Born from the imagination of the MC2-Microids team, comes a stunning adventure bursting at the seams with serial murders, dark secrets, and corruption.
Stunning cinematography and a boisterous choir will engulf you the moment you press the "New Game" button. Your journey will begin as you are bombarded with flashes of the world you are about to discover.
Before you are lost in this amazing world, a word of caution is in order: Still Life does contain graphic murder scenes, violence, profanity and some sexual themes, earning it's "M" rating. So, if you’re faint at heart, this may not be the game for you. But, it must be pointed out these themes are not just thrown in left and right without reason or thought as some games today. Considering the nature of the story, all elements work intrinsically in creating a gripping, realistic atmosphere.
Chicago - Present Day
You will begin the game as Victoria McPherson, an FBI Agent specializing in profiling. Victoria is the kind of character you will love to control as you go through the game. She’s a ball-busting, swearing, tough as nails agent who at the same time has a softer, quite endearing side. You will respect and actually like Victoria.
Our story begins at a gruesome crime scene in Chicago. This is the 5th victim in a series of murders recently plaguing Chicago. Examination of the murder scene reveals a horrific sight - a mutilated body, blood stains abound and cryptic messages the killer has written in blood. Victoria will need to find a way to link all the murders together and stop this maniac before he strikes again.
But, never fear, Victoria is not alone. An eclectic array of characters round out the cast and provide a ton of interaction. Miller, Victoria’s partner, cannot seem to handle the sight of crime scenes without tossing his cookies, which is quite the joke around the office. Not at all funny to Claire, the forensics guru, who has to dig through those cookies trying to recover vital evidence. Of course, it just wouldn’t be an office if you did not have one thorn on your side; perhaps the boss? The characters are armed with a quick wit that they don’t hesitate to throw around. It is quite a pleasure to just sit back and enjoy the character interaction.
Once Victoria is done investigating the crime scene, she heads over to her Dad’s house to celebrate Christmas and exchange presents. The gift of a necklace once belonging to her grandmother has Victoria reminiscing over her Grandfather’s stories of his P.I. work in Paris and London. But, there was always one location he never spoke about: Prague. Longing to discover more about her grandfather, Victoria delves into his wooden chest in the attic and discovers his journal. As Victoria reads the journal, we are transported back in time to 1920’s Prague.
You will now get to play as Victoria’s Grandfather, Gustav McPherson. If you ever played Post Mortem, you may remember Gustav. Like Victoria, Gustav’s (Gus for short) story also begins at the scene of the fifts murder in a series. It seems a serial killer is also on the loose in Prague. He has been terrorizing the local prostitute population. The murders are just as gruesome as the present day Chicago killings. Help from the local law enforcement is pretty much slim to none as a dead prostitute is not high on their list of importance. Gus is pretty much their only chance. Now, normally Gus handles missing person or cheating husband cases. What would make Gus want to take on a serial killer? The fact that we find out Gus is in love with one of the prostitutes brings to light the most obvious motivation in halting a murderer in his tracks.
Prague - 1920’s
Gus has a similar personality to Victoria, with Victoria being slightly more abrasive and of course, modern. What has you rooting for Gus is the fact that he’s in it alone as far as investigation goes. There isn’t any team of experts assisting him. He has one friend in the police department but help is limited. Adding to this, he’s battling against a certain Inspector Skalnic who is determined to thwart Gus’s effort at every turn. Rather odd that the head of the police would end up being one of the primary foes. However, Gus will not be deterred or pushed around. It makes you like him all the more.
The storyline in Still Life will leave its mark on you. Microids impressively managed to take two separate investigations and have them flow into one another seamlessly. There is no rift as you transition from Prague to Chicago and vice versa. You will find details during both investigations that can be linked back to the other; perhaps a name in common or traits of the killer. Written as well as it is, you will find yourself becoming totally immersed in each of the stories. Turning off the game is an option you just may not want to take.
