, television, stage and screen with movie credits that include Taming of the Shrew, The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, Logan's Run (a personal favorite), The Island of Dr. Moreau, Lethal Obsession, The Shadow of a Kiss, Goodbye America, Good Vibrations, Austin Powers, and Dark Planet. Michael's performance is strikingly good and should have provided our amateur actor, Chris Jones, with some poignant pointers. Michael Plays J. St. Gideon a chess fanatic and financier who is trapped in a wheel chair due to a catastrophic accident.
Back again is vetran director, now with an acting roll in the ending sequence, Adrian Carr, who directed Quigley Down Under and D.A.R.Y.L. (another personal favorite). Also back is Aaron Conners who scripted and produced the current Tex Murphy, and with a small acting role.
Multi-player FeaturesChris Jones describes the multiplayer possibilities for Tex Murphy and one multiplayer feature, "the very nature of the detective game is solitary... however, there is a cooperative mode in Overseer that will allow you to... converse with other players while playing."
Cheats, Hints, Walkthrough
JournalistsWhy do computer magazines assign people who do not like the genre to review the game? Benjamin obviously would prefer to be playing Quake 2. It is sad that such a good game has to get a bad review because you don't like the type of game. Peter Olafson gives us a much more even handed and accurate review saying the game is good, too short, and too little like the original game to qualify inspite of the striking and beautiful 30 fps full motion video.
ReferencesBenjamin E. Sones, Computer Games, issue number 90, May, 1998, page 92-93, 2.5/5, 50%. Peter Olafson, PC Games, volume 5, number 5, May, 1998, pg 77, B-, 82%.
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