Still Life – PC – Review

It’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.

Gameplay: 7.5
The game has a simple interface that allows you to
combine items, use items and by trial and error, decipher the clues you must
find in order to advance the game.  Playing as two different people in two
different era’s is also a nice addition to an already solid playing game.  I
really wish they would have made this one gamepad compatible though.
Graphics: 8.6
Really well done graphics, strong shading and use
of perspective.  Little items like rats scurrying and scummy piles of garbage
make you know your playing in the part of town your mother warned you about. 
The whole game is translated very well by good environmental structure and
location.  A really nice looking game.
Sound: 8.0
Good voice talent and good music effects equal a
good sounding game.  The little nuances in the constant background music
remind you that you are definitely in a game where the stakes are high. 
Difficulty: High
Yup, when I first played this game I thought of my
mother, she’s an amateur sleuth who has won her share of those murder/mystery
dinner theatres.  And I am in fact going to send her this title after I have
beaten it.  But I suspect she won’t be getting it anytime soon.  Sometimes you
really have to use your noodle in order to find all of your clues.  Be
prepared for the long haul though, some areas have the potential to drive you
a bit wacky. 
Concept: 7.0
There have been games similar to this in recent
memory, and in spite of the game’s supernatural/horror themes, it can feel a
bit like the CSI game.  I really did like how you gather the evidence and find
the clues.  But why did they make the conversations so inane in some points?
Overall: 7.6
A pretty slick mystery game.  I think I enjoy it
so much because it clearly was developed for the mature and veteran gamer.  If
you can stomach the disturbing images (I did) and like your adventure games on
the dark, sinister side, then take this game for a spin, chances are you will
enjoy it in spite of the little problems the game has.