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Old 10-06-2010, 12:46 AM   #1
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Default can't say I wasn't warned (Still Life 2)

it goes without saying that here there be spoilers

after much internal debate, I finally decided to give Still Life 2 a try, largely because I wanted closure from the cliffhanger of the first game
load up the game and... well the music isn't bad, but it's a very different feel to the style of the first game... intro cinematic and some more familiar music, hang on, that's not the only thing familiar...
so the intro cinematic for Still Life 2 is essentially the intro and outro cinematics from Still Life 1 merged together. well at least it sets the scene... for the first two minutes of gameplay and a plot which is completely dropped for most of the game and only brought up in bizarely placed flashbacks with no connection or relevance to the story of Still Life 2
and the closure? no surprises, no twists, not even a decent confrontation with the killer. it's exactly who I expected it to be and handled in a very anti-climatic reveal that could be seen coming from miles away

I haven't finished Still Life 2 yet, I'm not even sure if I will. but so far these Chicago flashbacks have absolutely nothing to do with the rather boringly named East Coast Killer (seriously, the guy is a movie obsessive wearing a gas mask and that's the best name they could come up with? how about Death Director? hell, even Gas Mask Killer is better) frankly it's no wonder he's so pissed at the journalist after she got the entire country to call him that. poor guy was probably hoping for a name to rival Jack the Ripper

Anyway, that brings us to the story of Still Life 2. the game starts off with Vic, having left the FBI, looking through files of the copycat killer from the first game then jumps ahead a few years to Vic, back in the FBI, investigating a serial killer who likes to send movies of his victims to the police. she's recently been harassed by a journalist, Paloma Hernandez, who has just become the killers latest victim. a race against time begins to find and rescue Hernandez before she's killed

much like Still Life 1, there's two characters to control. Vic, armed with a new CSI forensics kit, plays detective while Paloma has to survive traps clearly inspired by the Saw movies. not a bad premise to be honest, but it doesn't last. at first Vic's parts of the game, which are much more like a traditional adventure game, make a much welcome break between Paloma's segments. sadly Vic is soon captured herself and placed in the exact same situation, with both characters segments playing out in similar style

it gets worse. I know we all joke about the bottomless pockets of Guybrush Threepwood (who can fit a dog, a monkey, a ladder, etc in there) but there's a reason every adventure game since the dawn of time has done this. having a limited inventory in a game so dependant on inventory puzzles is extremely frustrating. as demonstrated perfectly in Still Life 2
each inventory item takes up a set amount of bag spaces, some even take up the entire inventory. dotted around the game area you find some containers you can store excess items in. because putting them on the floor is apparently some kind of terrible crime not even worth doing in order to save your own life. hang on, just need to bang my head against the wall a little
rather than adding a challenge to the game, all this achieves is slowing down the pace by forcing you to backtrack all the time to swap inventory items. there's not even much logic to what items you should carry and leave behind, most of the time it's impossible to predict in advance which you will need and which are just a waste of space. which is a shame, because if you're going to do something as stupid as this, you may as well at least try to make it a puzzle of sorts

then there's the characters. we all remember Vic from the first game of course, and Claire also makes a return. both are pretty much true to their characters in the first game, the differences in Vic are easily put down to several years and a traumatic situation (shown through randomly placed flashbacks to the 'resolution' of Still Life 1) taking place between games
then there's the Still Life 1 killer. they make an attempt at explaining his motivations and personality but he comes across as a giggling idiot who kills people rather than a sociopathic criminal mastermind
as for the new characters, Vic's new partner has a personality that can only be described as... no, sorry my mistake, he has no personality. bland, boring character whose only purpose is to add a few conversation options to scenes that would have worked better with Vic just investigating solo like in the first game. oh and while Vic is exploring a house used by the killer, searching room by room on three floors for clues... he's outside. looking at a pile of leaves. would it have been too hard to at least make him move around the back yard looking at different things? he'd still be easy to find and wouldn't have seemed quite as incompetent
the sheriff isn't so bad though, but she very much fits the clichéd small town law enforcer who grudgingly works with the FBI agent because it's so much more important to get re-elected than to save lives. at one point you discover proof that Paloma is still alive and being held captive nearby, very likely to be killed soon. the sheriff flat out refuses to help find her until you help her on a seemingly completely unrelated case of a missing person... who has been assumed to have ran off from his wife with his mistress. where's that wall again?

and then there's former Agent Hawker, or as I like to call him Mr Probably The Killer. like I said, I haven't finished the game yet, but this guy is either really badly written, the killer, or probably both
firstly, the killer threatens Hawkers life from the very start of the game. not once does he make any attempt to carry out those threats, nor does Hawker seem at all worried that this psychotic serial killer who has threatened his life might come after him
Hawker also seems to suffer severe mood swings, going from being angry with Vic to being friendly and back over the course of a conversation completely at random and with Vic not even noticing. likely this is due to selecting dialogue options in a different order to how the writers expected. maybe they should have just stuck with the dialogue system from Still Life 1 (which incidentally was one of my few complaints about the first game)

finally of course we have Paloma Hernandez. despite controlling her for a large part of the game, we don't really get inside her head much. she has only just enough personality to maintain enough sympathy to not deliberately walk her into every death trap we can find. most of her dialogue consists of stating the obvious, asking stupid questions "hey Mr Killer, I know I asked this earlier and you said no but could you maybe let me go? I promise not to tell anybody what you did to me". she was clearly intended to be a contrast to Vic's tough-as-nails persona, and the idea is actually good, just the delivery not so much

what really confuses me about this game is why they made it Still Life 2
take out the Chicago flashbacks. replace Vic with a new character. suddenly it's not Still Life at all, but a new game which doesn't have the high expectations of Still Life fans and which might have actually done well. the Saw style could have attracted fans from outside of the Adventure Game genre, especially fans of survival horror games, and probably done quite well for itself
as for closure from Still Life 1, something akin to the Scratches Directors Cut would have worked so much better. preferably better written than the Chicago flashbacks featured in Still Life 2
overall it just seems like they made a new game and decided to try to get interest by throwing a loose tie in with an unresolved and very popular game in order to attract players. given the huge contrast in style between the two games, the pathetically half-hearted attempt to resolve the cliffhanger and the fact that said resolution has no connection to the sequel and is just dumped randomly between scenes, this was doomed to fail
Playing: Edna & Harvey: The Breakout
non-adv: Oblivion (very heavily modded), Planescape Torment
recently finished: Gray Matter, Alter-Ego, Whispered World
non-adv: Dragon Age: Origins again and again...
Melody Gloucester Pegasus
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