User review spotlight: Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (DOS)

Under a Killing Moon (DOS)

85
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.0
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  *Katakis* (37838)
Written on  :  Jun 19, 2007
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars

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Summary

How to become a true PI

The Good

Under a Killing Moon is Tex Murphy's third adventure as a lonely PI. WWIII has resulted in San Francisco being divided into two sections: “Old San Francisco” and “New San Francisco”. The war also created the formation of two classes of citizens. Those that were effected by radiation are called Mutants, and those that weren't are called Norms. Tex lives in “Old San Francisco”, among the mutants.

UAKM starts out with Tex looking for some work, and eventually finds some work in the form of finding out who robbed Rook's Pawnshop. Unfortunately, Tex's investigation leads to much bigger things – things like doomsday cults plotting the end of the world, releasing a deadly virus into the atmosphere capable of wiping the Earth clean.

Seeing UAKM's introduction almost made me feel that I was actually watching a movie. The introduction has Tex telling the user that San Francisco is split into two sections, labeled “Old” and “New”, and that he is staying at the Ritz Hotel. Fortunately, this feeling was shattered when I could move around Tex's office and interact with the various gizmos that he has in there. You walk around in a 3D virtual environment, and do things a true PI does, such as looking in drawers, looking under (and on top of) desks, entering information into computers, dealing with security systems, plus other things a good PI does.

Like his last case, Tex has to deal with several characters, which are voiced by actors I haven't even heard of. Brian Keith plays the crusty old Colonel, while Suzanne Barnes plays Chelsee Bando, Tex's love interest. Characters that make an appearance from the last game include Lowell Percival and Mac Malden. Rook Garner is responsible for starting Tex with his investigation. When you interact with characters, there are a variety of conversation choices that you have to make, and these conversation choices can either be positive or negative. Unlike the last game, UAKM does not tell you what Tex will say, so it is up to the user to find out.

Okay, I lied. Before I played UAKM, I heard of Chris Jones, who plays Tex. As every Tex fan should now, Chris also happens to be one of the designers of the game. He looks like Tex in the previous games, too, which made me think that when Access were designing Mean Streets back in 1989, the company decided to make future Tex games “interactive movies”, with Chris as the starring role.

Tex's investigation is within a six-day period. And every day, Tex is faced with a new assignment. These include digging up the dirt on the husband of Francesca Lucido (Jeri Christian; dealing with the scary Chameleon (Russel Means), an Indian who has the ability to change shapes and sets up Tex; and finally, getting off the planet to destroy the doomsday cult.

The graphics are excellent. They show you that Chandler Avenue (where the Ritz Hotel is situated) is a grimy city with no activity whatsoever, apart from the people who are operating some joints. Outside it is a different story. Tex is either likely to enter mansions that are laid out nicely and have the state-of-the-art security systems, or enter company headquarters where other forms of security exist. The graphic quality depends on how much RAM you have. I remember running UAKM with 4MB RAM, which is the minimum memory requirement, and I had to put up with blocky graphics, but getting an extra 12MB fixed things.

A detailed map of San Francisco is used to travel between locations. I like how the locations are color-coded, and how it is accompanied by an small FMV clip showing Tex traveling to his destination. The FMV clips are good to watch, with interesting conversations between two characters that attempt to plot Tex's doom. The clips are well scripted, and it shows you how good or evil the character is.

There is some humor in the game, especially when it is coming from Chris Jones himself. One of the funniest things he can do at the start of the game is where he accidentally throws his gun out of the window. And later, he poses as Inspector Burns in order to gain entrance to the Golden Gate Hotel.

UAKM uses an installation program that I believe is more advanced than any program that I seen. One of its features worth noting is the ability to assign multiple CD-ROM drives. This feature is very useful for those that have more than one CD-ROM drive, since it means that there is no disc-swapping throughout the game. Access supports a wide range of video cards and sound cards that were commonplace at the time, and if any one of these causes the install program to crash or lock up, there is a text-only installation that users can run.

The Bad

When a cut-scene is played, and it involves two people talking, the person who is listening to the other person talking acts like a mannequin, except when he does things like scratching his head or moving his body.

As a true PI, you have to solve puzzles, mainly by getting pieces of shredded paper and putting them together to form a message, possibly getting a new lead. While I was putting them all together, I always ran out of room, and I had to move them around a limited area and try again. These shredded pieces of paper must be in an exact position before they can become of any use. Every letter must be clear and not have immediate cuts to the next one. I found this hard because my mouse often slips just after I get it in the right position, and I also have to try again.

The Bottom Line

Under a Killing Moon is the third Tex Murphy adventure. It is far more advanced than the previous games, with greater freedom of movement, the use of actors, and the fact that sometimes it acts like a movie. As Tex, you have to do all the things a good PI does, and that probably means solving puzzles in order to get a good lead.

You also need to talk to people, mostly asking them about others. The good thing about this is there are various conversation paths that you can go on, and whether it is a positive or negative response is a mystery. In the six days of Tex's investigation, there is plenty of interesting shit to do. The game allows you to assign multiple CD drives. Even if you do not have multiple ones, the disc swapping that you have to do won't stop you from enjoying a fine detective game.

I recommend reading the UAKM novel by Aaron Conners, and I recommend reading it after you have completed the game. It differs from the game, in that it enhances the story, taking elements out that was not relevant to the game's main plot. That and the second novel, based on The Pandora Directive, are both good reads. I believe that you still can by a copy from Amazon.