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Overclocked: A History of Violence
As with most people who like to reminisce about the golden age of the adventure game, I get excited every now and then that it might be due for a bit of a renaissance. To be honest, this is a genre that's still looking for the right way forward. On the one hand, Telltale's Sam and Max adventures have made it clear that you can achieve some success by tapping the nostalgia vein and giving fans the good old days with a modern visual style. Nothing wrong with that, providing the puzzles are entertaining and the humour works. On the other hand, Revolution's more recent Broken Sword games and Quantic Dream's Fahrenheit have tried to stretch the genre in a new, movie-like direction. The latter, in particular, made me really hopeful. Fahrenheit wasn't perfect - too many quick-time event sequences, too little sense towards the end - but the way it fused multiple, branching storylines, cinematic camera angles and truly interactive dialogue was impressive. You just hoped that other developers could take these ideas and run with them.
In a way, Overclocked is an attempt to do just that. In fact, one of the reasons I wanted to look at it was that it name-checked Fahrenheit in the press release that accompanied the game. However, it's not a particularly successful attempt, partly because it's a much more linear and traditional adventure game than Fahrenheit and partly because - even when you take that into account - it's not a particularly good one.
Like Fahrenheit, you can see where Overclocked takes its influences from. The plot is reminiscent of a Hollywood psychological thriller. Elements of the style are clearly borrowed from the post-Seven thriller (David Fincher's film seems to be for the adventure and survival horror game what Aliens has become for the Sci-Fi FPS). General camera work and the heavy use of split-screen come straight from the 24 school of modern TV thriller. And like Fahrenheit, Overclocked works through multiple narratives, with you piecing the story together from several different perspectives.
To do so, it uses a classic Hollywood device - the investigating psychologist. Basically, five amnesiac young men and women are found in varying states of acute psychological distress on the streets of New York City and bought to a remote asylum on Staten Island. Distrustful of the asylum's medical staff, the police call in a forensic psychologist, David McNamara, to find out who these people are and what put them in this condition. By asking the right questions and finding the right prompts, McNamara can piece their memories together, one step backwards at a time.