Tex Murphy: Overseer
"Your client is drop-dead gorgeous. Her father is just plain dead -- of an apparent suicide. She's certain he was murdered and is willing to do anything to prove it. You are Tex Murphy, P.I. -- willing to do anything to make rent. Your 3D virtual reality investigation leads you into the heart of a dark secret. An elite team of specialists has created something unspeakable, and each of them is marked for death. Now, only you stand between freedom and the reign of the Overseer."
The latest addition to theseries, , takes a look back at how Tex got his start in private practice. It all begins with a suicide's leap off the Golden Gate Bridge that quickly entangles Tex in a twisted chase to unravel the core of an evil plot. However, the Tex Murphy in Overseer is nothing like the world-weary cynic fans of this series have come to know.
Like the other games in the Tex Murphy series, the gameplay in Overseer is split between video sequences where most of the story is told and sections where you wander around in a 3D environment looking for clues and solving puzzles. During the video sequences you interact with the other characters by selecting various styles of responses to their questions. Usually the way you respond doesn't have much impact on the game outcome -- the characters will still provide the same information when you play a tough guy as when you're friendly, they just phrase things differently. There's only one spot where your actions in the video sequences make a real difference. The correct response will let you continue the game, the wrong choice gets you killed.
The meat of Overseer is the 3D sequences. In these you wander through dozens of locations searching for clues and putting together the information and items you find to solve puzzles that will lead to the next part of the story. The puzzles range from simple pattern-matching games to more complex brainteasers that will test the most experienced games. Access did their best to make the game work for everyone. Fans who want a real challenge can play the game in a mode where there is no help available and those with a less puzzle-oriented style of gaming can enable hints that range from gentle nudges in the right direction to complete solutions for each puzzle.
The story in Overseer is detailed and engrossing. The characters and plot will keep you playing just to see what happens in spite of the serious problems with display quality and game speed. But even though the plot is good, it is not a Tex Murphy story -- the game would have been better with a new main character. The problem is that the Murphy character in Overseer is too much of a goody-two-shoes for it to be believable that he becomes the drunken slob we've seen in earlier games.
Graphics and Audio
With DVD support, you expect the video sequences in Overseer to be good and they are. The CD-ROM version of the game provides smooth full screen video and if you're running the DVD version the video is outstanding. Unfortunately the 3D world in which you wander looking for clues doesn't come up to the same standards. Since Overseer supposedly supports the latest in 3D hardware acceleration it should have looked as good as any 3D game out there, but sadly the 3D world doesn't even meet the quality of games released two years ago. It is not even as good as, the last release from Access. The graphics are pixelated, the animation is choppy, and the performance is awful.
I played the game on a Pentium with a 3Dfx accelerator card that easily does 30 frames a second in other 3D games like Quake . Even after dropping the detail settings in Overseer to the minimum, I could not get frame rates any higher that 8 frames a second. After talking to Access I found out that Overseer won't ev en attempt to use 3D hardware unless you have an AGP-based video card, so I tried the game on a P2-300 with a top-of-the-line AGP 3D accelerator -- I got 14 frames a second. It's a good thing that speed doesn't matter for most of what you do in the 3D mode -- it's slow enough that it verges on unplayable.
As I said earlier, the video in Overseer is top-notch. There are a few actors who play their characters in a very stilted fashion, but overall they do a good job projecting the correct moods. I found Monique Lanier's portrayal of Wanda Peck, head of CAPRICORN, to be the most annoying. Based on her performance, the character was completely unbelievable as the head of a large public interest group and more accurately fit the stereotype of a blonde bimbo. One notable performance is Michael York as J. Saint Gideon -- he is fantastic.
I did run into problems getting the game working on several DVD systems. On systems with hardware MPEG decoders the video plays without problems, but adjusting the MPEG settings for optimal video quality can be a tedious and frustrating process. According to the box, the game also supports DVD video using a software-based MPEG decoder if your processor is a Pentium 233 or higher, but I was unable to get it working on any system I tried. No errors or warnings were displayed; I just didn't get the video. Access says they are working on patches for the DVD problems, but none are available at this time.
Overseer is designed to take advantage of cutting-edge technology. Unfortunately, the game just doesn't play well if you don't have a several-thousand-dollar system to run it on. The specs listed on the box should be considered a bare minimum for getting the game to run at all. I got better performance with Under a Killing Moon on a 486 than I did with Overseer on a P2-300.
CD-ROM Version: Pentium 133 or faster, Windows 95, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive
DVD Version: Pentium 133 and hardware MPEG-2 or Pentium 233 and software MPEG-2, Windows 95, 32 MB RAM, DVD drive
Tex Murphy: Overseer is designed to take advantage of top-of-the-line hardware, but unfortunately doesn't run well on anything less. The story is well-planned and immerses the player into a world that seems very realistic, but it doesn't mesh well with the previous titles in the series. If Overseer had been the first in a new series with characters that were not so familiar to players and if it had been redesigned to play better on an average system, I would have given it top marks. As it stands, Overseer is a good game with a lot of problems.