Under a Killing Moon

aka: Tex Murphy: Under a Killing Moon, UAKM
Moby ID: 850
DOS Specs
Buy on Windows
$9.99 new on Steam

Description official descriptions

It is December of the year 2042. The world is still recovering from the disastrous consequences of the World War III. Radioactivity has turned many humans into mutants, and the gap between those and the "norms" (non-affected humans) is growing wider. Certain places in the world have retained the feel and the charm of the old times - among those is the Old San Francisco. There, the private investigator Tex Murphy is trying to deal with unemployment, upcoming poverty, and his melancholic mood following his divorce. After solving a simple robbery case, Tex attracts the attention of a mysterious woman who calls herself Countess Renier, and is hired by her to find a missing statuette. Things gradually begin to go wrong in this investigation, and Tex finds himself involved in a confrontation with a powerful and dangerous secret cult.

Under A Killing Moon is the third game in the Tex Murphy series of adventures, and a sequel to Martian Memorandum. The game is notable for its use of detailed, texture-mapped 3D graphics during a time when pre-rendered visuals were still the standard in the genre. Uncommonly for adventure games, Under A Killing Moon allows full maneuverability. The player can rotate the camera, change the viewing angle, zoom in and out, etc.; it is even possible to look for clues underneath desks, chairs, etc.

Inventory-based puzzles are relatively rare in the game, and the emphasis of the gameplay is placed primarily on exploration, conversations featuring extended topics and choices, and self-contained logical puzzles. Other features include an online hint system (that decreases the player's score with each use), extensive support for additional sound and music devices, and full-motion video technology: cutscenes and much of the dialogue are presented as movies with real actors.

Spellings

  • 殺人月 - Traditional Chinese spelling

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Credits (DOS version)

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Reviews

Critics

Average score: 84% (based on 35 ratings)

Players

Average score: 4.1 out of 5 (based on 98 ratings with 6 reviews)

You can't keep a good man down...

The Good
The presentation...WOW! When I first got my hands on the the demo way back when, I was COMPLETELY blown away. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Just walking around, opening trash cans, etc. was too cool for words. This is an A+ production, and you can tell the creators really put their best into it. It was hard, too...give this one to "the guy who can beat anything without any help" and watch him cry like a baby. Nice to see some returning characters from the old games, too.

The Bad
Like I said, it is hard. REAL hard. Like the previous title, it is far too easy to miss something, only to have it bite you in the rear later on. I suppose the greatest reason for the challenge was in the perspective, at the time, gamers didn't really "think" in the 3-D. You really need to comb each and EVERY inch of EVERY location if you want to succeed.

The Bottom Line
A landmark in gaming, setting a new benchmark for years to come. Hey, it's Tex!

DOS · by Toka (13) · 2001

Best adventure gaming around!

The Good
First and foremost. When you buy a Tex Murphy game you get the hint book inside the game. In the sub menu you can choose to cheat and get hints for a cut in your score. For those who are pureists (not me) then this option is useless if not insulting. But for the other 99.9% of us that get stuck and want to finsh NOW! then this is the jem of all jems. Good clean fun WOW! No bad language minimual violence maximum gaming goodness. One of the other great things about this game is its length. Killing Moon is a long game but not in a bad way. When you finish the game you feel like you really accomplished something. I know that when it was all over I could not believe how much fun I had. As soon as I was done I RAN to get the next one in the series. This series just continues to preform. A lot of younger gamers will find the idea of a game without violence and topless women boring. But if you can look past that for a moment and try one of these classics you just might begin to see what good PC games really are. When your mind is stimulated not just your... well you know.. then you get to experience what PC have to offer. Thank you I will now get off my soapbox.

The Bad
Nothing. This was one of the infiately few games that had no flaw that I could determine.

...well I take that back. When this first came out it required a system that most people did not have untill years later. It took a while for this game to catch on. But I didnt play it untill years after it came out. So that did not bother me.

The Bottom Line
Everyone should be required to play this game.

DOS · by William Shawn McDonie (1131) · 2001

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.

