The classic adventure game disappeared for a while. It's still partially hidden behind the heavyweight FPS and RTS genres, but they're making a little bit more of a ruckus than they used to. Games like Syberia and Post Mortem from Microids are trying to cut a path to the front. While it's not likely that they'll see spotlight anytime soon, it's good to see the genre taking another breath getting ready for the next assault on PCs and consoles..
Though the game takes place with some of the same characters involved, The Adventure Company will be quick to remark that those that didn't play the original shouldn't miss a beat with this one. They aren't even considering it a sequel. There are some similarities though, and fans of Post Mortem will find some things that they can appreciate. For one thing, the main character is actually a descendant of Gus McPherson, the main character from Post Mortem. In fact, Victoria McPherson will have some help from Gus in a roundabout way during the game.
As fans will know, Post Mortem took place in the 30's in Prague. Still Life will jump forward in time to the present and take place in Chicago. Victoria, the main character, is an FBI agent that is currently running after a new serial killer. From the first few moments in the game, it's pretty obvious that she's been affected by seeing so many grisly murders over the course of her career. Her dialogue makes light of the gruesome scene spread out before her at the start of the story. This is obviously a person that has become desensitized to the nastiness of the world and has begun to try to fill in the darkness with forced levity. It's a bit disturbing. Disturbing is probably an appropriate word to use for some of the happenings in Still Life. The folks showing the game this morning were quite clear that the game would easily be receiving the M rating upon release. There was even some question that it might be bordering on the next highest, the dreaded AO. While I haven't seen anything that would require that highest of ratings, the first scene of the game was certainly bloody. It was said that they're comparing this title to the movie Seven in terms of the disturbing nature of the crimes, so those with weak constitutions might do well to consider this choice first.
It's obvious that these guys are serious about production values. Good quality cutscenes and some impressively detailed environments make a convincing setting for grisly events. The scene is set with an opening cut that not only provides a window into Victoria's life, but also provide clues to those that watch closely as well as provide a cinematic feel to the game as a whole.
Gameplay is fairly standard for adventure titles, though as with most games, this one will have its twists. For instance, conversational strings can come from two sides. When initiating dialogue with an NPC, players can choose to have Victoria use personal dialogue or business dialogue. Characters will respond differently to different styles of speech, so choosing the right one to get the needed information should provide some interesting answers. There are no punches pulled with language as you might expect after all of the blood, so gamers can expect fairly mature conversations with decent dialogue to sink them even farther into the mystery.
Much of the crime solving will involve considering both clues and tools found through the game, but will most likely be pretty common sense. For example, in the first area of the game, Victoria is told to go gather evidence from around the crime scene while her colleague is working on the body. After picking up tools from the crime scene kit, it'll be up to her to search the apartment for clues. Not only will she be able to collect blood samples of the floor, but will also be able to use the nifty CSI style to expose words written in blood and then cleaned off on the walls. Using the spray and a blacklight filter for the lighting brought in by the police, words appear on the walls spelling out the mental state of the murderer that is committing the crimes.
Along with the clues found in the crime scenes, some clues will also come from notes left behind by Victoria's great grandfather Gus. The notes discuss a crime spree that he worked on that was very similar to the one this game revolves around. While reading the notes, flashbacks take place that lead Victoria and the player back in time to play as Gus. The fun thing about Gus is that he is a bit clairvoyant. During these segments of play, Gus will stumble around for a second and then be hit with a cut scene depicting the crime happening. As before, these scenes will provide clues to players about where to look for evidence, alleviating some of the typical pixel hunting that takes place in games like these. Those that missed any of the clues will be able to go back and review the scene at any time from the notes.
The interface is simply designed and useful. The inventory can be easily accessed when needed and items can be easily combined when needed. The inventory in this case is also in 3D as you may have seen before. This is especially useful in the case of Still Life as clues could be held on the back of an inventory item such as a piece of paper with a code on the back.
Along with the inventory are sections for clues, files, and a log that will allow players to jump back into the story if they've taken some time off from the game. Both Victoria and Gus have the same inventory, clue, file, and log interface from a practical standpoint; though cosmetically will be different to depict the difference in time and between the organization of an FBI agent and private detective.
If you would like to find out more about this game and many other Adventure Company titles you can visit thier website at: www.dreamcatcherinteractive.com/tac/still_life