Hitchcock - The Final Cut
Release date: 11/2001
Developer: Arxel Tribe
A review by slydos 20th November 2001
"Hitchcock - The Final Cut" is Arxel Tribe's second 3rd person game after "Casanova". But to make it short, there are only few similarities between both - Casanova with an average action part of 50% can be classified in the genre action-adventure, The Final Cut against it is a pure adventure with a minimum portion of jump&run.
For the first time Universal released the rights for a marketing of Hitchcock movies as game, for the films Psycho, Frenzy, Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, Torn Curtain, Topaz. Now Arxel Tribe promises us a breath-taking story and an adventure completely realized according to the rules of Hitchcock's art in camera, background and graphics.
The situation at the beginning
Joseph Shamley is medial talented since a car accident of his parents on the day of Alfred Hitchcock's funeral and uses this ability also for his job as a private eye now. When going on a fishing vacation, a mute blond girl foils his plan. Nevertheless he actually accepts to work for her uncle, a pharma tycoon. Uncle Robert O. Marvin-Jordan is a Hitchcock-maniac and is actually shooting a movie on his estate - however the film crew disappeared! The gamer slips now into the role of private detective Joseph Shamley and must find out, what happened to the crew.
The game comes on 2 CDs, can easily be installed, however not so easily started. Each time, if we interrupt and start playing again, we must first insert CD1, wait for the Arxel start sequence and then insert the 2nd CD. Here you have to abort the start sequence again and then can load a saved game. Who did not switch off the Windows autostart function, also has to abort the installation procedure each time. If this whole procedure should be due to the copy protection, then Arxel Tribe should find something else as soon as possible - that's really annoying.
We control Joseph with the arrow keys. Here the reactions of our actor are quite pleasant and not as hyper-sensitive, as in Casanova, where you made a complete 180 degrees turn with the smallest key strike. In order to find an interactionable hotspot, Joseph must be led quite close to it, then an action icon in the left upper corner of the screen appears, which indicates, whether you e.g. can take something or open a door. An action is executed with spacebar. Our hero can be moved freely in all directions, he runs faster, if you additionally press the shift key and can also jump with the X-key.
All other actions and interactions are controlled by mouse. If you've found a hotspot and already pressed the spacebar, a zoom of the respective area appears. Now you must find further hotspots here again but with the cursor, which changes its look depending upon function. Here recognition problems can occur, since the cursor always has the form of a white bordered magnifying glass and only the small center area changes. Thus you sometimes don't realize at first look that you cannot only click on a certain area and look at it closer, but also can use an object there.
If you take up an object, the inventory area of the organizer opens for a short time and the new entry is displayed by repeated flickering. Inventory objects are first stored as texts. The inventory area is also automatically devided into sub areas, if certain matching or homogeneous things are collected, e.g. audio and video cassettes or magnetic cards.
Beside objects Joseph can store information about individual persons within another part of the organizer. This information also occurs automatically, if e.g. you read a letter. In the inventory objects can also be combined. For this you must first select an object with the mouse and it appears as icon in the left upper corner of the screen. Then again call the inventory and you can see then in the lower third a tiny icon of the object already selected, which slipped on the right side, if it is a combinable object. Now you can select a second object with the mouse.
Beside the diary function and the inventory also a simple interactive map can be opened, with which you can change the location fast (however only in most external scenes). At last you can find here a button for the main menu with options, save, load and end functions. Unfortunately there are only 10 save slots, only with date and time. The whole organizer is quite unclear and confusing and also in the scarce manual there is no detailed description. So it can be that after some time you discover that there are more objects in the inventory than displayed, since you can scroll with a wheel at the bottom of the organizer. Unfortunately the selected position is not preserved, and you must scroll down each time again. In connection with the keyboard control this is not really a user friendly interface. That it can be more comfortable, is shown by the organizer handling in "Road to of India".
If you once got accustomed to the controls, and also found your way to the film set, the search for the film crew can begin. We saunter through the backdrops and should really regard each detail attentively. Everywhere you can find hints, notes, evidence, and if we're stuck, then our medial talented detective surely has a short vision, which helps us. Joseph first asks no questions, at whom you will ask, for his client stays invisible, the beautiful blond is mute and the speaking Beo named Alfred is also no adequate interlocutor, for it does too much justice to the whiskey, babbling "Que será, será" (Doris Day's hit from "The Man Who Knew Too Much").
We accompany our 3D-hero through prerendered 2D-scenes, which remind with their grey basic tones of dyed postcards. Tinny film thunder drones, which cannot really be taken serious, but sounds like "Hello, hear this, even the thunder is not genuine here!"
The house of the tycoon and the film set seem to be similar to those in Hitchcock's films at first sight, but a 1to1-copy does not seem to be intended here. The Psycho house has surely no festival room a la "Rebecca" and the church from "Vertigo" was no dark building, but after my memory a bright church in the Spanish/Mexican style. The hotel looks different to "Rear Window" and so does the house of the Brenners, the gas station or the restaurant of the "Birds".
