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#501110 - 05/16/09 05:48 PM Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers)
CBSection31 Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 499
This is only the second time I've ever posted a review of a game. Ironically, the first time was for the first Still Life, a game which I had listed as - in terms of story - one of the best I had ever played.

Sadly this second game does not live up to the first, either in story or in gameplay, thus making it a huge letdown.

This review will be split up into 3 parts: graphics/audio/engine, gameplay, and story.

GRAPHICS/AUDIO/ENGINE:

The game is real-time 3D. As someone who is currently developing a real-time 3D game (Stonewall Penitentiary), I understand the difficulty surrounding this. However, the end result is...well, poor. The graphics themselves are outdated; not that I mind this. No, the problem relates to the numerous graphical glitches that are present throughout the game. Character animations don't transition smoothly and camera cuts don't always work properly.

There are numerous bugs throughout the game. I had to restart from an earlier save numerous time, due to these bugs. One example is early in the game, my character was stuck in a room which she could not escape. If you take one particular action in this room, the animation becomes stuck in a loop, forcing you to re-load an earlier save. If you don't have a save, then you will have to start over from scratch. In fact, the beta of my own Stonewall Penitentiary runs more stable and is less glitchy than Still Life 2.

The audio is a mixed bag. I do feel that the voice acting is on-par with the first game...in other words, not great, but good. The music is decent, too. The problem here is in regard to audio levels. You can individually control the volume of sound effects, music, and voices, which is a good thing. However, at times the music will drown out the voices. Other times, the music will be so low that it is inaudible. So you basically have to choose between setting the music so low that you never hear it or setting it high enough to hear, but have it sometimes drown out the dialog. Luckily, there are captions, which helps.

The cinematic videos, while graphically superior to the first game, are not as numerous or good. Yes, they look better...but they feel much less cinematic. The first Still Life had a definite "mood" to the videos. It felt like a movie. This feels like a game, and I wasn't drawn in like I was with the first game.

Overall, the game has a very low-budget/unfinished feel to it. I have the feeling that Microids either pushed this game out the door prematurely because they were behind schedule or they had only a fraction of the budget of the first game. In any case, this game looks and feels like it was made by an indie developer on a shoestring budget, not a mainstream title. So in this regard, the game is a disappointment. From a studio like Microids, I expected much more.


GAMEPLAY:

This is the brightest aspect of the game. The gameplay is, for the most part, quite fun. There is a feeling of intensity to parts of the game that the first Still Life lacked. Furthermore, I found Still Life 2 to be MUCH more challenging than Still Life.

All of the puzzles are quite logical, yet still manage to be difficult. There is some pixel hunting required, sadly, but it isn't *too* bad once you learn the controls of the game.

My favorite part of gameplay is the testing kit you receive during the investigation. This kit allows you to perform lab-like tests on evidence you find, in a manner similar to the CSI games. It's always fun searching for clues, analyzing them, and drawing up results!

In terms of gameplay, there are two downsides: lack of variety and the inventory screen.

By lack of variety, I mean that, for the most part, puzzles consist solely of item collection and use. Don't expect there to be numerous single-screen puzzles (Shivers or 7th Guest type stuff) in this game. Everything here is, essentially, bring item A to point B and use.

As far as the inventory screen goes, let me explain how it works. You have a limited number of grid spaces in your inventory, meaning you can only hold a limited number of items. In the game, there are containers available in which you can store excess items. So there are times when you have to decide if you should bring item A with you or item B. In concept, I like this idea, as it adds a sort of mini-puzzle to the game. In use, however, it is nothing but annoying, as it requires constant backtracking to switch items. As it stands, it is simply an artificial way of prolonging the game that aggravates the player along the way.

There are fewer areas to explore than in the first game, as the gameplay largely takes place in one large house. There is also a lot less dialog in this game than in the first; talking to characters doesn't happen as frequently.

The last thing I'll mention regarding gameplay is that there are timed sequences in some places and times in which you can die. I don't mind either of these, but some might.


STORY:

This is where the game really fails...and it's a shame, too, as this is what I was looking forward to the most.

First I will cover the new story...yes, there is a NEW story. The focus of this game is on "The East Coast Killer", an investigation that takes place years after the events of the original Still Life.

