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Still Life is technically the first chapter of a series of games that until a few years ago, one thought would never be finished. It has a prequel, Post Mortem, which came out in the 90s. Fortunately for GoG fans that might not have played the prequel, Still Life does not really delve too much on the events in the prequel. However Gus McPherson, Post Mortem's protagonist, does feature a prominent role in Still Life.
The Good:
Still Life has a great storyline. It deals with art, a serial killer, and a very competent female protagonist. Of course the game kind of begins with Victoria wandering around a crime scene holding four cups of coffee to give everyone, but don't be put off. She's extremely capable and ends up picking together the case in such a way that heads will roll. But not literally. The killer isn't like in Post Mortem. He doesn't remove heads. Just likes to drown, eviscerate, and rough up his victims a bit. ;) Oh and of course all the victims are female.
The game allows you to use forensic tools, but most of the time I felt that you didn't get to use them nearly enough. You'll need to dust for fingerprints, use a revealer spray to show cleaned up blood stains, look for bits of clothing or hair left on the scene. CSI fans will probably enjoy that, although it's used sparingly.
Keep in mind that the game switches protagonists on occasion. It goes back to Gus McPherson in 1920s Prague in order to carry on more of the storyline. He doesn't quite have the same detective abilities as Victoria due to the lack of technology. How did Microids make up for this? Well he has supernatural abilities. I list this as a good thing because I played Post Mortem. However...if you didn't play the prequel...I think it might end up in the bad list.
Still when looking at both Victoria and Gus, you develop a solid relationship with the main characters. When bad things go down, you are extremely eager to try to help them get out of the situation. Also the dialog is pretty witty at times, and I found myself enjoying the comments. The main problem is that you cannot CHOOSE your dialog in most cases. A lot of times you get the mouse symbol and can choose the left button or the right button. I hadn't really read the manual...but it seems like the right button sometimes lets the NPC you're talking to ask you allows a kind of sarcastic response.
I thought at first that it might be similar to the Renegade/Paragon options you get in Mass Effect 2, but as far as I can see it doesn't really affect your relationship with any of the NPCs that you talk to. And sometimes the right mouse button seemed to just have normal conversation. The left button is for normal questions. It seems a lot of times you just click on the left mouse button a lot in order to have someone like Gus rattle off a bunch of questions to people.
By the end of the game, I kind of felt that this was still Gus's game. Victoria is introduced and is given the reigns, so to speak, and obviously by the time you get to Still Life'll be all about playing as her. But Gus has a story that is sometimes funny, mostly dark, and extremely sad at times. You will love the characters. And you'll want to play in order to see how the story finishes up.
The Bad:
It's an adventure game, first of all. Not that adventure games are evil or bad in any way, but...they're not for everyone. Adventure Games sometimes have a history of ludicrous pixel hunting, random puzzles that have no real application in real life and are sometimes insanely hard to make sense of, and well UIs can be all over the place in sensibility and ease of use.
Still Life has a great story. So you don't have to worry about that. You will on occasion have some annoying pixel hunts. But I think a lot of the item searching was done pretty well. It was an improvement of Post Mortem.
The puzzles, especially those in Prague, are ridiculous at times. The lockpicking mini-game is downright evil. And what is this nonsense about picking up rings and switching them around and then playing a slider puzzle at the last door? It's just outright horrible. And this has got to be the first game ever to make a stupid puzzle involving baking cookies...yes Victoria ends up baking cookies for her dad. Who incidentally eats them all. That was amusing for the dialog, but really....if I had to solve riddles every time I baked cookies, I'd tell my dad where he can stick it. Man...
I used a walkthrough for many of the puzzles. Now some of the puzzles do make sense. Most of Victorias do, although Gus' chest at the beginning of the game is kind of a pain. Some puzzles also require timing. There is this one puzzle towards the end where you have to move a little robot around some lasers. It requires a few tries. That was frustrating. Get a walkthrough. I know that's probably considered cheating, but when puzzles defy logic, I think it's almost expected. I think the main frustration I felt is that I wanted to know what was going on next in the story and these mind-numbing puzzles were holding me back. know. Call me a pansy if you must, but I finished the game and was happy. And that's all that counts right?
Another downside to the game is that there are many instances where the voice acting is HORRIBLE. Oh it's bad. Sometimes it's funny. Other times its disappointing. But Microids games are not really good for hiring quality voice actors it seems. Gus and Victoria aren't too bad. Which I think saves the game at times. I can only imagine what it would have been like if Mia's voice actor played Victoria. Oh dear. You'll know what I mean.
This game had a lot of controversy when it came out because the ending isn't really conclusive. It was meant to lead up to the events surrounding Still Life 2. Still Life came out in 2004 and Still Life 2 was released in 2009. Now picture yourself within that 4 year span and just having beaten Still Life. Well you'd want an ending that felt more like how you'd feel at the end of the best movies. You want to make sure the killer gets what he deserves and solve the mystery.
But for four years...the fate of Still Life 2 was up in the air. No one really thought it would ever come out and fans felt kinda jaded. Fortunately it did come out. Hopefully GoG will get it here soon. But BE WARNED...that the ending is kind of a cliffhanger more than anything. So if you get frustrated with cliffhangers and don't want to spend the 19.99 on Still Life 2 (which I believe is the cost to download the game on Microids website) then I suggest you wait a bit.
If you are an adventure game fan that you have to play Still Life. If you are a CSI fan...then you must play Still Life. If you're a fan of horror movies like Saw or are obsessed with Ted Bundy or have a penchant for strangling, slicing up, or at the very least beating should probably buy this game.
If you are a person that can't deal with cliffhangers, bad voice acting, occasional pixel hunts, and sometimes outright evil might want to pass. Or use a guide.
The game has a great story, but isn't perfect. But I think most will be pleased if they give it a chance.