CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder

Developer:  Telltale Games
Publisher:  Ubisoft Entertainment
Year Released:  2006

Review by Mary Rose Fox (August, 2006)
CSI: Dimensions of Murder Screenshot This game is the third of the series based on the popular TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and the equally popular spin-offs: CSI Miami and CSI New York. Although it's the third instalment there's no need to have played any of the others. There is a tutorial for the novice player, or for anyone wanting to polish up their investigating skills before delving into the first case. It's a good idea for everyone to try the tutorial as this game boasts "All 3d game play" and offers a slightly different interface from that of its predecessors.

I'd also like to stress that, although it is based on the TV show, there is no need to be a fan or even to have watched an episode to enjoy CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder.

Welcome to the world of Forensic Science
You are a rookie assigned to the graveyard shift of the Las Vegas Crime Lab. Under the watchful eye of Gil Grissom and Catherine Willows you are set to work on five cases of murder. You will visit crime scenes, interview witnesses and suspects, and collect and analyse evidence. To help you with this you'll be assigned to one of the regular characters of the show, Nick Stokes, Warrick Brown, Sara Sidle or Greg Sanders, as well as getting help from Jim Brass, the Captain of the homicide division, and Dr. Al Robbins, chief medical examiner from the morgue.

With a click of a mouse you get to visit various locations, the crime scene first of course, as well as other locations that appear as the investigation progresses. There is also the CSI lab, the morgue and Jim Brass' office. A new addition in CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder is the mobile analysis unit, which allows you to process evidence near the scene of the crime. You can question witnesses at the crime scene, family and associates of the victim at their homes or place of work, and, later when you have enough evidence, you can get a warrant from Brass to interrogate them in the interview room at police headquarters. Talking to people is a simple matter of a mouse click and appropriate questions appear as the conversation progresses.

There is always one person at the scene of the crime to interview, then there is the job at hand - examine the body (if there is one) and search everywhere to collect evidence. Next it's on to the lab to process the evidence (sometimes there is more to be found on items collected at the scene of the crime). The lab offers various ways of processing evidence, the Comparison Microscope is self-explanatory, as is the Assembly table and the DNA Analyser. The computer allows you to compare or search for fingerprints and shoeprints, as well as tire treads, and you can do public or business record searches and other special functions.

Keeping track
CSI: Dimensions of Murder Screenshot Organising your evidence is handled well as it is split into three categories: Trace, Documents and Items. Under Trace you collect trace elements such as blood swabs and DNA samples, Documents could be photos, legal papers or such, and Items are anything else that you might collect. When you find evidence a handy toolkit appears with a small selection of tools, pick the correct one and click on the evidence and you're on your way to becoming a CSI. The new 3D interface allows you to turn evidence around, or on its head, giving you another dimension to finding fingerprints or trace evidence on items collected.

CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder is completely mouse driven, the main screen is interactive and to a certain degree three-dimensional. At the bottom of the screen is the Inventory toolbar as well as icons to open the Options window, Case Files, and the Locations toolbar. When there is something interesting to look at on screen the cursor changes shape or colour, you can zoom in to have a closer look at a scene. Some locations can be examined closer with the new 3D interface so you can get different views by scrolling left or right, up or down.

When you have done all you can with evidence, or completed a location, a tag appears on the relevant icon to let you know that you've finished with it, so you can see what you have yet to work on. This helps a lot, it's much easier knowing that you have finished with a piece of evidence, or a particular location. Unlike its predecessors, CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder won't let you get stuck going round in circles trying to find the trigger that sets the next series of events into motion. Well, having said that, on one occasion I did find I had to revisit a scene to talk to someone, even though that location was tagged as finished.

A quick niggle or two
As with the previous CSI games there were times when I found I had evidence that in real life would have prompted certain questions to be asked, or set certain actions into motion. Sometimes such a situation led to nothing of the sort in the game, and this sort of thing defies logic and can be very annoying. For instance, I had a suspect in for questioning, I had DNA evidence that the suspect was linked to the crime, and I even had a search warrant for the suspects home, yet I did not have the suspects fingerprints to compare to the ones found at the crime scene. Comparing the prints seemed to be an obvious move but no dialogue appeared for me to request fingerprints when I was in the interrogation room with the suspect.

CSI: Dimensions of Murder ScreenshotAnother niggle I had was concerning the evidence. Some evidence such as criminal records or other documentation were just not available for me to peruse at will. It really didn't make much difference in the playability of the game, but I felt a little frustrated when there was mention in the dialogue of an interview transcript that I couldn't read, or phone messages I couldn't replay to listen to. Also, the new Mobile analysis unit was a good idea but unfortunately there was very little to be done. Only a small amount of evidence was available for processing at the mobile unit and all too soon we were sent back to the base lab for the remainder of the case.

Despite my few minor grumbles CSI: 3 Dimensions Of Murder is very engrossing. There is some witty dialogue and even a rather surprising cut scene involving a rat are thrown in to spice things up. The fun is in finding evidence at the crime scenes and, of course, playing with all the analysis equipment, which can keep you occupied for quite a while. There are plenty of CSI puzzles, under the microscope what more will the evidence reveal? Will you find a match for that fingerprint or tire track? And will you catch the crim?

An all Star cast
The graphics are good, the cut scenes of Las Vegas while travelling to a new location are impressive, and the rest of the game feels real enough to immerse you into the action. The voice acting is first rate as the voices of the actors from the TV show are used with the exception of those of Sara Sidle and Catherine Willows. The only gripe I have with the graphics is the portrayal of the main characters. Where the appearance of Nick, Warrick, Sara, Greg, Catherine, Brass and Doc Robbins are sometimes passable I found the likeness of Gil Grissom a constant distortion of the actor. I suppose if you shut one eye and squinted the other you may be able to fool yourself into believing that you're looking at Grissom, well I did say maybe.

CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder has three difficulty levels; the two higher levels give less help in finding evidence and less evidence tagging and tool selection. You also have the option for subtitles as well as being able to adjust sound. You can only load a game at the beginning of each case so there is no saving and loading at will if you think you've gone wrong. Instead it's back to restart the whole case over again. Fortunately, though, there is little chance of making a mistake and with a little perseverance you can solve the cases without too much trouble. If you do feel you can't get any further you can ask for help from your CSI partner although it will give you a lower rating at the end of the case. Unlike the previous CSI games you don't have to answer any observational questions, and there is no bonus content to unlock.

The game is a solid addition to the CSI series with a good variety of cases and believable plots. The characters are interesting, the stories are a good mix and ran smoothly, and wound up satisfactorily. There were a few red herrings to throw suspicion on other characters, which kept the investigation process interesting. CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder is a good all round crime solving adventure game and is bound to bring out your inner CSI. rating:  

Copyright © Mary Rose Fox 2006. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, 1GHZ processor or better, when using video cards with hardware T&L (2 GHz or better recommended, 2 GHz required for video cards without Hardware T&L), 256 MB (512MB recommended). DirectX 8.1 compliant sound device, DirectX 8.1 or higher (DirectX 8.1 included on disc), DVD-Rom, 1.4 GB hard Drive Space.