The story itself is exciting and feels similar to the Saw movies. The problem I have with this is twofold: first, I was hoping that Still Life 2 would focus on the story that started in Still Life 1. I didn't want to track down a NEW killer, I wanted to track down the FIRST killer, Mr. X. Second, the new killer - at least for me - wasn't nearly as creepy as Mr. X. This game felt like a thriller rather than a mystery, and as a result I didn't find this game scary in the least, whereas the I still am afraid to play the first one home alone at midnight with the lights off!

This brings me to Mr. X and the conclusion of the first game's storyline. I will have to be careful what I say here, so as not to give anything away, so forgive any vagueness on my part.

Still Life 2 begins with Vic McPherson in Los Angeles, where she was headed at the end of the first game. This intro to Still Life 2 basically recaps the events of the first game and gives the player some new information relating to a string of L.A. murders that occurred when Mark Ackerman - the original killer back in Gus's time - was in a mental institution. This information is presented in text form. When the player finishes reading everything, a revelation regarding Ackerman is made and the game moves on to the new storyline. This new storyline contains characters far less developed than in the original game, and the “twist”, if you can call it that, is insanely predictable and expected. I actually shook my head in disbelief when it took place, because I called it early on and was hoping I’d be wrong. Sadly, I wasn’t.

The rest of the Still Life 1 story is told, mostly, in flashbacks. I can't say much here, except that - of all the possibilities they could go with the identity of Mr. X - this was my LEAST favorite. Furtheremore, instead of building up the revelation, it just...kind of happens. It is very anticlimatic, and the killer's justification is filled with cliché and quite unrealistic. This was the biggest letdown of the game for me, and made me seriously consider giving up without finishing the rest of the game; after all, I was playing this game to finish the original's story...I didn't care about the new killer, the new case...so why bother playing? I did ended up finishing the game, of course, and I suppose in retrospect I'm glad I did.

The overall sense I got with this story was thus: Microids intended to have the original Still Life complete the story. But they run out of funding/time, and were unable. Flash forward to years later, when Microids made its comeback, and they announced Still Life 2. They realized that they didn't have enough story left to make up a second game, and so instead they came up with a new story and just sort of threw in the last scraps of story they had for the original killer in with it. This would have been bad enough if this game had come out shortly after the first Still Life. But to have waited all these years for *this* was a huge disappointment!

Instead of focusing on a new killer, I would have much preferred this game to focus on an investigation of the L.A. murders and the original case, bringing about a much more epic, intricate, realistic, and satisfying conclusion.


OVERALL:

As it stands now, Still Life 2 doesn't feel at all like the first and is - in my opinion - a major letdown. In short, I was hoping for a true sequel/continuation. What I got was an entirely new game, with a short conclusion to the first thrown in.

I rated the first game an A+. I give this one a C-.

If anyone is interested in spoilers, let me know and I might start a second thread where I can discuss my disappointment with the story in more detail.
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#501120 - 05/16/09 06:25 PM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: CBSection31]
MaG Offline
Administrator
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 12/28/99
Posts: 65681
Thanks, Chris. Appreciate to know your impressions.

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#501684 - 05/18/09 10:02 AM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: MaG]
oldmariner Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 01/29/07
Posts: 1369
Thanks for the review. Your conclusions gives me pause in regard to running out and buying this. As my reaction to the initial game was less than enthusiastic I will wait a bit before jumping in. In fairness I enjoyed game one but found many things wanting. Your feeling this was rushed and somewhat failed to do a good job of concluding the open ended finish of the first game is a disappointment.

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#501745 - 05/18/09 12:53 PM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: oldmariner]
CBSection31 Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 499
Just to clarify: there IS a definite conclusion to the open-ended story of the first game. It's just (in my opinion) a terrible one that feels brushed aside because they were obligated to include it.
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#501753 - 05/18/09 01:43 PM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: CBSection31]
chrissie Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 4403
Loc: london uk
Thank you CBSection for your impression of the game! I will be buying it & was going to replay Still Life first. I think in view of your comments & others I have read I will just go ahead & play it as 'stand alone' to see how it works out! smile

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#501766 - 05/18/09 02:11 PM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: chrissie]
Mad Offline
True Blue Boomer

Registered: 11/21/00
Posts: 23196
Loc: United Kingdom
I too intend to play it grin

However, having read your review (thank you) maybe I will be pleasantly surprised because I won't be expecting too much thumbsup
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#501915 - 05/18/09 10:40 PM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: chrissie]
CBSection31 Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 499
Originally Posted By: chrissie
I will be buying it & was going to replay Still Life first.


