Under A Killing Moon is a PC adventure game developed and published by Access Software. It was released in 1994 on 4 CD's for MS-DOS and was the third game from the developer to feature Tex Murphy as the lead character. Previous titles in the series include Mean Streets and Martian Memorandum. The game uses full motion video and 3D environments to create a cinematic and interactive experience.
Under A Killing Moon's universe combines the science fiction genre with film noir crime drama. The year is 2042, and in post-World War III San Francisco nuclear fallout has created a new racial divide on Earth - between those unaffected by the massive amounts of radiation, known as "norms," and the unfortunate mutants who bear physical defects from the aftermath. Tex Murphy is a private investigator and a norm who prefers to live in the old part of town with the mutants. He wears a trench coat and a fedora, drinks bourbon, and fancies himself a throwback to the hard boiled P.I.'s of the early 20th century. He is a reasonably good person despite being a bit of a bumbling detective and down on his luck.
A bracelet robbery at Rook's local pawn shop finally gives Tex some work, and some exposure. He does not go unnoticed by certain parties, and soon after solving the case he is summoned by a mysterious Countess Renier. Impressed by his location tactics, she tasks Tex with retrieving a crystal dove statuette, for a large sum of money of course. Tex eventually recovers the prize from a highly secured location but after it's promptly stolen from him, setting off a chain of events that could potentially lead to the end of the world.
Meanwhile, Tex's mentor The Colonel is stabbed within an inch of his life after asking one too many questions. And the man responsible for both, as well as the beautiful Countess, is none other than a shapeshifter called The Chameleon. A hardened Native American, he is the right hand man to The Brotherhood of Purity, a cult bent on fulfilling an ancient prophecy of destroying life on earth while select norms watch safely from a utopian space station named the Moon Child. And Tex just delivered to them the final piece they needed. Not to mention he's out of bourbon.
Tex must pick up where The Colonel left off, tasked with infiltrating the cult and stopping their plans of genocide along with their leader, the enigmatic Lowell Percival. He learns of the organization CAPRICORN who developed a computer virus meant to destroy the Moon Child, and The Colonel's involvement with them. Unfortunately the agent assigned to the project is a now prisoner of The Brotherhood. Tex is able to locate the Winter Chip with the virus loaded and eventually tracks down The Chameleon, whom he kills with a poisoned cigarette. This leads Tex to be taken prisoner aboard the Moon Child with little time to spare. He meets up with CAPRICORN agent Eva aboard the station and together they upload the virus, escape the Moon Child, and save the world.
Unfortunately Tex doesn't get the girl in the end, but he does get a slice of Louie's famous chocolate pie and a glass of bourbon to wash it down over at the Brew 'n' Stew.
Under A Killing Moon features first person navigation in 3D environments that can be paused at any time for point and click interaction. The player switches between the two modes on the fly using the space bar. Players are rewarded for their exploration, triggering dialogue and gags for even mundane background objects. The game also features many traditional adventure elements including collecting objects, combining and using inventory items, uncovering new locations, a variety of puzzles to solve, and branching dialog trees with a large cast of characters.
The dialog system allows Tex three distinct options to say at any given time, with conversations branching off into different directions depending on what mood the player conveys. Some conversations will require Tex to present evidence or select correct responses, lest he be spurned away or worse, killed. Items and topics of interest can be presented for comment as well.
There is a detailed hint system available in Under A Killing Moon which serves as a built in walkthrough for all intents and purposes. Points are also given to the player depending on how much of the game is seen and completed, with hints detracting from the overall score. If the player dies Tex is brought before "The Big P.I. in the Sky" who lets him know what went wrong before sending him back to complete the mission. This faceless character is voiced by actor James Earl Jones.
Acting and Audio
The game's sense of humor comes from an offbeat script by Aaron Conners of Amped 3 fame as well as the mostly amateur cast that delivers the lines. Many of the characters are portrayed by Access employees including Tex Murphy, who is played by series co-creator Chris Jones. Film and TV actors are also part of the cast, including Brian Keith as The Colonel, Margot Kidder as a cult bartender, Russell Means as The Chameleon and the previously mentioned James Earl Jones as The Big P.I. in the Sky.
The soundtrack features dozens of jazz, blues, and generally detective themed MIDI compositions, with a memorable live saxophone riff that plays at the open of each chapter.
Reaction and Legacy
Under A Killing Moon was given high reviews from publications that covered exclusively adventure titles upon release and mixed reviews from mainstream gaming press. It sold well enough to spawn two more titles in the series, The Pandora Directive and Tex Murphy: Overseer, both of which would go on to refine the cinematic adventure formula that was established in UAKM. A novelization of the game was published by Prima and released in 1996, written by Aaron Conners. On April 19, 1999 Access Software was purchased by Microsoft and all characters and properties found in Under A Killing Moon were transferred to Microsoft.
In 2009, Chris and Aaron were able to secure the rights to the Tex Murphy franchise for their independent studio, Big Finish Games. Under A Killing Moon was released digitally on Good Old Games later that year, with the rest of the series following shortly after. Six episodes of Tex Murphy Radio Theater were also produced with a story that continues where Overseer left off.
After focusing on smaller scale projects, Big Finish began planning for the return of Tex Murphy in late 2011. A Kickstarter campaign was launched in March of 2012 to raise funding for a full FMV production with many of the original cast and crew members. The goal of $450,000 was met and surpassed by donators, and the next title in the franchise (currently codenamed "Project Fedora") is expected to arrive on PC in 2013.