Overclocked: A History of Violence (2007) or Everyone Is an Asshole



It's not very uncommon to see a game, that is trying to be ambitious in some way or an another. A game can try to be ambitious in the terms of gameplay or game content, be it a story, how the narrative works or how the game world is opened up or what it actually contains. Overclocked is one of those games that tries so hard to be ambitious with its story, that it's almost sad to see it fall on its face more times than it manages to stagger around with two, drunken feet. Overclocked is a game, where you play as an asshole, with whom it also tries to make you sympathize, but it's so hard, as he's really a jackass, despite he is trying to help people. Not that he's as huge of an asshole as the main character of Moebius, Malachi Rector, but psychiatrist David McNamara is pretty close. He, at least, has a reason for being an ass.

McNamara, a psychiatrist in a middle of a failing marriage, is assigned to check out 5 teens, who've been admitted because of violent episodes. The hospital the kids are in is a run down place, staffed with a hostile doctor and a nurse, who both do nothing else but question everything McNamara does. But then again, who could blame them as David himself acts like an asshole most of the time.

Here's David. He has issues.
Anyways, after a couple of sessions with the kids, it's evident that they all share a common history. They've been held in some sort of military base, where they've been exposed to some sort of brainwashing that's supposed to cause them to behave violently and without remorse. It's not actually all that bad of a premise, but what really does ruin the game is the writing: it's cliched to the core in a bad way and for some reason everyone in the story acts like a grade-A asshole. No matter who, they're assholes.  I mean I do get why David's wife and former best friend do it, considering the shit David's been pulling off, but out of the cast only a single bartender even tries to be polite. But even he swings it to a decree of being just amazingly idiotic.

Then there are things that are just odd. On one scene a bar regular pulls a gun on David, while everyone is watching. David does disarm the man, but then nothing comes of it. Life goes on as usual and the bar regular still remains as the bar regular. Threatening people in that bar is seemingly so normal that no one cares. But there's more yet. On an another occasion David pulls a gun on a clerk at the hotel he's staying at and he behaves like what he sees is so routine, that he's not even shaken by it. All goes on as usual after that.

Most of the game is spent in the hospital, trying to connect with the teens. This happens by David talking to them, then going to an another teen and playing a recording of some other teens answers in order to trigger memories. You can control the teens as they do stuff on the military base, so besides David, there are 5 other playable characters. Delightfully enough these teens also are mostly assholes. This is made worse by the fact, that the segments you play are out of order, so they can even seem like bigger asses. But maybe all that asshattery can be forgiven because they're traumatized and brainwashed to be violent. If only it were well written.

David with a patient.
And here we get to the biggest problem of it all; Overclocked just isn't well written. It does try hard, but as a whole, the style of the script is so overpoweringly nihilistic and the characters so unlikeable, that the game just feels ridiculous, while it's trying so hard to be serious. This all is underlined by the ever pouring rain, that soaks New York until the terribly written conclusion, where the sun comes out behind the clouds and from some reason, David's wife decides to forgive him, despite she doesn't know a thing about what has been going on during the last couple days.

The ending. Dear me. The ending is so abrupt, that it feels like a compromise done in a direct point where the production ran out of money and they just knew they'd need to cobble something together. And cobble they did to the point, where the game feels like it left things unresolved.

The gameplay is pretty standard point and clicks fare. It even has some amount of pixel hunting, but luckily enough the game has a hotspot revealer, so it's not all that bad. But then there's the tiresome cellphone interface you need to use every time you're accessing the recordings of the patients. You'll be spending a good bit of time with that, trying to locate the right sessions in order to hear David's grunt signalling that he's found the right piece. From some reason, a shit ton of games published in 2000's seemed to assume that a cell phone as a game UI element was the way to go and almost uniformly it has been a bad idea.

These modern days we live in do require game devs to design their games around cell phones.
Then there's also the amateur theatre quality voice acting, which made my fingers look for the mute button. That one is pretty much the icing on the cake making Overclocked one of those attempts at grabbing money out of the pockets of gamers, who were looking for things to play after Sierra and Lucasfilm stopped making point and clicks.

As a side note, the devs of Overclocked are also responsible for another 2000's adventure stinker, The Moment of Silence. It tells quite a bit of the dire straits of the genre back then, as when they were originally released, both got pretty good reviews, The Moment of Silence was chosen as "an adventure game of the year" by some poor sobs. It makes me shudder to think how starved the adventure games were back then, considering all the dreck that was published and even praised back then. Both games were published by The Adventure Company, that was the vulture circling the rotting carcass of the former AAA star of the industry, spewing out some of the worst titles the genre has seen.

Overclocked is a game that is trying hard to be a serious psychological thriller with twists and turns, but it's not very good at it. if you feel like getting it, it's at GOG, but do wait for a decent discount.


Comments