The Pandora Directive

aka: Pandora Akte, Die, Pandora Device, Tex Murphy: The Pandora Directive
Moby ID: 1454

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 85% (based on 19 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 4.3 out of 5 (based on 64 ratings with 6 reviews)

Choose your destiny, Tex

The Good
With their groundbreaking Under a Killing Moon, Access Software crossed that border between interesting experimentation and finding their own language. The game's flexible 3D engine allowed detailed interactivity, and the challenging gameplay was complemented by cheesy, yet effective bits of live acting tying into an impressive retro-futuristic drama that also happened to be a good game.

What had been hitherto reserved for first-person shooters became legitimate technology for adventures. From first-person perspective, you can move through the virtual reality, actually feeling the movement - not just clicking and jumping from screen to screen, but physically manipulating the invisible hero - or, better to say, exploring the game world. Of course, instead of 3D characters and objects there are sprites or photos of real people. But those pictures and sprites are situated in a true 3D environment. More important is the fact that the game actually makes practical usage of 3D, so that it becomes an inseparable part of the gameplay rather than mere embellishment. Many puzzles or other actions require flexible camera management and unlimited movement through a three-dimensional world. An integral part of the gameplay is changing the position of the protagonist (which is in fact the point of view of the player himself) and looking at the world from different angles. For example, at certain points you must find clues which are "invisible" when searching the room while standing up; you have to get down on your knees and look for hidden objects under beds, tables, carpets, etc. Sometimes you should also hide from enemies, and in order to do that you have to duck behind covers. Needless to say a non-3D environment would have turned such actions into mouse-clicking pixel-hunting, which is of course much less exciting.

Pandora Directive is basically more of the same - yet clearly better executed and with a few tricks of its own. First of all, it is a bigger and longer game. The playing area has been expanded, and particularly impressive is the immediate surrounding of Tex's office. The new locations there not only make this "hub" environment busier and more interesting, but also enhance the immersion thanks to the illusion of a continuous world. I wish all the game's locations were interconnected; but even with this partial implementation, the exploration feels more rewarding and the nearly grotesque semi-film-noir environment of the futuristic San Francisco really comes to life.

There is more of everything in this sequel: more locations, more puzzles, and noticeably longer playing time. The plot is much more interesting, and its development is more coherent and logical than in Under a Killing Moon. The game loses some of the original's charming goofs, but delivers a more genuinely captivating drama and a more convincing cinematic experience. The acting is better as well, the characters are more fleshed-out, and overall all movie-related material in Pandora Directive belongs to some of the best you'd find in a video game - despite several amateurish traits and a certain awkwardness in the combination of 3D and live actors.

One of the game's coolest feature is its highly touted branching plot. Many adventure games had promised that and eventually shattered our expectations with a few choices before the end sequence. Pandora Directive, however, is the real deal: depending on Tex's behavior pattern chosen by the player throughout the game it will culminate in seven different endings, all resulting from mixing the player's choices and calculating the outcome. Some of the choices include classic scenarios such as sleeping with a certain woman or refusing her advances. There is no way to know which ending you are heading to, which increases replay value and adds almost role-playing-like elements to the adventure experience. I wish more real adventure games though of this device, which is quite prominent in otherwise gameplay-less Japanese visual novels.

Already in Under a Killing Moon there was a typical "triple-answer" feature: when talking to people, Tex could normally choose one of three possible conversation styles. But in that game, those choices were there only for fun; they didn't affect the plot except for those cases when there were obviously right and obviously wrong choices that would cause Tex to die. Pandora Directive uses the same idea, but makes it an integral part of gameplay and story. During the game, you will have to make crucial decisions almost every time you enter a conversation with your love interest Chelsee. You can be rude to her, neutrally polite, or tender. A total of seven endings can be divided into three groups, according to the three behavior types. For example, if you only chose "tender" answers, you'll get the best ending, but if you mixed them with neutral ones, the second ending will take place, etc. The endings range from a typical happy end to a really tragic outcome.

The Bad
Essentially, Pandora Directive is a bigger, more polished version of Under a Killing Moon. Sequels often hesitate between sticking to the roots and breaking new ground to invigorate the franchise; Pandora Directive unreservedly belongs to the former type. It's a good thing that the fantastic engine was preserved, but I wonder whether it was really necessary to set much of the game in the exact same location. Perhaps an even larger area for exploration and a few additional "hubs" would have spiced things up a little more. The engine begins to show its age as well.