Now, let’s get down to graphics. If you’re familiar with the Syberia series, then you have seen some of the glorious cinematography Microids can offer. If you can imagine it, the standard has been raised even higher in Still Life. The beautiful cinematography will not only leave you awe, but also evoke a multitude of emotions. One in particular has all the qualities of an intense action movie you have seen in the theater and may have you yelling "Get him! Get him!" at the monitor (not that I’m admitting anything here). Another memorable cut scene will have your mouth hanging open at the utter despair and desperation conveyed. The best part overall is that you can watch these little beauties again and again at the main menu which you most certainly will want to do.
The backgrounds in both Chicago and Prague are exquisitely detailed. In Chicago, you will experience the gritty streets, a posh galley, and an exclusive massage/S&M club just to name a few. Your journey through Prague will focus on old world architecture as you traipse from crime scenes, junkyards, old churches and a burned down neighborhoods. Each is quite representative of their particular era. Take the time to soak it all in. Replay will bring to light details missed the first time around. The accompanying soundtrack is robust with dramatic undertones, almost ethereal at times. Each full-bodied orchestral interlude was chosen carefully to match the drama unfolding before you. Additional touches like heavy metal blasting out of a dorm room for the 10 seconds you are in the hallway shows an attention to detail even in the smallest of moments.
Still Life consists of 2 CD’s which load up easily. No errors or glitches were encountered by this gamer. You have the standard cursors for examining, picking up and using items as expected in any point and click 3rd person adventure. Inventory is easily accessed with a click of the right mouse button. It is here that you can examine items more closely, combine items and also access the main menu for load, save and quit functions.
Getting around is achieved through the use of maps. Victoria has a navigational system in her 4 x 4 and Gustav is given a map by his lady love.
The voice acting and character renderings are exactly what you would expect from a game of this caliber - outstanding. Quite laughable is Victoria’s facial expression and tone of voice as she gets hit on by one of the female employees of the massage club. One might quibble that Officer Tate had the most fake laugh you’ve ever heard. But, not knowing him, that could be his actual real life laugh and apologies are in order. There is one very minor gripe. It would have been nice to see Victoria and the other characters in more than one outfit. With all the incredible detail in this game, it always seems that changes of clothing are always forgotten. Although cute, wearing Bunny slippers at her father’s house doesn’t count. This is, of course, a blatant female point of view on that subject.
Still Life gives us a wide range of puzzles at varying levels of difficulty. The added benefit in such diversity is a more enjoyable gaming experience. Since every gamer has different strengths and weakness, you will likely find your favorite puzzle and your puzzle arch nemesis all in one game. They are mainly inventory or logic based and with the exception of one, all flow well with the storyline. There is an infuriating lock pick puzzle where you must determine the relationships of one tumbler to the others in order to lock them into position. Another puzzle will require you to remotely and correctly navigate a robot through a room of lasers. While there is no time limit, you will need quick reactions in dodging the lasers. Prepare to have your little friend burned to a crisp more than once. However, upon failure, you will be returned to the beginning of the puzzle to try again. Gamers who frequent the action games should have an easier time with this puzzle. It will just take a little more determination for the pure adventure gamer. One puzzle, though, seemed slightly out of place and more appropriate to a Nancy Drew game than Still Life. This puzzle requires deciphering a cryptic cookie recipe and combining the ingredients in an exact order. Perhaps it was an attempt to see a more personal side of Victoria. Not sure. Oh, and there is a maze. For those of you who suffer from a maze phobia, fear not. Even the "maze challenged" will be able to complete this without too much difficulty. These are only a few examples of what you can expect. There are plenty of imaginative puzzles to keep any gamer interested.
There are very few adventure games that provide us with the complete package. Still Life stimulates our intelligence, wows us with imagery and gives us some shocks and laughs along the way. As for length, you will definitely get your money’s worth. It is hard to say how much this game might appeal to console gamers. But, for the true PC adventure gamer, this is the kind of game we dream about. Not having Still Life in your collection would be a crying shame. Now that Ubisoft has purchased Microids, we can only hope that Ubisoft will utilize the team members and bring us more incredible games like Still Life. This games was a clear slam dunk.
The final grade is 99/100