DOS · by Katakis | カタキス (43093) · 2007

[ View all 6 player reviews ]

Trivia

Actors

  • UAKM was one of the first multimedia games to score "top-notch Hollywood talent" with Margot Kidder, Brian Keith, Russell Means, and even James Earl Jones (voice acting only) playing characters you'll meet during your adventure. It was also one of the first multimedia titles to show that actors working for multimedia games are usually doing so because they have either been paid an exhorbitant amount of money, need the work, or are giving their services for free. In the case of Means, Keith, and Kidder, it was because they needed the money, and while Kidder and Keith put in good performances, Means turns in a terrible one. As for James Earl Jones, he gave his services (which are quite good considering the average quality of the material) for a deep discount (he usually charges $50,000 per 20 minutes of voice work) because his grandson was into computer games and he wanted to impress his grandson.
  • Chris Jones, a designer and producer of Access titles prior to this one, plays not only the title role of Tex Murphy but was also the director of the live sequences -- and all this was in addition to his other regular duties designing the game.
  • A great many people who worked on the game also appear in the game as various characters. Even a playtester, George Manousakis, gets to kiss Tex's ex-wife.

Budget

According to Chis Jones, the budget for the game was two million Dollars.

CD-ROM

Under A Killing Moon, was the first multimedia game to come on four CDs, and the developers hated switching CDs as much as anyone else since, hey, they're gamers too. So they built into the setup the ability to put each CD on a different CDROM drive (for both network CD servers and CD changers) so that swapping was unnecessary. You could even designate different CDs for only two or three drives, to minimize the swapping if not completely eliminate it. This innovation, which was extremely convenient, seems to have been largely ignored by the rest of the industry.

Mormons

Access is based on Utah, home of the Mormons. As such, some of the people who created UAKM were also Mormons, and they wrote into the dialog that the phrase "oh my God" never be uttered throughout the entire game. They instead replaced the phrase with "oh my Hell". While the latter phrase does not take the name of the Lord in vain and is okay with the Mormons, it sounds extremely awkward. Other religious references also sneak themselves into the game, such as a moon base worker uttering a prayer right before the base explodes, the existence of God as a character (played by James Earl Jones, of course), the plot of the game taking place across 6 days, with the end of the game on the 7th day, etc.

Novels

Two novels were written about UAKM and its sequel, The Pandora Directive. Unfortunately, these books have been discontinued by the publisher.

Outtakes

The end credits of the game are accompanied by some funny outtakes. There are also some inside jokes about popular culture, such as an O.J. Simpson mask in a costume shop (with Tex Murphy saying something to the effect of how scary the mask is).

RealSound Technology

Under A Killing Moon marked the death of Access' RealSound technology; the patent holder said in an interview that, by that time, "the market had moved on and the use of sound cards had become commonplace." There is still a small bit of technical innovation in the MIDI engine (designed by Human Machine Interfaces) in Under A Killing Moon, though: If the user chose to check the "digital drums" option, sampled drum sounds were used instead of synthesized ones. This made the music sound less artificial on FM synthesis-based sound cards like the Sound Blaster.

References

  • Sometimes the limitations of the technology became apparent when moving very close to textures. An inside joke is made about that when examining the fire extinguisher on the wall; Tex quips that the landlord was so cheap that he painted fire extinquishers on the walls to fool the building inspector, since the inspector had "only one eye and no depth perception". :-)
  • At one point Tex can examine a piano, and exclaims, "It's even better than a Stauffway!" This is a clear jab at The 7th Guest, which featured a piano branded after bad guy Stauff. (which, in turn, was a play on the well-known Steinway brand of pianos)
  • If you're killed multiple times by the Probe Droid later on the game, James Earl Jones as the narrator will say, "The Probe Droid is not as forgiving as I am," referencing one of Jones' seminal lines as Darth Vader.
  • You can find a boxed copy of Access's Links 986 aboard the Moon Child. Upon examining it Tex will comment on how it looks like some sort of croquet software.

Technology

Like The 7th Guest before it, Under A Killing Moon was a technology leader in the gaming industry. It was one of the first (if not the first) games to use 16-bit 22KHz sound and an immersive, 3D, textured world with light sources and shadows (although the lighting/shadows are a hack; they're pre-rendered into the textures). This is on a 386 with a single-speed CDROM drive -- I myself played it to completion on a 386/40 and a single-speed drive.

Awards

  • Computer Gaming World Magazine
    • November 1996 (5th Anniversary Issue) - #99 on the "150 Best Games of All Time" list
  • Power Play
    • Issue 02/1995 – Best Digitized Video Scenes in 1994

Information also contributed by PCGamer77, WizardX and Zovni

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by MAT.

Windows added by Cantillon. Linux added by lights out party. Macintosh added by Jeanne.

Additional contributors: Trixter, William Shawn McDonie, Unicorn Lynx, Jeanne, Paulus18950, Patrick Bregger.

Game added February 11, 2000. Last modified December 25, 2023.