Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure review

Kat Orphanides
1 Jul 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
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The resurrection of this adventure game hero will thrill established fans but is likely to frustrate those new to the series



Adventure games have come out of the wilderness in recent years, with the continuation of many popular series appearing alongside brand new titles. Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure is the long awaited continuation of a series that last produced a game in 1998, resurrected thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. As the game opens, private eye Tex Murphy has a head wound, the vague memory of a scuffle, and almost no recollection of any other events over the past seven years. The game soon shifts into the series' characteristic blend of hard-boiled future noir and broad slapstick as you accompany Tex on a mission to discover his missing past, locate his lost love, and try to get even the faintest grasp on what's going on around him.

The Tex Murphy series has always divided opinion among adventure gamers, with most installments eschewing a traditional 2D point and click interface in favour of 3D environments. It's also known for its use of Full Motion Video (FMV) sequences rather than animated conversations and cutscenes. It's a long time since we've reviewed an FMV game, but we were delighted to find that this is one of Tesla Effect's stronger elements. The 2K video looked fantastic on our 2,560x1,440 display and, although they're more B-movie than Hollywood blockbuster, the makeup, acting and green screen effects all came together to produce a convincingly filmic feel.

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

The ultra high resolution FMV is a long way from the smeary video you might normally associate with the style

The first-person 3D environmental exploration elements of the game are less convincing, even though they successfully capture the feel of previous instalments. The setting is a future San Francisco heavily influenced by film noir, Blade Runner, and cyberpunk, so it's hardly surprising that the environments you navigate tend to be shadowy. However, the unremitting murkiness of almost every location in the game and lack of environmental detail made exploration a tedious experience.

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

The noir charm of the dark 3D environments wore off when we realised that there were precious few light areas to provide contrast

You'll encounter classic logic problems, fetch quests and a distressing number of hidden object puzzles, where you have to find a certain number of items variously concealed in plain sight, amid scenery or down the back of the sofa. You'll also spend a lot of time talking to the inhabitants of Tex's seedy neighbourhood. Instead of direct questions or even general themes, your options for conversation are oddly random; for example, when talking to a doctor about Tex's health, we could choose between "Good scolding", "Game night" and "Magician's assistant", leaving us none the wiser until we heard what Tex said.

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

Your conversation options can be irritatingly opaque, although critical questions are a bit easier to spot

Towards the end of the game, the penalty for failure or mis-steps is sudden death, without even the entertainment value of specific death sequences. Late-game puzzles include evading enemies patrolling a specific path, using the clunky first-person controls to avoid treading on lethal spots on the floor, and a timed puzzle with awkward mouse controls.

Although the game uses video as its primary narrative medium, it doesn't have the on-rails feel that plagued many titles in the heyday of FMV. There are multiple divergent paths which ultimately lead to one of five different endings. You'll also get access to extra areas of the game based on how you interact with different characters. It's a little disappointing that the main choices are to do with which of several romantic paths Tex opts for, rather than his ethical choices, but the distinct paths add to the potential replayability of the game. There's plenty of game to be had in just a single play-though, too: it took us sixteen hours of intensive play to complete.

Unfortunately, shortly before we reached the game's half-way mark, we began to experience oddly disjointed plot elements, possibly because of the divergent story arcs. On top of this, if you miss a vital expository device, such as a USB stick containing a murder victim's video log, the game can still progress to the next day and Tex will act as though he saw the video. Meanwhile, the latter part of the plot becomes distinctly convoluted with plot threads involving cryogenic stasis, a mysterious and inexplicably Egyptian-themed cult seeking global transcendence though the lost scientific research of Nikola Tesla, and how all this relates to Tex's own lost memories.

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

By the game's midpoint, Tex has departed the mean streets of San Francisco for more exotic locales

Over-complicated though it is, the plot's entertaining hokum, and comes to a pleasingly dramatic crescendo. While the combination of slapstick and a bleak cyberpunk future will jar for some, the setting and characters are surprisingly engaging. Fans of The Pandora Directive and Tex Murphy: Overseer will be thrilled to see Tex's return. Although the game's structure means you don't have to have played previous titles to enjoy it, newcomers are unlikely to have as much patience with the game's random conversations, hidden objects and awkward controls.



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