The Tex Murphy series currently consists of five different games released between 1989 and 1998 with a sixth planned to be released towards the end of 2013.
Up until 1998 all the Tex Murphy games were published by Access Software. The expected 2013 revival is to be handled by indie publisher Big Finish Games. All entries have been designed by creator, Chris Jones (whom also happens to play the role of Tex Murphy in the games). From the series' third entry, Under a Killing Moon, the games were co-designed with Aaron Conners.
While the games do share continuity each installment can be played without prior knowledge to another entry's story. The games do share similar plot structures.
All games are set largely in a post World War 3 San Francisco where the nuclear war has turned the sky red and a percentage of the population into mutants. Every game see the player take control of Private Investigator Tex Murphy, who at the beginning of each game is usually desperate for his next job (and usually low on cash and in debt).
Every case Murphy takes on appears to be open-and-shut at first glance, but as his investigations turn up more information, sinister developments are discovered.
While the series at points can be very serious, it can also be very comical. Self-referential humor, fourth-wall breaking jokes and out-right slapstick moments are not hard to find within the series.
Tex Murphy's Timeline
The first appearance of Tex Murphy was not actually in a video game, but in an amateur B-movie. The 45 minute film see Chris Jones take on the role for the first time with many other roles in the film being filled in by members of Access Software. The plot is very similar to that of what would eventually become Mean Streets and Tex Murphy: Overseer.
The first game in the series sees Tex Murphy as a newly licensed P.I. waiting for his first case. It materilaises in the form of a blonde bombshell, Sylvia Linsky. She hires Murphy to investigate the death of her farther, Carl Linsky. Witnesses claim to have seen the man throw himself off the Golden Gate Bridge making the police rule it as a suicide. Sylvia is convinced otherwise and wants Murphy to prove his death to be a homicide. Soon Tex is drawn into a web of intrigue involving hitmen, corruption and mind control.
This game is most unlike the others in the series as very little of the adventure involves the point-and-click aspect, save but for a few areas. Most of the game requires you to interview different characters while you discover new information to open up the tree of investigation.
The FMV which the series would become known for is used in a very limited capacity (albeit still groundbreaking for its time). Characters during interview segments will usually initiate a very short clip that either introduces them or shows their reaction to a certain keyword.
Set several years after the last game (in the year 2039 to be exact), the second game sees Tex hired by the founder of a successful Terraforming company to find his missing daughter. The case eventually takes Murphy to Mars and uncovers a stone with the power to tell the future.
Gameplay this time around is more similar to that of traditional point-and-click like Monkey Island. The interviewing of characters has been developed. Instead of merely listing a keyword to get results, the player is presented with a list of dialogue options. A correct combination of answers need to be chosen to advance the story.
The FMV is also more advanced. Important characters will respond to your questions via a short low quality video clip, with voice acting included.
Set in 2042, the third game sees Murphy in debt, divorced, living in a near condemned hotel and without a job for months. After solving a minor case for a local pawnshop owner, Murphy finds himself back on the radar and is hired by a woman of aristocracy to find a missing painting. The case, per usual, turns out to be much deeper and Tex is left facing off against a dangerous cult.
Under a Killing Moon was a drastic departure from the last two installments. Gameplay was now conducted in a full 3D environment controlled by a combination of mouse and keyboard. The interview side of the game also became more simplified and was less dependent on branching options and became more about providing the right evidence.
This is the first game in the series where FMV became a major part of the game. All cutscenes are performed with a live cast in-front of green screens. Chris Jones appears in person as Tex Murphy for the first time since Plan 10 from Outer Space.
This would also be the first game in the series co-designed by Aaron Conners.
A year on from his last adventure, Tex Murphy is once again in debt but at least everything else is not any worse off. Although to be honest you can't go any lower than rock bottom. His luck starts looking up once he is discovered by wealthy Gordon Fitzpatrick who wants Murphy to investigate the disappearance of his friend Thomas Malloy. With some money in his pocket, Murphy embarks on an investigation that will unearth some of the darkest secrets held by the United States government.
