reviews\ Nov 8, 2004 at 7:00 pm

Law & Order: Justice is Served - PC - Review

It’s hard sometimes to take a TV show and make it into to a successful game.  Many have tried but few have succeeded.  For years it was a given that if a game was based on a TV show or a movie it was usually crap.  But the game industry has changed over the past few years and gamers are now being treated with decent games based on TV shows or movies.  Some are successful, while other are not but there never seems to be a shortage of games being released based on TV shows or movies.  I guess the Law & Order games have been successful because this is the third game released that is based on the TV show.  If Law & Order: Justice is Served is an indication then gamers and fans of show can look forward to a long series of Law & Order games.


For those that have never watched the TV show, Law & Order it is a criminal investigation show that revolves around two different segments.  The first part of the show centers on the crime and the investigation into the crime, such as determining whom the prime suspect for the crime is.  The second part of the show focuses on the court case and trying to convict the prime suspect of the charges.  The game follows the same format as the show, where you spend the first part of the game investigating the crime.  The second part of the game is spent in the courtroom trying to convict the primary suspect of the crime.  For someone that has never played the previous Law & Order games or someone just curious about the game I would compare it to a point and click game (such as Myst) but with a criminal twist. 


Screen Shot for Law & Order: Justice is Served


The story of Law & Order: Justice is Served centers on a female tennis player Elena Kusarova.  Elena was turning into a blossoming star within the world of tennis, with a modeling career and a large endorsement deal in the works.  But tragedy struck Elena when she was found dead right before the start of the U.S. Open.  You assume the role of Lennie Briscoe and Ed Green to investigate Elena’s death.  You will interview everyone from Elena’s tennis coach to her long (and presumed dead) father.  Along the way you will have to solve puzzles and piece together evidence that links the murder to one person.  Once enough evidence has been put together then you assume the role of Serena Southerlyn and try to convict the guilty person of the crime. 


Fans of the TV show will probably enjoy the game more than anyone else.  It uses the same actors as the TV show and it plays out almost exactly the same as the TV show.  But gamers looking for a solid and entertaining mystery game will find Law & Order to be a well-rounded title.  This isn’t an immersive type of game where you will spend hours upon hours looking over details and clues.  It offers what games are supposed to do, an entertaining time that will still challenge you mentally.  It’s not a hard core point and click adventure game but it’s an entertaining title that will probably lead to more Law & Order games.

Review Scoring Details


Gameplay 7.8 

I mentioned earlier that the game plays out almost the same as the TV show.   You have a crime, witnesses, suspects and clues revolving around the crime.  So how does the game actually play out?  Well I would compare it to a point and click adventure game (such as Myst).  When interviewing a witness or a suspect you have a list of questions that can be asked.  Each question results in a different response from the witness or suspect.   Depending on the answers to the questions, additional questions become available that can lead to more information about Elena’s death.  So you simply click on a question and then wait for the computers answer.  Most of the witnesses or suspects will provide you with the necessary information if you ask them all of the questions. 


But just answering questions isn’t everything, you’re also looking for clues or items to help answer Elena’s death.  Each area is presented in a 360-degree view that allows you to look everywhere within each area.  If you come across an item that you can view, the game’s cursor will change to a magnifying glass.  Once you’ve clicked on the item, you’re then presented with an up close view of the item.  If you can pick up the item the cursor will change to a hand shape that allows you to place the item in your inventory.  You can then perform several tasks with the clues you’ve discovered, such as questioning suspects about the items or submitting the items to research or the crime lab for further investigation.  Once the crime lab and/or research has completed their results you can then use the items later on for more questioning or to file a search warrant for the suspects house. 


The first part of the game revolves around you questioning different suspects and collecting items for research.  Once you’ve collected enough evidence you can then request a search warrant for a particular suspects house.  Depending on the evidence discovered at the suspects house you will either need to continue investigating or take the next step and request an arrest warrant.  If you have enough evidence collected for an arrest warrant then the game will change to the next part which is the District Attorney’s court case against the suspect.  Once you’ve collected enough evidence and have the necessary witnesses you can then go to trial and plead your case to the judge regarding the crime (Elena’s murder). 


