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).

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
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
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.

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
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.