PC REVIEW: STILL LIFE

t's a hard knock life if you're Victoria McPherson. One, you're investigating a series of grisly murders in the Chicago area and have no clue as to who is doing it. Two, your boss is not happy that you have no clues as to who is butchering (this game is rated M) the victims and is summarily breathing down your neck in order to "persuade" you to come up with something. And third, upon returning home for a much needed break you find some files of your Grandfather that appears he investigated the same style of murders seventy five years ago. Are you chasing an ageless murderer? Is there a serial killer out there copying old murders? And maybe most important of all, how can a woman investigate murders in a Chicago winter while only wearing a miniskirt and sweater?

Jokes aside, Still Life is a seriously mature title. No, really serious. Murder scenes are incredibly graphic, corpses are often shown in the nude and of course the nature in which these poor women die is clearly the work of the demented. So please only play this title with no young ones in the room and a heaping helping of Gil Grissom in your gut because you will want to channel your inner CSI investigator to play through the game's creative gameplay elements. Which brings me to those elements, while playing as Victoria (and Gus, more on this below) you must use standard crime scene tools in order to find the clues. For example, in the beginning of the game, you must look throughout a hellhole of an apartment using your crime scene kit. If you find something interesting, the cursor you use to move around with changes icons indicating that this area is a hot spot. Therefore, you must chose what tool from your kit would work best, of course you must always take a picture before removing evidence. What makes this kinda cool is the nature of how some of the clues are discovered. Take your Luminol (a chemical used to find blood not visible to the naked eye) and then place a black light filter over the lights and voila'! You are now reading cryptic messages left in blood on the walls. Yes, that's a bit disturbing since in some instances you may need to swab some sort of body fluid for analyzing as well, but just finding the clues is as fun as it is clever.

Moving around is done by merely placing the cursor on the area you want to walk to and then hitting the button. Not that it makes much sense, I must have walked through the same pool of blood four times before I realized I was disturbing evidence (not that it affected anything) that needed to be collected. Now while this fixed camera angle can be a good thing, I personally am not the biggest fan of the point and click movement that you use to navigate between rooms. But in this game, I actually did not mind the way the whole game is controlled. You can use strictly the mouse or the keyboard and I found using the mouse to be surprisingly intuitive.

I spoke of Gus McPherson before, some long time gamers will recognize Gus from the other Adventure Company game, "Post Mortem". Still Life actually has you playing in two different times, as both Victoria and Gus. It's a nice bridge between the two and helps move the storyline along as Victoria reads from Gus' notes. It also allows gamers to use the investigative tools from two very different era's as you piece together the clues to the seemingly immortal killer.

This game is beautiful. Simply gorgeous. Cleanly drawn backgrounds make the game really pull you into the environment. Morbid acts are displayed eerily well and the dark dingy areas in which you investigate are clearly unkempt and gross, perfectly gross. Victoria is designed well as are most of the characters that are featured in the game. Smooth actions as your characters go about their business. A very tight looking game with all the eye candy my poor graphics card could pump out. Both Prague and Chicago are featured in the game and the designers did a real bang up job of visually pulling me into the game.

Finally, a game that actually has above board voice talent. Victoria might say things that aren't quite appropriate for the situation, but she says them well. Other characters are also well spoken and the folks at MC2 actually had some talented people on staff to do the voicework in the game. Now the music on the other hand really pushed me over the edge. A low drawl of mysterious sounding music constantly flowed out of my speakers. Just the kind of music I had hoped for in a title as dark as this one.

For all my praise of this game it isn't all wine and roses. I did not care for the conversation exchange the game makes you go through. As you speak with people, the mouse icon pops up indicating you have two options to move the conversation along. If you press the left button, your dialogue will be more professional. Pressing the right button, you may elicit a more off topic type of conversation. Problem is, you don't know what you are going to say beforehand and so you have no idea if your dialogue is going to help or hurt your current topic of conversation or get the person you are speaking to, to give you information. Next I think that putting Victoria in knee high leather boots and a mini skirt was just plain silly. It actually takes away from what should be a game that has a strong heroic lead. Then they had to go and try and sex it up with the skirt, sad.

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System: PC
Dev: Adventure Co.
Pub: Adventure Co.
Release: Apr 2005
Players: 1
Review by Renkyu
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.5
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
3.5