reviews\ Jan 17, 2005 at 7:00 pm

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - XB - Review

CBS has hit gold with the CSI franchise that spawned two very popular spin-off shows that go from Miami to Las Vegas, and you’ll even find a show centered on crime in New York. With a strong supporting cast of characters, torn-straight-from-the-headlines scenarios and interesting crime-solving techniques, CSI has all the makings of an interesting interactive crime game. As it turns out, CSI and CSI: Dark Motives hit the PC to the delight of fans. Now the Xbox is getting some of the CSI love with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a game that offers all the PC’s cases into one disc. Is this a Xbox game fans of the show will love?

Being a casual watcher of the show I know who everyone is so it's great to find yourself immersed in the show’s creepy-yet-fascinating atmosphere. You enter the game as a fresh new intern on the night shift of the CSI Department’s Las Vegas branch where Supervisor Gil Grissom (William Petersen) greets you. You’re immediately whisked away on a case with Grissom as your mentor, and from there you find yourself solving a number of murders and an assortment of other crimes while being helped by every single cast member on the show.


You’ll get to solve 10 distinct cases, starting with a ghastly murder of a Las Vegas showgirl that doesn’t exactly have a squeaky clean past or a respectable side business. Found strangled in a grimy hotel room, you’re faced with a crime scene ripe with evidence to analyze. With very little instruction on how to handle the crime scene, you’re armed with two kits: one for detecting evidence and the other to collect. Your detection kit has all the things you’d see on the show, like a magnifying scope, fingerprint powder or an ultraviolet light. Your collection kit has tweezers, gloves, swabs and Mikrosil to make molds out of imprints. Since this is strictly a point-and-click game, you move the cursor over an object of interest (when the cursor turns green it means the object shouldn’t be ignored). Everything that can be inspected should be but if you miss something the first time you can go back to the location to search it again.

The second half of the game is pouring over your findings in the CSI lab run by the very chatty Greg Sanders, who gives you pointers and looks over any piece of evidence found in the crime scene. He will point you to a microscope if the object is a hair or fabric fiber while fingerprints, footprints, tire tracks and DNA data are placed in the computer. You’ll spend a lot of time in the lab, running comparisons of hair or running full or partial fingerprints. Is it tedious work? You bet it is, but it’s all accurate and all straight out of the show. You’ll then get to go the morgue to get a cause of death from the Chief Medical Examiner Al Robbins, and request warrants or other legalities from Jim Brass, homicide. It’s through Jim Brass that you get to bring in suspects to question in interrogation rooms.

With all the show’s elements, characters and situations in place, you’d think the game plays like fan’s dream come true. The fact is that even with all these elements, the game’s design fails to make all of these things interesting enough that you’ll want to see each case closed. Sure you’ll get to solve different crimes, such as an arson case involving an airline mogul or a case involving murdered police officer, but at the game’s snail pace and poor puzzles, you’ll find yourself deeply disappointed. The cursor constantly moves at a choppy slow rate and often times you won’t know what to do about a piece of evidence. That’s all right, though, because you just point and drag a tool over evidence until something happens. The same goes for the lab work. While Grissom or Catherine tell you that you shouldn’t call out for a match in fingerprints or DNA, you’ll often find matching evidence through trail-and-error without being punished too severely (although it does count towards your final evaluation at the end of each case).

Another disappointment is the suspect interrogation. You’ll often have to haul multiple suspects into the interrogation room and this is the part of the game that could have been fun had there been a number of question options. There aren’t many options here and the scripted responses actually become repetitive. Suspects will actually make it clear that you’ll have to keep digging if you want to hear more responses so back to the scene of the crime or other notable areas to dig up something you might have forgotten. If you so happen to find something you might have missed the first time around, its back to the interrogation rooms. Sounds realistic, right? It is but after the fifth time you go back and forth like this you’ll quickly lose interest in the scripted events that occur when you put the pieces of the puzzle together.

One the visual front, CSI is not a very attractive game to look at nor does it run at a steady framerate, and that’s too bad considering the PC version at least ran smoothly. Characters from the show hardly even look like the actors with the exception of Catherine Willows. As for the environments, the weak textures and the lack of detail make it easy for you to miss objects of interest. There are hardly any good animations found throughout the game even when they’re showing you flashbacks of the crime. The Xbox could do a lot better than this.

As for the voice acting and the score, it feels fresh off the show and that’s a good thing. Every cast member on the show lends their vocal talents and many of them - like William Petersen and Marge Helgenberger - do a great job. Then again, the actors that play Al Robbins and Jim Brass sound nothing like their characters and deliver their lines in a deadpan way that shows no real emotion. The great score makes up for the lack of real sound effects in the game but unfortunately you won’t find the show’s opening theme and trademark credits at the start of the game. That would have given the game the feeling that you’re playing an episode from the show.

While it has its interesting moments, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation just doesn’t feel quite at home on the Xbox. Sure loyal fans of the show will get a kick out of solving crimes with the likes of Grissom and other show favorites but with its weak design and tedious going back and forth between suspects will quickly get old fast. If you want a true CSI experience, you’re better off purchasing CSI: Dark Motives on the system it was really made for . . . the PC.

Review Scoring Details for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

Gameplay: 5.5
The point-and-click interface of the far superior PC game doesn’t translate well on the Xbox. While the forensic evidence collecting has its moments, interrogating suspects is a yawn and the constant backtracking might not appeal to everyone.

Graphics: 5.7
Unfortunately, CSI is not a very good-looking Xbox game and none of the characters (except for Marge Helgenberger) look like the actors. There’s some stutters throughout the game and moving your cursor results in a few delays. The backgrounds are decent but nothing spectacular.

Sound: 6.0
Great news: the entire TV cast voice their respective characters from the show and many of them do a great job of reprising their roles. The bad news is that there are also cast members that sound like they delivered their lines via telephone. Great score, though.

Difficulty: Easy
Once you get the hang of collecting evidence and sweeping for prints, everything else becomes routine. There’s no real skill needed in the lab since everything is just trial-and-error handling of DNA, fingerprints and hair samples. Why can’t Grissom and Willows be more helpful like Sara?

Concept: 6.0
Getting to solve grisly murders alongside characters from the CBS show is really cool and getting your hands dirty - literally - allows you to experience everything seen on the show. The whole cast is here too and voiced by the actor that portrays them. Does the Xbox Live stamp on the disc’s label mean we’ll get to see some downloadable content? It doesn’t say on the box cover.

Overall: 5.5
CSI could have been one of those rare point-and-click interactive gems on the Xbox - since we rarely get many of those - but due to its considerably flawed design, poor graphics and simplistic trial-and-error puzzle solving, this one will just disappoint fans of the show.





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