In Virgin's latest hard-hitting graphic adventure, you play a Soviet agent working for the cause of perestroika. You've been drafted in from the Soviet GRU (the Red Army's Intelligence Administration) to help the KGB (the Committee for State Security) investigate itself. From now on, you're a KGB agent - hut your mission is to uproot corruption within the organisation. It's a few days before the coup d'etat in which Gorbachev was arrested and the USSR fell back into the hands of the hard-liners again - for a few hours. All these events happen after the game you're playing, but you uncover plenty of clues as to its imminent arrival.
At first some of KGB's seemingly anti-Russian text seems unnecessary, but you soon realise the characters in KGB are as detailed and as deep as those in Monkey Island 2 - perhaps more so. In any event, most of the mock-Russian language and attitudes seem plausible once you've met a few more people.
The first few characters you meet in the KGB building are popular Russian stereotypes, all 'comrade this, and up the revolution that'. There arc even a few tractor references and gags about Gorbachev and the bread queue, but this is meant to be a send-up of the hard-liners in the KGB who think like this, not the Russian people in general. It's easy to believe that the game is just pandering to the usual tabloid-style misconceptions and perpetuating the old anti-Soviet myths, hut it's not really the case. Once you get a few more conversations going with 'normal' people, things seem more realistic and a lot more entertaining.
Power to the people
KGB bears a strong resemblance to a much older game, Kult (and that's not surprising -KGB is from the same team that brought us Dune, Purple Saturn Day, Captain Blood and Kult, but in a much better style than all of these). Rooms and views are full of detail, atmosphere and characters that fade in and out rather than walk around.
When characters talk to you you get a close-up animated face and a pixellated enlargement of the background. The effect works well, and after a while you become quite comfortable with it. Each character's face is different, and each face has many different expressions - these change depending on your current line of questioning.
Some characters are better than others -both in the depth of their responses and in the realism of their expressions. A few look as if they have nervous tics - but then they may be real - this is, after all, an investigation. All the characters have some level of intelligent responses and sonic take many questionings before they reveal all.
During one particularly heavy line of questioning, I got told to stuff a turnip up my, well, nether regions, except that it wasn't put quite like that. KGB is undoubtedly an adult game, and it is meant for people with reasonably liberal views on things like swearing and distasteful subjects.
The game also contains a fair bit of sexual innuendo (though it's up to you if you want to pursue those lines of conversation - they're in there, but it's your choice if you dig them up). It also covers topics like teenage prostitution (Moscow has a big problem with this, apparently), urban decay and labour-camps.
Dirty but not decadent
Different characters in the game have different viewpoints on many issues, and all kinds of things arc discussed, sometimes casually, sometimes in ways that make you think twice about going for the jokey comments which you're sometimes able to respond with.
The picture of Russia that KGB paints is not a pretty one, so don't be under any illusions this game is not meant for kids. Rather than being just a game, it's more of an interactive drama - and a post-9pm drama at that. It's all thought-provoking stuff, but it won't be everyone's cup of tea. Please don't complain to us if you read this, buy KGB. and get upset by it - you might get told where the turnip fits.
KGB is an intense game, full of intrigue, political double-dealing and shady goings-on. How representative it is of real Russian life is anyone's guess (though a Russian would stand a better chance), but it feels real and that's what counts. Whether it's fiction or docu-drama is immaterial - it's solid entertainment, and powerful stuff. Take heed of the warnings if you're not pleased by 'heavy' stuff, and keep the very young away from it. But if you've an open mind, and an interest in what's going on in Moscow, you'll find KGB highly involving, mind-stimulating drama which is almost as good as a Hollywood movie.
A game, where you can take part in KGB's work. Walk through rooms, talk to people, solve the cases. Maybe it's like the Dune adventure game. Almost in every room there is a Lenin picture.
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