The game also shares some of its weaknesses with the predecessor. The story is decidedly less corny, and the acting generally more convincing, but the overall impression is still that of a low-budget drama. Like before, some of the logic puzzles feel contrived, interrupting the otherwise realistic gameplay flow and compelling the player to resort to the temptingly ubiquitous hint system too many times.

The Bottom Line
Pandora Directive isn't strikingly original and owes much of its success to Under a Killing Moon; but it's also clearly a superior game, rendering its predecessor nearly obsolete. Whatever that seminal game did, this multiple-path mystery adventure does better - resulting in a classic case of a sequel staying true to the original while improving upon it in every possible way.

DOS · by Unicorn Lynx (181769) · 2015

No matter how bad things are, things can always get worse.

The Good
ONE FITTIN' PACKAGE

  • Spanning across six CDs, each with its own different print, two double jewel-cases able to fit 8 CDs, and very intriguing box cover concept adds a big plus to this game. Especially back cover with so much text on it, kinda makes this a unique detective box, if not pandora's, fit to compare with packages of those pre-dawn text-adventures. THE HEAT IS GETTING UP
  • The love knots between Tex and Chelsee finally get tighter and the two of them can sum up to several different outcomes, and the true one that later takes on in the reign of an Overseer. WOMEN TIMES THREE
  • Women in this game are really drop-dead gorgeous if I have a freedom of speech. Not only that, Tex gets the privilege to choose as well. This is sort of starting to look like a typical Bond movie, one woman in danger, screaming for help, another one playing both sides until she shows face behind the veil of darkness, and the one that ends up with out hero. SAME OLD, SAME GOOD
  • You get to see the Tex's office and finally meet the owner of the Ritz hotel (not much of a sight, though), get back on the streets we all got familiar with Under a Killing Moon masterpiece, and meet many new as well as couple of familiar characters. Kinda pity you don't get to see most of the cast you met in UAKM. TEX "DANGEROUS" MURPHY
  • There's lots of action going on in this installment of the series, and none of it to Tex's advantage. But where he goes, the action follows and he seems to MacGyver out of the danger with an extreme luck, but that's our Tex. What's a PI that doesn't count on luck. But seriously, seeing Tex in action is more than fantastic this time, it beats both UAKM and Overseer action scenes. For example Tex running to save that club dancer before the murderer get to her, or Tex holding on to the badgirl in the pillar rising scene. The suspense and direction of action scenes is amazing, and so incredibly re-watchable. END ME AWAY
  • Not being a fan of multiple endings, but this one is as explicit example as Blade Runner is. The entire game changes as you develop your character towards good or dark side, which eventually leads to multiple endings. I've seen all of them and the true one is really the best, not to mention the funniest and most sincere. But others are worthwile reaching to see how cool can Tex be even when watching death in the eyes.

    **The Bad**
    RUNNING WITH THE TIME
  • Comparing to other Tex Murphy games, this one simply has too much quicktime events. There is every now and then that you have very short time to do something but first, you must figure out what is it you need to do. It gets constantly frustrating and it is true help to have a hint system in such occasions. THE STORY
  • The story is kinda least appealing so far, and even thought it all seemed intriguing at the start, it doesn't quite end up to my expectations, the whole revelation thingy. The least interesting one that makes me think if Access wanted to make something that look more like an epic and gain fame on the success of UAKM. Tex should stay on the Boggie role, saving the world in UAKM was okay, but Roswell conspiracies and all this alien hunt wasn't much of a deal, not to mention that one entire CD is spent in a top secret base where Tex is reckoning with a very dangerous Alien, not much of an alien design though. Think it would've been better effect if the base was dead empty.

    **The Bottom Line**
    It's a Tex Murphy game, it has Chris Jones in it, it should be a reason enough to get it. It has a few drawbacks to compare it with Under a Killing Moon and Overseer, but it's filled with great art, superb dramatic scenes, Tex's charm, and a PI rules. Having Tex Murphy games in your collection is a trademark of quality, an underrated top quality.
  • DOS · by MAT (241141) · 2012

    Simply the best of the series

    The Good
    This is where the team actually hit their pace with the story, cinematography, and gameplay. A huge leap over the campiness that was Under a Killing Moon, this game fully imbues the streets of San Francisco with that oldtime P.I. feel. The music and lighting only drive the nail home. The acting was also much better this time around, thanks to the presence of more Hollywood actors. Each major character brings their role to life with a power not often found in a game. Barry Corbin especially is frightening as the psychotic head of the NSA. Still, there are a few subpar performances on the sidelines. And for another note, THANK YOU OH THANK YOU GOD FOR NOT USING THAT CHEAP TRICK FROM THE LAST GAME! One thing that drove me up the wall from UAK was the method of saving disk space by only having one actor move at a time while the other was a frozen sprite hanging in C-Space. Not only did it look terrible, it was also obvious that the other actor was talking to thin air. Gameplay-wise, the puzzles were fun and fit in perfectly with the story. Almost everything that had to be done felt right, from searching through an alleyway full of garbage cans for the right newspaper to piecing together a torn death threat.