I think that's where I made my mistake. Before Still Life 2, I replayed the original (my third run-through of the game), and even took notes of all the hints and clues!

If you take the second game as something stand-alone, I think you'll be happy with it! smile
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#502205 - 05/19/09 06:07 PM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: CBSection31]
Bernard Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 3037
Loc: the Netherlands
I definitely disagree with CB!
SL1 was a good game, but presented in the orthodox way. SL2 is a better story presented in a more unorthodox way.

Yes, you can criticize the graphics, they're not phenomenal. However the atmosphere and mood are marvellous, when I played this game I really got involved. Not many games have that edge to it.

If I had to rank this game, it would be higher on the list than SL1.



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#502256 - 05/19/09 09:29 PM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: Bernard]
CBSection31 Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 499
Fair enough! I'm glad you liked it. smile
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#502760 - 05/21/09 12:15 PM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: Bernard]
mj2c Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 12/06/07
Posts: 883
Originally Posted By: Bernard
I definitely disagree with CB!
If I had to rank this game, it would be higher on the list than SL1.


Well I wouldn`t. Still Life 1 was a fantastic game but this one from the what Ive played is a BIG disappointment. Ive moved on to Secret Files 2 which is a far more polished game. I might go back to SL2 if I find myself with nothing else to play.

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#503117 - 05/22/09 10:28 AM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: mj2c]
Bernard Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 3037
Loc: the Netherlands
mj2c, if you want to replay Still Life, play SL1! Yes SL2 is not perfect, but SL1 wasn't perfect either. Times change and the way AG's are made change too, luckily. Otherwise we all would still be playing text adventures.



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#503174 - 05/22/09 11:56 AM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: Bernard]
looney4labs Online   content
GB Reviewer Moderator
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 42066
Loc: Alabama
thanks CB

It's always great to know what fellow players thought.

If this game had not been a sequel, would that have changed your feelings about it?
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"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."
-Roger Caras

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#503196 - 05/22/09 12:30 PM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: looney4labs]
CBSection31 Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 499
Very good question!

In short: yes, my opinion would have changed a bit.

I would still have felt the game was poorly made and rushed. It's extremely buggy, and certain things make it clear that they rushed the game out the door. For instance, the music in the game doesn't loop, leaving you with long periods of silence. Plus, the graphics ARE poor for a mainstream game.

I would have found the story to be more enjoyable, however, because I would not have been expecting a continuation of the Still Life 1 storyline. Thus, I would have purchased the game expecting a standalone story. The story itself was average for a game...certainly not the best I've seen, but also not the worst. I guess I just expect stories of a higher quality from adventure games. This plot reminded me more of the kind of story I'd see in a FPS or survival horror game.

All in all, if this were a standalone game and not a sequel, I would have rated it about a B-, not a C-.
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#504039 - 05/24/09 08:13 PM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: CBSection31]
BubbaJake Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 06/06/07
Posts: 794
Loc: Illinois
I hate saying this, but I agree about the weird glitch in that particular room where Ms. Hernandez is trapped. Nothing worked the way I thought it should; she could move around, but if she got too close to certain objects she would suddenly be back at an unfortunate position in the room. I finally gave up in frustration and left her there. Still Life 1 was one of my favorite games, one I enjoy replaying at least once a year, as I did just recently.

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#504452 - 05/26/09 08:55 AM Re: Still Life 2 - My Review (no spoilers) [Re: BubbaJake]
Jenny100 Online   content
GB Reviewer Glitches Moderator
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 10/24/00
Posts: 35221
Loc: southeast USA
If you are interested in who the killer was originally intended to be, check ***here***
I read somewhere that the person who wrote this article had inside information, but I'm not 100% sure on that. It makes more sense than the one in Still Life 2 though.

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