“ Genre: Adventures & Role-playing „
The Pandora Directive is the sequel to Under a Killing Moon and takes place sometime in the not too distant future; 2043 to be exact. And the world is a wonderful place. War, poverty, and hunger have been eliminated. Everyone is joyfully happy, living in the new utopia. All is wonderful. Hurrah!
I'm lying, of course. It's as bleak as ever. Over half of the world has been decimated by World War III, which lasted for a matter of hours. The resulting radioactive fallout has created mutations in the population, and generally ,things could be better. You play Tex Murphy, a P.I. living in San Francisco, who is down on his luck, and his rent, when he is contacted by Gordon Fitzpatrick , an ex-research scientist, who happens to be looking for an old friend, Dr Malloy. Now, this being a computer game, it isn't your run of the mill missing persons case. Tex finds himself involved in a mystery that will take him halfway across the world, and reveals the alien roots of an ancient civilization. But he's not the only person on the trail; a number of parties, including the N.S.A. are very interested in getting their hands on a genuine piece of alien technology. But it's up to you to get there first.
The Pandora Directive is described by Access as an 'interactive movie', a phrase which has been bandied around the games industry for the last couple of years, usually to describe a poorly written title, with low quality full motion video, and paper thin gameplay. However, you should put this label out of your mind, for The Pandora Directive couldn't be further from the 'interactive movie' stereotype. What you do get is a particularly big adventure, containing a myriad of challenging puzzles, and a storyline that would put many movie writers to shame. I won't give too much away, but there are twists and turns worth of the X-Files in this game; just when it looks like things could be coming to a conclusion, a new door to the mystery opens, and it becomes clear that there's more going on than you knew about.
There are FMV sections; these crop up in various places, usually when you're talking to a character, or when you manage to solve a major part of the mystery. But these fit in perfectly with the game, and are never actually intrusive. When interviewing a character, you have a list of subjects that you can ask them about, which gradually grows as you progress through the game. Each subject may produce a different response, yielding a clue to help you solve the mystery. Talking to people is an essential part of the game, rather than just a diversion. At the start of the game you have very little to go on, and it's up to you to do the detective work necessary to find out the truth. And you aren't limited to just one or two locations like you are in some games. Initially, there are around 10 locations you can visit, and as you speak to more people, and find out more information, new locations become available; the game has a very 'open' feel. This is how detective work should be.
But there is a downside to all this. The game comes on a whopping six CDs. And because you have this freedom of movement, disk swapping is a fairly common occurence. But Access have added a rather clever feature to The Pandora Directive, which makes things a little easier. Clicking upon the travel bar will bring up a map of locations where you can go. Any location which is stored on the current CD has a little red diamond next to it, so you know you can visit that location without having to swap. But you will find yourself having to swap CD's regularly. It's a little annoying, but I'd rather have that than The Pandora Directive become a bog standard one track 'interactive movie'.
Another nice touch is that there are different paths through the game, and a total of seven different endings. Which path and ending you take is largely dependent upon how you play the game; if you want a bad ending, try being selfish and nasty to people. Bear in mind, the only way you'll end up with the girl is by being kind to everyone; oh, and by paying all your bills on time. There are also two modes in which you can play the game. Game Play mode is the full blown adventure mode, with puzzles galore, and Entertainment mode is a little easier all round, with hints in case you become stuck. There are hints and solutions provided on-line to all the puzzles and problems in the game, but using these deducts points from your total score, so use them sparingly.
In The Pandora Directive , you view your surroundings from a first person perspective; you can move around a location, look up, look down, stand , crouch, and run. And you'll need to; you'll often find objects or clues hidden out of reach; this adds another dimension to the whole game. Graphically and sonically, The Pandora Directive is excellent. All the graphics are in crisp Super VGA, and the speech and sound effects are clear, with music that changes to fit the action. The full motion video is generally well acted; one or two of the minor parts are a little dodgily acted, but otherwise, the acting is of a very high standard. The producer, Chris Roberts, plays Tex, being in front of, as well as behind of the camera. The cast also includes Barry Corbin, Maurice from Northern Exposure, who is very menacing as the head of the N.S.A.
The Pandora Directive is a thoroughly compelling and playable game; don't let the 'interactive movie' tag put you off at all. It will provide a challenge for even the most experienced gamer, and beginners can use the hints to progress a little more easily. And on top of that, there's the excellent storyline that will keep you guessing till the last minute; it all makes for an outstanding title, that I suggest you pick up immediately. Very spooky.
(review by me, originally posted on GamesDomain)