Of course it is a giant fun to wander through the locations and to find allusions on Hitchcock films. But besides we have a job to do and a story of our own. Sooner or later we will discover the first corpse and I hope not to spoil too much, if I say - there will be many of them, partly assassinated quite inventive, so that even master Hitchcock would have had his joy. We may examine corpses with a zoom function on details, what can be quite unappetizing.
Sometimes Joseph has a short vision during his investigations, if he touches e.g. a door knob or opens a book - here snippets from the movies specified above are then mostly used, often only for seconds. If Joseph examines a suit-case, then you suddenly can see a luggage exchange scene from "Topaz", and our medial talented hero deduces somehow razor-sharp that something was stolen here.
Altogether there are 15 minutes excerpts from Hitchcock movies dispersed over the entire game. You will not detect leading actors and the scenes are very short, so its not easy to find a link, however here and there you can: Karin Dor's eye (Topaz), Anthony Perkin's eye (Psycho), falling suit-cases or the letter Pi (Torn Curtain), the liberty statue (Saboteur). Beside the original film scenes there is also a whole series of fine in-house film scenes by Arxel Tribe.
If Joseph moves, the camera view changes frequently - sometimes too often or too early, so that we must regain orientation or our hero moves into the camera-off - sometimes for a very long time - until the camera shows a new view. Well - whether Hitchcock would have tolerated such a thing - probably not. Nevertheless those - sometimes fast - changes of perspective make the story more exciting and more varied and produce some thrilling surprise effects, but they have reliably not much to do with Hitchcock's legendary camera moves or cut technique.
From time to time Joseph also meets living people, who are more or less well or ill disposed to him. While their mimik remains quite rigid and unchanged, the gesturing of the characters succeeded nevertheless very well and works very genuinly, when the head of an interlocutor directs at Joseph's movements almost pursuing him. Also Joseph himself moves jointed and sleek, if he bends down e.g. or climbs a ladder. His head also remains always directed toward a hotspot, as long as it's near.
Joseph almost always perfectly walks around obstacles and does not run into it. He takes everything with very dry humor and that is o.k.! How could you otherwise deal with the macabre events! However you are not free selecting different options during the dialogues, you can only choose which question to ask first. The somewhat tired, absent tone of our pharma tycoon Robert O. Marvin-Jordan (you should better note such complicated names) reminded me uncommonly of the German voice of Charlie from "Charlie's Angels", particularly because you experience him first only on the telephone or video.
In order to approach the truth, Joseph must collect evidence and store information in his organizer data base. He must take, apply and combine objects. There are nearly no useless objects, some can be used several times. In many cases our hero has to open locked doors. In order to check the hotel rooms of the crew, Joseph needs e.g. magnetic cards, which he must find first. He solves some combination puzzles, opens here a number lock and must read there texts in every detail, in order to get ahead. There are some very suspenseful time-dependent puzzles, which can also mean death for Joseph. But even here the player won't be stuck for long, because the solutions can be found by logical means and with common sense.
It is often no matter, in which order the many subplots are treated. However there are certain, strictly linear game parts, which have also a temporal component. If Joseph is dreaming here and means to have to do more important things, it can happen, that an interlocutor is no longer present and also doesn't occur anymore - a dead end thus.
With exception of some handling problems with the organizer, the CD-changes and the two dead ends, I was trapped in, I have really enjoyed the game. Extremely exciting passages alternated with the painstaking detective work. An entangled story, a good dash of humor, many allusions (from Hitchcock's first film "Number 13" up to his last: "Family Plot") and surprising twists and turns are tasty ingredients for an extremely felicitous adventure game.
Besides it raises the desire to watch some films of the master again (they run presently in the German Pay TV Premiere World) or read about it. Who wants to experience still more about the famous, disputed and contentious film man Hitchcock, should in any case read "Hitchcock/ Truffaut"" a book-long interview by his colleague Francois Truffaut. Also the developer team of Arxel Tribe studied this excellent book, and here one can learn, what Hitch really understands by a McGuffin and the fact that the real Walter Slezak (went from Vienna to the US in the 30s) acted in Hitchcock's "Lifeboat", who - in reality - didn't die of natural death either. (McGuffin and Walter Slezak will occur within the game).
Addition to my review: The game length of 20 hours stated by Arxel Tribe is actually much longer. It took me around 33 hours to finish the game.
My rating: 85%
80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable 70% - 79% good game, recommendable 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable) 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only) 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
- Windows 95/98/2000/ME
- Pentium 333 Mhz
- 64 MB RAM
- 8 MB 16 bits graphic card
- 16bit stereo-soundcard
- 24x CDROM-drive
- 300 MB free disk space
- DirectX7 (on CD)
- Pentium III 850
- 128 MB RAM
- Sound- and graphic cards DirectX-compatible
- Toshiba DVD-ROM