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Set in the uneasy (to say the least) last days of the Soviet Union, KGB puts you in the shoes of one Captain Maksim Rukov, recently transferred to Department P from GRU, whose new job it is to stamp out corruption. Naturally, everyone hates you since said corruption is everywhere. Your initial case is to investigate the petty murder of a private eye, but you become further entangled in a conspiracy involving the CIA, mind-control experiments, and an attempted coup on Premier Gorbachev... all of which ties into the impending collapse of Soviet Communism.
Graphic adventure games are no stranger to instant deaths and dead-ends, but none are so merciless as KGB. Puzzles are sparse... beyond decoding messages or finding clever ways to dispose of bodies. Most of your time is spent simply interrogating, trailing or spying on other people. The real goal is surviving the toxic bureaucracy of the USSR: don't screw up and get reassigned to a miserable desk job, don't get killed, don't get beaten up, don't get sent to a gulag, don't get beaten up and sent to a gulag, don't get beaten up and killed, etc. Gathering info is more important than collecting items, and at various points in the game, you're quizzed on what you've learned. If you don't know the answer or answer incorrectly... well, you can probably guess what happens there too.
Everything about KGB is ridiculously harsh to the point where it exudes hostility. You fall into the habit of lying to everybody, all the time... except on occasion where lying will get you killed or beaten up or sent to a gulag. While infuriating, it does a good job of invoking the paranoia inside an oppressive regime, where an off-color joke will buy you to a trip to Siberia.
KGB was ported to CD with some rather... quirky additions. Rather than adding voices (there was probably too much dialogue) or redbook music, they instead cast Donald Sutherland, dressed him up as a Russkie, and inserted him as the FMV ghost of your father. They even changed the title from KGB to Conspiracy: Starring Donald Sutherland. He acts as a Hint System: you can call him up any time for advice, and he's even nice enough to let you know if you've bumbled into a no-win situation.
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: Vovlov.
- CIA Evil, FBI Good: Yes and no. Wallace is the corrupt agent: she deals crack and delivers Protopopov to the conspirators. She initially claims to be working alongside Greenberg, but this is denied by Greenberg later.
- Continuing Is Painful: There is an "undo" command when you die, but it only takes you back a little bit, potentially not far enough to have any real consequence.
- Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Vovlov ostensibly answers to Uncle Vanya, but is really a triple agent: he pretends to have infiltrated the New Birth project as a double agent to inform on them, but he actually supports the coup against Gorbachev. When Protopopov is kidnapped and Rukov shows up, Vovlov recognizes there have been major leaks, and the plan is likely doomed to fail; he thus makes a last-minute attempt to switch sides, and probably so he can claim he prevented the conspiracy and receive all the credit.
- Evil vs. Evil: The neo-Nazi New Birthers are opposed by the Paymat, an equally-crazy (but steadfastly Communist) faction within the same Soviet power structure.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: The USSR's number is almost up, as evidenced by Moscow now being awash with contraband American dollars.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Your encounter with Professor Tsibulenko begins with him locking Rukov in a padded room and trying to convince him that his personality isn't real, and that the whole game is a delusion. It's pretty easy to lure Tsibulenko in his own cell, then torment him via intercom until he has a claustrophobic fit and collapses.
- Kill and Replace: The New Birth conspirators want Protopopov to appear on TV and announce his retirement (while the real Gorbachev has been kidnapped) so they can replace him with a hardliner communist. He was nabbed by Pamyat before the scheme could be carried out.
- Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: The "Motherland" art gallery in Leningrad. The manageress is of the twitchy sort: she's probably in the pay of Pamyat (if not actively working with them) and is involved in the kidnapping of Protopopov.
- Living MacGuffin: Protopopov. The game ends when he finally speaks.
- Mad Doctor: Professor Tsibulenko.
- Magic Plastic Surgery: "Protopopov", the sad wrech at the center of this mess. His face has been remodelled to turn him into a Mikhail Gorbachev lookalike, and his personality has been erased by mental reconditioning. He sits silently in a comatose state, programmed to recite a resignation speech when the correct trigger word is used.
- Malevolent Mugshot: As expected, Lenin's picture is absolutely everywhere.
- Manchurian Agent: The Rogov Institute is secretly experimenting on "personality restructuring": they eliminate the personality of a subject and replace it with a fake one, switching between them via a trigger word.
- Mean Boss: Major Vovlov.
- Mole in Charge: Colonel Galushkin thought Rukov was a good pick for this mission because he would be easy to control. Likewise, Major Vovlov is using you as a means to destroy all the evidence.
- Mysterious Informant: "Cut-Throat", an anonymous informer sent to put Rukov on the track of the New Birthers.
- No Swastikas: Not only does Conspiracy add distracting videos of Donald Sutherland, it also replaces every instance of the word "KGB" in the game with the word "Conspiracy", which is pretty lame as well.
- Tested on Humans: Most of Tsibulenko's human test subjects are disasters: one patient is a catatonic imbecile, lying in a fetal position and oblivious to the world around him; another has two personalities which are virtually identical (except one is Bolshevik and the other anti-Bolshevik); a third patient is able to talk, but none of his sentences make sense. Even Protopopov is kind of a joke: he can only spout rhetoric for a few minutes and fall back into a coma.
- Those Wacky Nazis: The "New Birth" is a secret movement within the Soviet secret service, unknown even to most KGB. The leaders have cooked up a plan to adapt Hitler's ideology to Russian politics.
- Unwitting Pawn: Tsibulenko was meant to check on and reinforce the programming of Protopopov, whose old personality had already been erased by New Birth. However, Protopopov is kidnapped before that can happen, and Tsibulenko was not given further details, thus leaving him totally unaware of the conspiracy taking place.
- Why We're Bummed Communism Fell: According to Greenberg, Agent Wallace preferred "the old days" and has an interest in the coup the New Birth is preparing.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Galushkin and Savinkov eventually become liabilies to Vovlov as they know of his involvement, so he kills them.