Tex Murphy: Overseer (1998) is the 5th (and as of now, the final) installment in the Tex Murphy series of adventure games for the PC. In it, the player controls Private Investigator Tex Murphy as he recounts the story of his first case to his girlfriend, Chelsee Bando. Overseer combined the use of full motion video (FMV) with 3D environments.
Like all Tex Murphy games, Tex Murphy: Overseer takes place in post-World War III San Francisco. After the devastating events of WWIII, many major cities have been rebuilt (as is the case with New San Francisco), though certain areas still remain as they were before the war (as in Old San Francisco). WWIII also left another mark on the world: the formation of two classes of citizens. Specifically, the Mutants and the "Norms".
Since Overseer is told as a series of flashbacks, it actually takes place in two different time frames. The current year is 2043, shortly after the events of The Pandora Directive and as such tensions between the Mutants and Norms have begun to die down. However, the flashbacks take place in November 2037. The Crusade for Genetic Purity is beginning to gain momentum, and tensions are building between the two groups. The Mutants are usually forced to live in the run-down areas of cities such as Old San Francisco. Tex lives in his new apartment on Front St. in New San Francisco. He has just been kicked out of the Colonel's Detective Agency for reporting the Colonel's unethical practices, and has now gone into business on his own.
Tex Murphy: Overseer starts out with Tex going on a date with Chelsee Bando. Worrying about Tex's ability to commit to a relationship, she confronts him about how he still wears his wedding ring from his ex-wife, Sylvia Linsky. This leads Tex to recount the story of his first case. Tex is hired by Sylvia Linsky to discover the truth behind her father's suicide. She believes he was actually murdered, but the police have already closed the case. With no one else to turn to, she goes to Tex for help. Tex becomes involved in a plot involving implants and mind control, and must do what he can to stop it, before it's too late. The story which Tex recounts to Chelsee is essentially the events of Mean Streets, the first game in the series. There are, however, several notable plot differences between the two.
The Virtual World
Tex Murphy: Overseer is the third game in the Tex Murphy series to use virtual world technology. For Overseer, Access Software created a new virtual world engine designed for use in Windows 95/98. Along with the new engine came a slightly modified control system, which was not widely liked. Despite this, the virtual world still allowed for full freedom of movement and allowed you to search for clues in every corner, which by this point had become a staple of the Tex series.
Overseer continued the use of the Tex series' unique method of dialogue selection. Instead of providing you with a list of responses showing the exact words that Tex will say, each dialogue choice is given an adequate description. Never knowing exactly what Tex will say when you select an option helped to keep the dialogue surprising, and often funny.
DVD or CD
Overseer was one of the first games to utilize DVD technology. The game came on five CDs or one DVD, packaged in the same box together. The advantage to the DVD version was the absence of any disc swapping and the higher quality video files used. Other than on those key points, gameplay remained identical in the two versions.
Entertainment or Gamer modes
The game provided two difficulty settings: Entertainment mode and Gamer mode. On Entertainment mode, hints were available and you could bypass certain puzzles in the game. A total of 1,500 points were available on Entertainment mode. In Gamer mode, no hints were available and puzzles could not be bypassed. However, you received bonus points if you solved certain puzzles within a set amount of time. A total of 4,000 points were available on Gamer mode, though due to a glitch with one puzzle, only 3,931 of these points are actually attainable. Unlike its predecessor, The Pandora Directive, Overseer didn't have any other changes to gameplay between the two modes.
End of the series
Overseer is the final installment of the Tex Murphy series. This had not been the intention when the project was developed. In fact, the game ends with a cliffhanger since it was intended that a sequel (Chance) would be published quickly. Overseer was developed because Intel had wanted to bundle a new Tex game with one of its new hardware products. Due to a very quick turnaround Intel initially required, there was not time to write and produce a new game for the series. As some players might notice, Overseer is not a "new story", but rather a retelling of Mean Streets. Intel reportedly paid for the entire production but decided to cancel the software bundle anyway. Access released the game through normal channels in 1998.
After the completion of Overseer, it was intended that two more games would be produced and Aaron Conners, the writer for the series, had basic outlines ready for Chance and one other Tex game (Polarity). However, Access was sold to Microsoft shortly after 1998 and any mention of a Tex sequel was put on permanent hold. This is due partially to the merge, but has more to do with declining sales of the series and adventure games as a whole.
Since Overseer was published, no other game work has begun. In October 2004, Microsoft sold Overseer developer Access Software and rights to the game to Take-Two Interactive who then renamed the studio to Indie Built. However, in 2005 Indie Built shut its doors. After Indie closed the rights to the series transferred to a group of former Access employees including Aaron Conners (2009). Since Overseer Conners and Jones have tried to give fans some hints as to where the story was headed, these included Flash animations and a series of "Old Time Radio" episodes. However, all further animations and radio episodes have been cancelled and as of 2008 the series appeared to be completely dead.
Hint of a possible return in 2009
In April 2009, there was a considerable hint that a new Tex Murphy game may be in pre-production. Developer Big Finish Games began advertising a 'secret project' called 'Fedora' on their website. Big Finish Games was created by former employees of Access Software, including Aaron Conners and Chris Jones. Conners and Jones were able to secure the rights to all past Tex Murphy games, as well as the rights to produce new Tex Murphy adventures. As the fedora hat is an iconic image in the Tex Murphy series, many have interpreted the project as the long awaited emergence of a new Tex Murphy adventure.
- Chris Jones as Tex Murphy
- Michael York as J. Saint Gideon
- Rebecca Broussard as Sylvia Linsky
- Henry Darrow as Sonny Fletcher
- Richard Norton as Big Jim Slade
- Clint Howard as Larry Hammond
- Joe Estevez as John Klaus
- Roger Davis as Robert Knott
Directed by: Adrian Carr.
Other Tex Murphy games
- Mean Streets (1989)
- Martian Memorandum (1990)
- Under a Killing Moon (1994)
- The Pandora Directive (1996)