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Tex Murphy: Overseer (Windows)

78
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.9
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  אולג 小奥 (168715)
Written on  :  Oct 02, 2003
Rating  :  4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars

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Summary

The best Tex Murphy story in the hardest Tex Murphy game

The Good

As great as Under a Killing Moon and Pandora Directive were, their stories were not of the same quality as their gameplay, setting, atmosphere, dialogues, and everything else. Many things were still underdeveloped and unfinished, there were no true confrontations, no deep meaning to the stories, no genuinely interesting concept behind them. "Overseer", the last Tex Murphy game (alas, it seems they will never release a sequel), delivers all the goods of its two great predecessors, and adds to them a profound and involving story - most certainly the best Tex Murphy plot ever.

I didn't play the original Mean Streets for long enough time, so I can't say whether the story of "Overseer" is totally copied from it (it was supposed to be a sort of a remake to this early title), or just repeats the outlines of the plot and adds new content. In any case, the story of "Overseer" is great. The mystery is more complex and intriguing than in both "Under a Killing Moon" and "Pandora Directive", the sci-fi elements make a lot of sense, there are plenty of interesting stylistic details (like chess figures being a part of the interface design), and everything is tied together by the personality of your final adversary, that remains unknown almost until the very end. The plot involves profound social and moral problems such as rarely seen in adventures, and almost reaches the grandeur and the epic quality of console-style RPGs.

This story is brought to life by excellent high-resolution 3D graphics and appropriate "moody" music. The locations of the game are even more atmospheric than in the two other "virtual reality" games. The interface was simplified (no more switching between exploring and action modes). A lot of imagination was put into locations design, which range from bizarre ancient temples to modern laboratories.

Of course, technical progress allowed "Overseer" to have better graphics and movie quality, but many things were improved regardless of it. As a movie, "Overseer" is clearly superior to its two predecessors, not only because of its technically higher video quality. The acting is much better - in addition to the ever wonderful Chris Jones in the role of Tex Murphy, there are such quality actors as Michael York, who certainly raise the acting in the game to a whole new level. Other actors are also better than the supporting casts of "Moon" and "Pandora". The cut scenes have more suspense, and the scenes with villains, that were quite ridiculous in the two other games, become really cool in "Overseer".

And of course, there is plenty of the usual Tex Murphy goodness: witty dialogues, investigations, romance, tense action-like sequences, great suspense, and hardcore puzzles.

Well, what more could we wish? It certainly looks like a dream coming true: all the greatness of "Under a Killing Moon" coupled with a much better story. What could possibly go wrong?..

The Bad

One thing went slightly wrong, and it was the gameplay. No, not even the gameplay, but the puzzles. But since puzzles are usually the most important gameplay part in an adventure game, whenever there is something wrong with them there is something wrong with the gameplay in general.

Everybody know it is very hard to make a great sequel to a great game. Everybody know it is even harder to make a great sequel to a great sequel of a great game. "Under a Killing Moon" was such a success that its creators didn't feel it was necessary to change anything essential in its sequels. It was probably a good decision, but where there are no changes in essence and content, there are always changes in quantity. The fans want the same as in "Under a Killing Moon", only more of it - let's give them more! Leaving the whole gameplay structure untouched, they first expanded it, and then inflated it to an enormous size. The result of this second operation was the overloaded "Overseer". It follows exactly the same pattern as "Moon" and "Pandora", but what "Moon" does one time, and "Pandora" doubles, "Overseer" throws at you without counting. Where there was one moderately tough puzzle, there are now five impossible ones. Where there were three hidden items in a room, there are now ten. Where there was a fairly long game, there is now a game that won't end. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because most of the puzzles in "Overseer" are still interesting, and the story is fascinating. But I can't help thinking "Overseer" is not only a remake of "Mean Streets" story-wise, but also a remake of "Under a Killing Moon" gameplay-wise...

Without the built-in walkthrough, "Overseer" would be the hardest adventure game I ever played. Luckily, there was this walkthrough. But was it really necessary to literally force the player to resort to it?

The Bottom Line

"Overseer" is one of the last truly great adventure games, and the final episode of one of the greatest video game series ever. Despite its monstrous difficulty level and its gargantuan size, it is a first-class story and gameplay experience, and an honor to the concept of "interactive movie".