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SummaryThe best interactive movie Sierra has ever done
The GoodThe Beast Within was the first interactive movie that I played, and this was at a time when big game companies like Sierra took advantage of CD-ROM technology. It is a very good game. In fact, it's far better than the interactive movies that were on offer. The game was directed by Will Binder, who worked on a series of documentaries and short movies, and GK2 was considered his big break. I think that this is the first and only Sierra game to be directed by someone outside of Sierra.
After stopping the voodoo cult operating out of New Orleans and recovering the talisman that his great uncle sacrificed his life for, Gabriel Knight (played by Dean Erickson) is now in Schloss Ritter, working on his Blake Backlash novel about the events that occurred two years before. He hears a knock on the door and finds out it is the local townspeople who, after being told he is the new Schattenjäger, ask him to investigate a werewolf attack that claimed the life of a child. After agreeing to help them, Gabriel stays at the farm just outside Munich where the attack took place. His investigation eventually leads to a hunt club run by a charming man named Friedrich von Glower (Peter Lucas). Having found out that Gabriel is a member of the Ritter family, von Glower welcomes him with open arms.
Later on, his secretary Grace Nakimura (Joanne Takahashi) joins him in Germany, feeling that she may be of use to him. She is disappointed to find out that she just missed Gabriel. However, once she learns that Gabriel's case involves werewolves, she does some research for him and finds out that the attacks date back to the days of King Ludwig II. I like how the story of Ludwig was modified slightly so that it involves werewolfry, and that leads to some more research, this time on Richard Wagner and his lost opera. Although I found most of the research boring, I was impressed at how that all came together at the end.
The game is divided into six chapters, with the player alternating between Gabriel and Grace until the last chapter where they have to play both. Each chapter is stored on the six CDs that came with the game, and this means that you have to do some disc-swapping unless you have the version from GOG.
The Beast Within comes at a time when Sierra decided to drop the point-and-click interface we all know and love, and replace it with a simplified interface where you only have one mouse cursor to interact with the environment. Although I found this approach annoying, I think that this is much easier for players new to the adventure genre. The inventory is accessed by clicking the icon on the right that looks like a duffel bag. Both Gabriel and Grace have their own items. Among the items Gabriel has at the start of the game is the tape recorder which has the ability to isolate pieces of audio and place this audio onto a blank tape. Doing this is necessary to solve the first puzzle of the game.
All the actors that appear in the game deliver good performances, and I was most impressed by Erickson's. He comes across as one of those types that tries to keep his cool even when he becomes involved in a heated argument, and he also has a sense of humor to go along with it. He said that if the rest of the GK games were interactive movies, he would star in all of them. I wish that was the case. Also, people praised him for his role via his Facebook page, but I'm not one of them.
The Beast Within uses FMV technology to display cut-scenes that are triggered when the player initiates some action or starts a conversation with one of the characters. I know that some players loathe watching the main protagonists open and close doors, write letters, walk into buildings, get in cars, etc., but this adds to the realism. There are movies at the beginning and ending of each chapter, and it's good that Sierra gives you the option of watching them again.
The locations that Gabriel and Grace visit in the game are actual locations, which also adds to the realism. The Munich Zoo (Thalkirchen) even has a wolf enclosure. When a game uses locations based on real-life ones, the gamer has to go over and see it for themselves. Just ask YouTuber IPKISS4LIFE.
The CD-quality soundtrack by Robert Holmes is excellent. Most of the soundtracks are unique to each chapter, and they blend in with the situations the player will deal with. I enjoyed listening to the orchestral versions of the music from the first game, as well as the music for the chase sequence at the end of the game. In fact, it is used as my ringtone. It makes you hurry up and answer the damn phone!
The BadSpeaking of the chase sequence, the whole thing is just one maze where you have to lure the antagonist into a certain room, done by closing certain doors. This is too difficult because once you close a door, you cannot open it back up. Furthermore, it is too easy to die by making a wrong decision.
The quality of the FMV is not that great. It uses QuickTime compression, and I have noticed audio static in some of the movies.