I vant to suck your blood!
Gabriel Knight 3 has been called many things by the gaming community: Some call it "The Most Anticipated Adventure Game Yet." Others call it "The game that will save the adventure genre." Yet others call it "Bob". But whatever they say, I call it a very satisfying gaming experience.
For those of you who haven't had the privilege to pick up GK1 or GK2 (I pity you), the story goes like this: Gabriel Knight was once a mild mannered pulp fiction writer living in New Orleans. But after an adventure involving a voodoo cult, tiny coffins and a dead chicken, he finds that he is actually one of an ancient line of shatenjí¤gers (pronounced shot-en-yay-gers), or evil-beater-uppers. [I thought shatenjí¤gers was a drinking game. ~Ed] In this most recent installment, he is summoned by an exiled prince to protect his baby son. You see, the prince's lineage has this problem with anemia (i.e. thin blood) for a long time (can we say vampires?) and he wants to make sure that his son is protected from any (ahem) "night visitors." Ironically, The kid is nabbed from right under Gabe's nose. He chases the kidnappers to a small town named Rennes-le-chateau… (My editors have just informed me that I have been rambling too long. Sorry.)
Sierra has updated the 2D look of GK1 and GK2 with a brand new 3D engine. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The good part is that it looks great most of the time, rooms are rendered in lavish detail with great lighting effects and terrific models. Any indoor scene you see looks incredible. It's when you get outside that you'll be mildly disappointed. Although not altogether bad, some of the flora isn't quite up to par. I mean, the grass looks like it was sprayed on the ground with an airbrush (Conversation between me and friend: "Ooh, that's realistic moss"; "Uh, that's grass"; "Oops, sorry"). There's also some popup problems with some of the characters, but once you get used to it, you can sort of forgive it.
To help you forget that nasty grass, they have created one of the best interfaces for an adventure game I've ever seen. Sierra has used the 3D format of the game to its fullest by letting you look almost everywhere. You move the camera around with the keyboard and mouse, then interact with objects using a simple point-n'-click interface. And there's no more "let's wait until my guy walks over here" delay, due to a very clever jump-to-were-I-want-you-to-be system (Believe me, it works). If there's any problem with the interface, it's that it's sort of difficult to pick an inventory item. However, most of the puzzles don't deal with the inventory, so it's okay.
Which brings me to the puzzles. All adventure games worth their salt have a bunch of puzzles for you to solve, and of course GK3's got tons of them. Most of these puzzles are thought puzzles, rather than use-this-thing-on-that-thing kinds of puzzles. Unfortunately, many of the inventory puzzles that do exist are a bit weird. Normally when I solve a puzzle by brute force (i.e. randomly try something until it works), I think to myself "I see! That worked because (some explanaiton here)." But in this game, I was often left with a much more unsatisfying "Huh?!" But since these sorts of puzzles are rare, it's not so bad.
The biggest part of an adventure game is the story. The reason people pick adventure games over Quake 3 and the like is because they want to have a good story to think about, and I'm happy to report that developer Jane Jensen has done it once again. Jane always combines real places and events with fantasy in such a way that you sometimes can't tell the difference. She uses the small town of Rennes-le-chateau (which is real) along with several of the mysteries which surround it (which are also real) to create a great web of secret societies, ancient brotherhoods, and blood-suckers. This all comes together in one heck of a story, which is way to good to spoil here.
The voice acting is very well done also. The lead in the cast is the talented actor Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Legend, Clue) as the voice of Gabe. Although sometimes a little over the top (he takes the "Dumb American" routine a little far) he does a terrific job. Still, he is surpassed by his costars, especially the voice of Grace, Gabriel's assistant, who sounds exactly like the part she's playing. Many times I found myself believing (or at least wishing) her to be real.
So despite a few graphical glitches, and a few puzzles which require a loose view of reality, there is almost nothing bad I can say about this game. Great story, acting, interface, are all wrapped up to create one of the best adventure games yet. There is already talk of a Gabriel Knight 4 in some of the rumor mills. All I'll say is that I've already got my fifty bucks set aside.