From a gameplay and FMV point of view, the game has changed very little from Under a Killing Moon. Full 3D environments are to be explored, evidence is to be presented to certain characters and most of the game's exposition is developed by actors in front of a green screen.
The Pandora Directive at the time was unique in the series in one aspect. Throughout the game Murphy is presented with choices that affect the outcome of several situations and most importantly the ending (of which there are nine). The game also offered difficulty levels of Entertainment (easy) and Gamer (normal). On the easier difficulty some puzzle are not included, are shortened or have their time limits expanded.
Only months after his last big case, Tex Murphy is one the verge of finally securing a relationship with his long time love interest, Chelsee Bando. There is one problem that is stalling this development and that is Tex's ex-wife, Sylvia Linsky. To help get past this obstacle Tex tells Chelsee the story of Mean Streets and his first case as a P.I.
Overseer saw the controls of the Tex Murphy series refined and much easier to control with a majority of the movement controlled by the keyboard with the mouse only used to select items. The game also returned to a linear story with multiple endings removed. The interview segments were also simplified even further as the user could no longer present evidence and only use keywords off a checklist.
Once again difficulty levels were introduced but there are no gameplay benefits beyond being able to buy hints on Entertainment.
The FMV quality improved hugely between games as the user had the choice of playing the game via 5 CDS or a single DVD (if your computer supported it at the time).
Unfortunately for Tex fans the game ended on a cliffhanger that would go unresolved for over 15 years.
Shortly after the released of Overseer, Access Software was bought by Microsoft. Unfortuantly for the Tex Murphy series, the series had very little hope of being revived. Microsoft were only interested in the sports title Access Software developed (such as the Links golf series). Also the adventure game had fallen on hard times and any investment into such a game was seen as an unnessicary financial risk.
In 2001, on their own accord, Chris Jones and Aaron Conners produced a series of audio dramas (Tex Murphy: Radio Theater) with the intention of resolving the cliffhanger ending of the last game. As of today they are free to download on various Tex Murphy websites. The dramas unfortunately failed to revive interest in the series and ended after six episodes.
It was also proposed at some point to resolve the story through flash animations and cheaply made 2d point-and-click games. This idea never materialized.
The situation became more grim for the series after the company (now called Indie Built) was bought by Take-Two Interactive and merged into 2K Sports. In 2006 the developer was shut down without reason.
The following year in 2007, Chris Jones and Aaron Conner founded Big Finish Games which hired most of the former Indie Built staff. Two years later Chris Jones and Aaron Conners acquired the rights to the Tex Murphy series.
In the same year Conners was quoted as saying the new Tex Murphy game was a matter of "not if but when". In April Project Fedora was announced a future product from Big Finish. At the time it was only speculation that this was the next Tex Murphy game. In June the first four games were re-released on Good Old Games with Overseer following in July.
Things went quite for a few years until March 2012 when a Kickstarter campaign was announced for Project Fedora which was confirmed to be the sixth installment of the Tex Murphy franchise. With a goal of $450,000 whcih was to compliment the $300,000 Big Finish had already secured for the game, the campaign was successful and raised $598, 104 by the closing date of June 16th.
Two days later, production of the game began.
Tex Murphy broke one of the many rules of being a P.I. Don't take rides from strangers. The end of Overseer saw Tex pay dearly for his mistake. After 15 years the cliffhanger is being officially resolved. Tex is back on the streets of Chandler Avenue and out to investigate a new mystery.
So far the game has been confirmed to play much like that of the last three Tex Murphy games with full 3d environments, FMV cutscenes and many characters to interview. To promote the game, six further episodes of the Tex Murphy Radio Theater are to be produced.
Although Jones and Conners have stated that while the game will resolved Overseer's ending, it will also be accessible to new fans of the series who haven't played and previous installments. This is due to the return of the multiple paths element seen in The Pandora Directive. The story will be able to unfold in multiple ways depending on how the user chooses to play the game.