Tex Murphy: Overseer

Posted by Jeff Taylor.
First posted on 09 April 1998. Last updated on 23 May 2014.
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Tex Murphy: Overseer
Is this the new Tex or the old Tex?
Tex Murphy: Overseer
Tex is in love!
Tex Murphy: Overseer
Tex needs to use his wit (or lack of) to solve his first case all over again.
Tex Murphy: Overseer
Can Tex save the girl?
Tex Murphy: Overseer
The Virtual World engine now supports full screen.

Game characters

Tex Murphy

Tex is a handsome but cynical private investigator, who feels that he has been born 100 years too late. He tries, with somewhat mixed results, to emulate the style and philosophy of the classic film noir detective. With a broken heart after the divorce, perpetually broke, and cursed with inconsistent social skills, Tex does not fall into the super hero category, but still usually manages to succeed despite himself. His conscience is his most important asset, which shows that, although Tex may not be Mr Right or your regular boy scout, he is a guy that you can trust in a tight situation.

Chelsee Bando

Chelsee runs the newsstand across Tex's new office. She is a mutant, but so far Tex has not been successful in finding out her genetic flaw. In the past, Chelsee has used to politely, and sometimes just blatantly, refuse to go out on a date with Tex. She is a sweet girl with a heart of gold, and she is as beautiful as she is smart. Lately, she has had a lot of thoughts about the "M" word and wants to finally settle down for good. This is what leads her to ask Tex about his past, in order to "extend their relationship" as she puts it.

J Saint Gideon

Gideon is the founder of Gideon enterprises. He is a lonely, crippled billionaire, who lives in a mansion the size of San Francisco. When he is not playing chess, he is sitting in his antique wheelchair in front of a cozy fire drinking high priced wines and smoking the best cigars on the face of the earth.

Sylvia Linsky

When Sylvia wants something, all she has to do is pull her dress half way up her leg and she gets it. She hires Tex to find out if her father has committed suicide or if he has been murdered. She is convinced that her father has been thrown off the bridge from which he is allegedly jumped off. The question remains—has he or has he not he jumped off the bridge? Tex is the man who has to find out the truth.

Big Jim Slade

Jim is the tough macho bully in the game.

Sonny Fletcher

Sonny is a retired private investigator and an ex-cop. For some apparent reason his lips are like magnets to a bottle of bourbon. He says that he has not had a single drink for 20 years, but you may have a hard time believing him when you see him.

There has been a lot of press attention since the announcement on the development of Tex Murphy: Overseer by Access Software in October 1997. Many adventure fans have purchased new computer upgrades and systems, anticipating the return of the world famous private investigator Tex Murphy. As a mystery lover and a huge fan of the series, this title is the most anticipated game of 1998 for me. That is why when the game finally hits the retail shelves there are no words to describe the excitement on my face as I finally put my hands on the box. A few unpleasant moments at the cash register later, I install the game and find myself immersed in the world of post apocalyptic San Francicso. Not only has this game lived up to its expectation, Access Software has once again produced another Tex Murphy classic!

The story of Tex Murphy: Overseer begins in Tex's bedroom where he is just having a nice and seemingly sweet nap. Suddenly the phone rings and Tex wakes up in a horrified look from a recurrent nightmare of his past. On the phone is Chelsee, reminding him of their date to celebrate their first year of "friendship" that is supposed to take place in 20 minutes. Eventually, Tex arrives late at Chelsee's apartment. She has already made reservation at the Golden Pagoda. The date is going well, that is, until Chelsee asks Tex about his past and ex-wife Sylvia. At first, Tex appears embarrassed, but soon he starts telling Chelsee the story of his first case—Mean Streets.

The year is 2037. Tex has just moved into a brand new and very clean office in New San Francisco. After refurnishing and buying a new speeder, he is in debt up to his ears (some things just never change). Long ago Tex is a very different person from the hardboiled self of present day. He is a young idealistic detective with lots of hope and optimism for the future. He has been just fired by his mentor, The Colonel, for reporting on the Colonel's unethical work practice. The forces Tex to go solo and opens his own detective agency. Business is as slow and exciting as a game of Parcheesi until trouble knocks on his door.

The case starts as any film noir case, "The client is drop dead gorgeous. Her father is just plain dead..." A woman named Sylvia Linsky has asked Tex to assist her in proving that her father Carl Linsky has not committed suicide. She says that her father is not suicidal and wants to find out the truth about his death. But what does she truly want? Since Tex has nothing else to do but play Parcheesi, he jumps on the case like a drunken bum on a bottle of bourbon! At first, Tex is suspicious of Sylvia and even suspects her of being involved her own father's death—a million dollars in insurance money being the motive. Little does Tex know, however, that he is in the midst of something big! Soon, the most powerful people in San Francisco are looking for Tex (and his head)! Tex has once again found himself in a race against time. He has exactly 48 hours to live, to save the lives of all the people in the world, and to fight for his own life and death in a game of chess. The human race must again depend on most unlucky private dick in the world—maybe not the most unlucky—after all, he still has his head on the shoulders?

The production for Tex Murphy: Overseer starts in December 1996 when co-designers Chris Jones and Aaron Conners begin to develop the story. Conners writes the script and Adrian Carr is brought in during the polishing phase of the script writing. Carr is also in charge of auditioning most of the casts for the filming for the game that is done over a period of 3 months. Jones plays the role of Tex. The cast is joined by Hollywood actors Michael York (Austin Powers, The Three Musketeers, Logan's Run) and Rebecca Broussard (The Two Jacks).