    The Bad
    The Windows version was only a half-transport, and suffered heavily from bugs. I finally had to ignore half the warnings it blared at me every time I booted it up and soon discovered that it worked better with all those threatening utilities still running. Still, there were occasional lockups.

    The Bottom Line
    Definitely for anybody seeking a good adventure game with a damn good detective yarn thrown in.

    DOS · by Vance (94) · 2000

    One of the strongest story lines ever featured in an adventure game!

    The Good
    Pandora Directive (PD) picks up where Under a Killing Moon left off, and then adds to it with spades. It's bigger, the plot is even more tangled and intriguing, and the standard of acting has gone up a notch. You take on the role of Tex Murphy, a hard-boiled P.I. of the Raymond Chandler school, sort of film noir, but ported into the next century where it's always nighttime in a bleak, post-apocalyptic San Franscisco.

    Depending on how you handle your conversations with the many characters you encounter, and also how you manage your romantic interests, the game branches off onto 3 separate paths with a total of 8 different endings (don't believe everything you read on the box, which alluded to 7 endings. And only 6 of the 8 possible endings are unique). PD has a great 3D exploration interface that not many people realise can be run full-screen! You can look in drawers, underneath beds, even stand on tip-toe to look on top of things. This game has often been tagged with the derogatory misnomer 'interactive movie', but rest assured it's a solid detective-style adventure game though FMV is used during interrogation, and of course, to advance the story.

    PD also features 2 levels/modes of difficulty: Entertainment and Gamer. In Entertainment mode (1500 points max.), you don't lose points for not completing the timed puzzles within the time limit, and hints are available. In Gamer mode (4000 points max.), you lose points for not completing a puzzle quickly enough, and you can't get hints. But hey, what else are save and restore for?

    With deadpan P.I. humour, tricky interrogations, clever puzzles, and a deeply engrossing story line, PD has so much going for it that it's a shame to pass up.

    The Bad
    There's very little I didn't like. Probably the only thing is that there's an abrupt transition between the exploratory and examine modes (when you want to look at/take something, you have to exit full-screen into a windowed command interface). Some people will inevitably not like the timed puzzles, and there are also a few puzzles masquerading as arcade sequences. These were not too difficult once you figured out the trick to solving them.

    The Bottom Line
    What starts out as a seemingly innocent missing persons case turns into a sprawling, mind-blowing adventure involving conspiracy theories, government cover-ups, and well... just about everything you can think of that makes up a great detective yarn. Once you've played Pandora Directive, guaranteed it will be high on your all-time favourites list!

    DOS · by TheMetz (2) · 2003

    Three paths + seven endings = one amazing game

    The Good
    In his last adventure, PI Tex Murphy (played by Chris Jones) stopped a cult's plans to release a deadly virus into Earth's atmosphere that would have wiped out mutants. After claiming victory, he decides to focus on dance lessons. One year later, on the night where Tex is a complete jerk to his girlfriend-to-be, Chelsee Bando (Suzanne Barnes), he is hired by Gordon Fitzpatrick (Kevin McCarthy) to find a missing friend by the name of Thomas Malloy, but Fitzpatrick isn't the only person looking for Malloy. Finding him puts Tex in grave danger, and as the game progresses, he will uncover the truth about the greatest government conspiracy.

    The Pandora Directive is the sequel to Under a Killing Moon. Both games use the same engine, but Pandora seems to be a much longer game, consisting of six CD-ROMS instead of four. All of the usual characters from UAKM are in this game, including Chelsee, Rook Garner (Doug Vandegrift), and Louie LaMintz (Randall Edwards). The same Chandler Avenue is there, but new buildings have already been established. You can even walk all the way through the Ritz. You are living in a virtual world.

    That virtual world allows you to do the same things like you did in UAKM like looking under things, on top of things, crawl around, and other actions a true PI does. But Pandora allows you to do more. For instance, you can call people on VidPhones; look up information on a laptop, allowing you to get new leads; and decipher the Mayan calendar. To me, the VidPhones look good and they may be what we'll be using in the near future.

