reviews\ Apr 1, 2003 at 7:00 pm

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - PC - Review

Jane Doe’s lifeless body lies across a bed in a hotel room that caters to those who rent rooms by the hour. Bruising on her neck indicate strangulation as the possible cause of death. She is also blindfolded, and there is a twenty-dollar bill folded into her mouth.

Who is she? How did she really die? Is the money a final insult, or perhaps it indicates a ritual tie to the ancient Greeks, who used to put coins in the mouth of the deceased as a way to pay the ferryman for the journey across the river Styx? The autopsy reveals that she was strangled, that she had hepatitis-C, and had recent sexual relations, but it wasn’t a forcible rape.

As the newest member of CSI (Crime Scene Investigation), your job is to uncover the clues, interview witnesses and suspects, and use the vast technology at the disposal of this law enforcement branch uncover the motive and perpetrator of the crime.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a PC release from Ubi Soft and 369 Interactive, is a wonderful surprise. Other games that have borrowed from television themes, or delved into the world of emergency services, have been greeted with mixed results and have bogged down either in the technical aspects of the job, or by being overburdened with a simplistic treatment of the subject. CSI, which is based on the CBS television drama, manages to combine both the intrigue of the job with a quick indoctrination into the practices, equipment and procedures of the unit into a game that will exercise the minds of game players.

If the game has any drawbacks, they would stem from the fact that this is not a game for the creative thinker, but rather for those with solid footing in the realm of deductive reasoning, who can think logically and doggedly follow clues through to the end. You must have a solid work ethic, and while you will have the powerful resources of the CSI unit in Las Vegas at your disposal, you have to do most of the legwork ­ traveling to locations, interviewing, searching for clues, collecting evidence and piecing the puzzle together.

Once you have met the conditions for arrest, the scenario can end if your deductions are correct. You can turn to members of the CSI team for hints, but because each scenario is graded, to do so will count against you in your final performance evaluation.

Some clues off little more than cursory evidence. A strand of hair may not contain enough DNA evidence, but might well indicate a certain color, thus narrowing your range of suspects.

The game definitely gets a boost from utilizing the characters, computer-generated images and voices of the television cast.

The control elements have been kept very simple and the player interface is easy to navigate through. Each scene is full of hot areas, and passing your cursor over the scene will reveal what you can use or investigate further. How you obtain evidence is somewhat limiting, and you will need to use the right tool for each job.

Graphically, this game is well done. The animations are merely average, but the environments have a solid overall look. The scenes are well rendered, with bright lush colors. Be forewarned some of the visual elements are extremely graphic in nature. When you are in the morgue receiving the autopsy reports, you will get an under-the-skin view of what caused the victim’s death. It is not the most pleasant thing to see. And it does get worse — there are five cases in this game and each death is different.

The sound is excellent. Voices of the television actors are incorporated into the game, and the music and other elements shine.

There was some hesitancy in launching this game, particularly since the television show is so well done, it was thought that the game would be a letdown. However, it is anything but that. The path through each case is somewhat linear (you have to determine several stock objective in other to solve the case and there is only one solution), and the game has some load times as you move from one map to the next.

But the way the game forces you to think, as well as the introduction into the realm of the CSI unit and how it breeds familiarity with the equipment and techniques, is enjoyable. You are the technological sleuth, bridging several branches of criminal investigation, from evidence gathering and analysis to interviewing potential suspects and witnesses. It is deeply satisfying when you have arrived at the correct solution.

This game is rated Mature for blood and gore and violence.


Gameplay: 8
There are some load times involved between scenes, and the game does not exactly move at a frenetic pace. This is deliberative investigative work. The mapboards are not huge either, and though this is a three-disk install (1.5 gigabytes for a full installation), each scenario seems to be treadmilling over the same group, picking up what was missed to arrive at the conclusion.

Graphics: 7.5
The animations are nothing to get excited about, but the way the game displays the evidentiary discovery and collection is quite nice. Tools are used in a click-and-drag manner, and while some of the results are almost like viewing obscured clues through colored cellophane paper, the game still manages to give players a solid glimpse into this fascinating world.

Sound: 8.5
From William Peterson and Marg Helgenberger’s voices (as well as the rest of the cast members of the show) through to the case-specific characters, this game has a solid narrative. The musical tracks do a good job of portraying the mood of the game.

Difficulty: Medium
The game evolves with tougher cases. The player interface is simple drag-and-click, or point-and-click, technology.

Concept: 8.2
While the cases are somewhat linear, this is a game that could have been a disaster, but instead, with the use of the mood and actors from the television series, and an easy player interface, is a well-done game.

Overall: 8.3
This game is a wonderful cerebral exercise, and is also addictive and fun. There are some load times between scenes, the mapboards are not large, but this game is well done.


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