All of this sounds easy and for the majority of the game it’s very simple.  Ask all of the questions the game gives you and search every area for as much evidence as possible.  Once you’ve collected evidence submit it to the research unit and the crime lab for further investigation.  Depending on the results from research, the crime lab and questioning from the suspects will help you determine whom the primary suspect for Elena’s murder.  All of this is done with out a hitch by simply point and clicking on the evidence and the questions.  The game even includes puzzles that you will need to solve to unlock particular pieces of evidence.  Most of the puzzles were fairly easy and straightforward.


Now getting the proper information ready for a search warrant and arrest warrant will probably frustrate some gamers.  If you don’t have the right information ready then you won’t get the search or arrest warrant.  The game tries to offer some help by telling you how many items are correct but it doesn’t tell you which items are right or wrong.  So what you might think is a necessary item for a search warrant could be meaningless.  I had a rough time getting figuring out what information I needed to include for the arrest warrant.  I found out that even though I included what was a necessary item, I didn’t include the proper version of the item.  I will give everyone a hint; you don’t need the research results for the will.  Some gamers might be turned away by the fact that there isn’t much personal interaction within the game.  It’s not your character that you’re playing; it’s Lennie Briscoe, Ed Green or Serena Southerlyn.  But for Law & Order fans this is part of the appeal but for others it could be a distraction.


Graphics 7.7 

The characters in the game were modeled after the real actors so everyone looks very similar to their television counterpart.  But this is also a distraction from time to time.  The characters look very strange with the face models looking contorted on some occasions.  The best description I can provide is to think how the Simpson’s look when presented in a 3D video game and this is how some of the characters look in Law & Order.  Even though the same actors were used for the game, parts of the game makes the actors look downright nasty. 


The rest of the game looks good but nothing that will have Doom 3 fans questioning themselves.  Each area is presented with some nice textures and moderately detailed graphics.  All of the characters in the game are 3D models with passably detailed graphics.  Some of the characters (especially the Law & Order actors) looked much better than the other characters within the game with cleaner textures and detail.  The lip synching animation looked a little strange on some of the characters but especially on the Law & Order actors.  Even though the game was presented in a 3D view you still had some 2D parts that would occur frequently, which is common with most point and click adventure/mystery games. 


Sound 7.7 

It’s always a welcomed addition to games based on TV shows or movies to have the original actors voicing their parts.  Luckily for gamers the same actors on the TV show voiced their parts for the Law & Order game.  Most of the dialog was very well done and it models the show very closely with same type of snippiness and attitude.  The majority of the voice acting was crystal clear and sounded great.  But, I did notice an occasional hiss on some of the voice over work for the suspects within the game.  The game even includes the original music from the TV show as well.  The biggest issue I had with the sound & music during the game was the same phrases being repeated over and over again by the people you interview.  If you’re not on the right track with your questioning be prepared to hear the same responses repeatedly from the suspects.  Be prepared! 


Difficulty Medium 

Collecting evidence and questioning the suspects wasn’t that difficult during the game.  The game would almost show you that you were on the right path when a suspect would start talking about something instead of giving you a simply yes or no answer.  If a piece of research was important then it became part of your evidence but if it wasn’t it didn’t matter.  This is same with the results back from the lab, if it’s important then you can keep it.  The biggest challenge will be putting together the warrants and know the right questions to ask during the court case.  These two factors would sometimes slow down the flow of the game and left me banging my head a couple of times.


Concept 7.5 

This isn’t the first Law & Order game, this is the third.  This isn’t the first point and click adventure/mystery game that’s been released.  And, this isn’t the first game to use the same voice actors that star in the show/movie the game is based on.  Even though Law & Order: Justice is Served isn’t an entirely fresh concept it still is an entertaining game.  It presents you with almost two different games, one being the criminal investigation portion and the other being the trial proceedings.  Each is similar to the other but different enough to keep you on your toes (or fingertips). 


Overall 7.7 

Law & Order: Justice is Served is a solid and entertaining game that will sure to please gamers.  The solid presentation, excellent voice acting, easy to use controls and original story line will have Law & Order fans looking to overrule all objections.  However the repetitive responses to questions, questionable warrant system and lack of personalization might have other gamers looking to overturn the jury’s verdict.  I closing I would say that if you enjoy the show or enjoy point and click adventure games (and you know who you are) then Law & Order: Justice is Served is a no-brainer.  But if you want a little bit more out of your mystery games, or you just can stand the thought of pointing and clicking then this might not be the game for you.




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