Tex Murphy: Overseer uses the versatile "Virtual World" interface. Unlike Under A Killing Moon and The Pandora Directive, the upgraded engine occupies the whole screen. The inventory, location list, and game options can all be reached with ease by just sliding the mouse over to the edge of the screen. The Travel Panel lists all the places you can visit at any point during the game. You can travel to any person with whom you need to talk. Using the point and click interface, Tex gives his usual humorous comment with each click of a hotspot. The acting in this game is amazing! There are no more cheesy jokes or fake lovesick schoolboy performances by Jones. With the advent of DVD technology, all the interactive movies are played in such a high quality as if Tex is battling it out right out of the screen—all on only a single disc!

Tex Murphy: Overseer boasts numerous design improvements over its predecessors. The full screen 3D environment is now presented in 16-bit high color (65,536 color). Movement through this virtual world is enhanced by the use of a Virtual Reality Movement Overlay. This overlay uses a small transparent panel that contains a complement of movement controls to provide full 6 degrees of freedom. Objects can be manipulated within this environment in 7 ways—looking, getting (acquiring), moving, opening, closing, turning on and off. Display mode has a resolution of 800x600 or 640x480, while native video playback has a resolution of 720x480 at 30 frames per second. Options are available to adjust texture quality, bilinear and trilinear filtering, and mip mapping. The graphic engine can support either AGP hardware for acceleration or software rendering on non-accelerated PCI systems. This is the first adventure game to utilize hardware 3D acceleration. The 3D sound is produced using the newly developed Intel RSX 3D sound technology. This game is the first adventure title specifically designed for DVD. The game is released in both CD-ROM and DVD versions. In the DVD version, Dolby Digital Surround Sound (AC3) with 5 channels is available through the use of a MPEG-2 decoder with a digital SPDIF output and a Dolby Digital AC3 Decoder. Text subtitling is available. A soundtrack, featuring Richie Havers, Matt Heidler, and Jeff Abbott, has been released by Access Software in March 1998 based on the music from the original score in this game.

The gameplay in Tex Murphy: Overseer consists of 3 different elements. First is the live action cinematic that serves to recount and advance the story. Second is the interactive interrogation, whereby the player chooses how Tex should react and what Tex should say to the people he meets. The last (and the most important element) is the virtual realty roaming. The rooms and locations are 3D generated where the player can move in a first person perspective through the eyes of Tex. The interface in these virtual realty rooms has considerably improved over its predecessors. Movement and object manipulations are now united in a single window. There is no need to press the spacebar to switch between the modes. Everything has been reduced to a simple point and click system. The improved graphic engine means that there are no more flat garbage cans when looking from above! Over the course of the game, the player may visit over 31 unique virtual reality locations and interrogate over 40 witnesses and suspects. It is here where detective skills are most needed—breaking into computers, decoding messages, opening safes, searching for clues related to your case, or just snooping through other people's drawers and personal effects. Is being a private dick not every fan's idea of a perfect job?

There are 2 modes of gameplay in Tex Murphy: Overseer—Entertainment mode and Gamer mode. The Entertainment mode is for beginning players where an online hint system is available to either assist or completely bypass any difficult puzzle. The Gamer mode are for expert players. There are no hints available in this mode, nor can the player bypass any of the puzzles. There are 23 major puzzles. The maximum score is 1,500 points in Entertainment level and 4,000 points in Gamer level.

Access Software proves itself as one of the best developers of adventure games. The most impressive elements about this game are the quality of the acting and the writing of the story. The acting has improved enormously since The Pandora Directive. Jones has made some amazing strides in his persona of Tex. The remaining casts have also made many noticeable contributions. Suzanne Barnes, who plays Chelsee, is really good at making her character alive. Henry Darrow, who plays Sonny Fletcher, and real life martial artist Richard Norton, who plays Big Jim Slade, provide believable characters. As for the Hollywood actors, Broussard plays the perfect femme fatale and York steals every scene he is in as J Saint Gideon. These combined talents, under the direction of Carr (who even makes a dramatic cameo appearance at the end), result in the best of the best interactive movie ever created for a computer game.

For all gamers who enjoy puzzle play, there are plenty of well integrated puzzles scattered evenly throughout the game. Although some puzzles are timed, the timer is used only for to calculate bonus points. The only exceptions are the slashed circuit board puzzle and the end STG passcard puzzle. For gamers who are familiar with chess, the final chess puzzle is based on the endgame of a famous grandmaster match in real life. With a story that is complemented by excellent dialogs and interesting subplots and twists, this half thriller and half mystery surely keeps you in suspense till the last moment. The ending of this game quite literally shocks you! It is definitely one of the best endings I have ever seen in a computer game. In the end, Tex Murphy: Overseer provides around 50 hours of true entertainment and enjoyment.

Even as the best of the best, Tex Murphy: Overseer has a few drawbacks. The 3D acceleration for the game can only be enabled on a Pentium II with an AGP video card. The DVD version requires a DVD player for the computer that is still quite expensive in 1998. In the Travel Panel, a map of San Francisco is no longer included. For obvious reasons, both the Chandler Avenue landscape and the neighbors from the two previous two titles in the Tex Murphy series, are no longer available. Whereas the travel map in The Pandora Directive indicates which areas are available on the CD currently in use, this feature is not available in the CD-ROM version of Tex Murphy: Overseer. Lastly, unlike The Pandora Directive, this game does not feature multiple paths or endings.

In conclusion, Tex Murphy: Overseer is simply the best interactive movie and computer game on the market today. It is a must buy for all adventure gamers, whether or not they may be familiar with the previous titles in the series. An enticing combination of mystery, action, thriller, and cunning puzzles, along with excellent story, acting, and movies, is surely to blow you away and knock your socks off! Interesting, the ending of this game is definitely a plug for another sequel, tentatively titled Polarity. Thanks, Access Software, for making the lives of many adventure fans a little bit happier. To other game developers, I can only say, "Checkmate, Mr Gideon."

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