    What sets Pandora apart is the fact that you can play the game and stay on three different paths. Doing so allows you to watch different cut-scenes and take conversations at a different level. The path that you follow through the game depends on the way that you handle conversations with someone, but the three conversation responses should allow you to determine how positive, negative, or just neutral you want Tex to be. It would be hard for people to stay on the positive/negative path that they probably be playing the game on the neutral path. Also, your actions can lead to one of seven endings, some of them are good while some of them are bad. I used a strategy guide to make sure that I played the game several times on separate paths and made sure that I watched all seven endings. Because of the different paths and endings, the game can be played over and over again, in the hope that you would be able to view different footage.

    There are two game modes that you can play the game in. In the “Entertainment” level, you can solve puzzles instantly, which is useful if you don't feel like solving puzzles that can take you at least ten minutes to solve while going nowhere. Not so in the ”Game Player” level, where you cannot cheat your way out of the puzzles. As a bonus, you are treated to more points, hidden locations, and possibly hidden cut-scenes. You have to solve puzzles almost every day, and some of them can be quite hard, as you are expected to put a photo or message together. Even though I found some quite easy to solve, I still had to use a guide to help me with the later puzzles.

    Upon completing Pandora, I enjoyed listening to Tex's Lament while I watched the end credits go by. This song can also be heard several times if you happen to be traveling down the negative path.

    The Bad
    Access has done a good job at not turning people into mannequins when they are listening to someone, but not so with the VidPhone conversations. When they finish being a mannequin, they often tend to be choppy. Choppy as meaning going from one position to the other quickly without some essential body movements.

    In UAKM, users had the ability to assign and use multiple CD-ROM drives through the game's installation program, so that they wouldn't have to change discs every day in the game. I did not see such an option that allows you to do this.

    The Bottom Line
    The Pandora Directive features the same virtual world as Under a Killing Moon. You can do all the things in both games, but Pandora has you doing a little bit more. It is a much longer game, more than the double amount of days that UAKM has, and some of the days are quite long.

    The game is replayable due to the different paths and endings, but which path you are heading down on depends on how you handle conversations with most of the major characters. If you already completed Pandora using the neutral path, for example, you might want to play it again, this time trying to be on either the positive or negative path.

    There are two modes in which to play the game in, making it appeal to either die-hard adventure fan who absolutely loves puzzles, or those that can't cope with challenges.

    As mentioned in my UAKM review, Aaron Conners decided to produce a novel based on Pandora, but it isn't much good compared to the UAKM novel. It doesn't take a different twist and mostly all of the dialogue can also be found in the game. But it is a good read and you can get it, along with the UAKM novel, at Amazon.

    DOS · by Katakis | カタキス (43087) · 2007

    The Tex Murphy series is hands down the best drama on PC

    The Good
    Unlike many other adventure games the plot and script of the game are VERY polished. The Tex series of games if one of the few adventures that focus on storyline rather than graphics or something else. From and adults point of view this could easily be transported to book form (and it was) or TV or even feature film. The story is that strong.

    While this game did not progress much in terms of method or interface the game did improve in many categories.

    1. <u>Longer more in-depth storyline.</u>
    I would have thought after playing Under a Killing Moon that this would not be possible but it is! Pandora just pulls you in and touches more on your heart and emotions than UAKM.

    2.<u>Multiple Paths</u>
    I think that there were 3 different paths that you could take resulting in 12 different endings! You could choose to be the "good" Tex and follow the straight and narrow. You could be the "bad" Tex and be totally self-centered and throw friendships and love to fire. Or you could just choose the middle path. Part bad Tex part good Tex.

    3.<u>Hint Files</u>
    I have said this time and time again. How unselfish and cool of Chris Jones and the foks at Access to not charge me for hints. But not just that, the game also keeps track of where and what I have done. So If I have completed all there is to know about a place or person it reflects that in the hint system. Thus I dont have to waste time looking for the right tip, and can limit my exposure to other info.

    4.<u>Excellent Acting</u>
    As with all Tex games the acting talent is first rate. No doubt about it NO ONE DOES IT BETTER!

    The Bad
    Part of the problem with multiple paths is that sometimes it can be hard to find where you went wrong. For instance if you want the really good ending you have to be careful in your dealings. (but I can handle that) Also the game engine didnt change between UAKM and Pandora. Overall though that really isnt that bad of a thing.

    The Bottom Line
    Please if you are looking for something of substance just give Tex a try. Its hands down the best drama you can find on a PC!

    DOS · by William Shawn McDonie (1131) · 2001

    Contributors to this Entry

    Critic reviews added by Scaryfun, Wizo, Jeanne, Apogee IV, Crawly, EonFear, Emmanuel de Chezelles, Patrick Bregger, Tim Janssen, garkham, Parf, marley0001.