CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

Developer:  369 Interactive
Publisher:  Ubi Soft
Year Released:  2003

Review by Rosemary Young (June, 2003)
It's an unfortunate fact that adventure games often don't get the recognition they deserve. In contrast to action games that come out all guns blazing and demand attention, adventures can slip by without a ripple in the wider media continuum. We've said it before in Quandary, and it bears repeating, adventure games are one of the best-kept secrets around. One ingredient they lack is a high media profile.

So when this game, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, was announced it was destined to catch my attention. Based on the widely popular television series of the same name, it comes with a ready-made high profile adventure that will be 'noticed'. Thus it begins its journey with an advantage ... but does it stack up as an adventure game?

Well, the answer is a qualified: 'yes', and it's quite engrossing. Maybe not so much for experienced adventurers because of its simplicity, but for new players it's a test worth taking. As with Law and Order, another recent adventure game based on a popular TV series, it's also one for the fans. But, more than that, it's got a healthy amount of interaction which, would you believe, revolves around forensic investigation.

Join the team
All the main cast from the TV Series are around to lend a hand ... Gil Grissom, Catherine Willows, Nick Stokes, Warrick Brown, Sarah Sidle, Jim Brass, Greg Saunders and Al Robbins, and they are voiced by their respective real-life selves so the acting fits like a glove. I'm not great TV fan but I have seen several episodes of CSI and the game 'feels' right with authentic dialogue that fits the characters and highlights their eccentricities and the nuances of their relationships. In this respect it's very well done. There are five separate investigations, and you join each one as a rookie investigator in the company of one of the team. Grissom is first and for the first 5 minutes or so the game takes you through a tutorial introducing the interface and some of the gadgets at your disposal.

The tutorial is excellent, walking you step by step through gathering your first clue and your first conversation. A narrator directs the procedure and clearly explains each action. The dialogue is captioned for this tutorial and all subsequent comments and conversations.

At your disposal
The game is first person and plays full screen. The graphics are good but not spectacular and there isn't a lot of animation. You can turn 360 degrees in most locations although there is no vertical movement, which would have been nice. Also exploration is somewhat limited because each location is restricted to a single view or node, there is no movement within the location. Of course there are plenty of 'close up' views and you'll find all you want, but more to explore would have added to the experience. I should also point out that there are some explicit video re-enactments of the crimes and close up demonstrations of flesh being ripped apart, so take note if you are squeamish.

You explore with your cursor and it changes colour over hotspots when you can click for a closer inspection. A narrow menu bar occupies the lower screen with three tags for accessing various options. The first is for locations as they become available, the second allows access to your tools of trade and the last is for evidence. Select 'Tools' and there is a further choice between those for detection (Magnifying Scope, Fingerprint Brush, etc.) and those for collection (Gloves, Tweezers, Casting Kit, etc). Your evidence, too, is subcategorised into 'Trace Evidence', 'Documents' and 'Objects'. Really it's all very compact and, more to the point, very easy to use. Move the mouse pointer over any icon or object and it is briefly described, double click for a verbose description (you can tell I've played text games J). In the case of items of evidence, their description also includes the history of where you found them and updates with any further information you ferret out. For instance, double click on that fingerprint to see where it comes from and if you have found a match.

At the far right of the menu bar is an icon representing your all-important case file, which builds automatically as you collect information. It's very useful and contains data on the victim and suspects, the latter having fields for 'Means', 'Motive' and 'Opportunity'. You should access it often to review the current case.

Pay attention
So armed with your bag of tricks the gameplay involves careful searching of crime scenes to collect evidence. The evidence might be further microscopically examined back at the lab, or Greg might have information to impart. A computer search might even turn up something. When you have enough evidence you can arrange with Brass to question suspects and when you finally solve the case Grissom will judge your performance and give you a score out of 100 for each one. After successfully completing a case as a bonus you can view some artwork from the game, the better your performance the more there is to see. Five perfect scores and yet another bonus is activated.

But getting full marks is tricky. Miss one tiny clue or action and you're penalised. Also the game offers a continuous stream of help as you can always ask your senior partner for a hint about a piece of evidence or a crime scene. A hint, however, will result in minus 1 point from your score.

Summing up
Despite my few complaints CSI is quite a fun game and will keep you busy detecting and collecting evidence. Considering the intricacies of these actions the interface is very well designed and the individual stories are interesting and typical CSI fare. For new players the hint system is great, and the experienced can refrain from seeking advice. I'd recommend it for everyone but really the whole game is crowded with hints as it propels you forward. Although you do the 'manual labour' it's your colleagues who make most of the 'connections' as you go. For instance they'll note when an alibi has been verified, they'll suggest what's to be done with a piece of evidence, they'll even remind you to follow particular procedures so you don't contaminate evidence. Consequently your role is reduced to finding clues and using gadgets rather than fitting the pieces together.

This continual in-built guidance is what makes CSI good for novice players, and especially for CSI fans who haven't played a computer game. You might not get a perfect score, but you can't go wrong and you can't get stuck! For experienced players, on the other hand, take note: this is no Gabriel Knight or Tex Murphy. The ride is very easy although there is some forensic fun to be had. I must admit I enjoyed it and I didn't complete each case with a top score the first time around so I repeated my three substandard investigations. However, my incentive was to achieve perfection rather than to access the bonuses, which didn't call me back. Without repeats the playing time would be relatively short, say 7 to 9 hours. It would have been a real bonus, and a longer game, had the final reward for perfection been a bonus case ... with no one to hold your hand!

CSI played perfectly and you can do a full install and not worry about disk swapping. Saving is automatic as you leave the game and a number of players can have separate games running simultaneously and keep their games under their own name. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 2003. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Supported for: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP only, Processor: Pentium II 300 / AMD K6-III 450, RAM: 128 MB RAM (256 recommended for -> Win 2000 & Win XP) DirectX 8.1 (included with Product) Video Card: 8 MB DirectX 8.1 compatible graphics card Sound Card: DirectX 8.1 compatible audio card, CD-ROM: 4x CD-ROM Drive Hard Drive: 500 MB Free Hard Drive Space, Quicktime 6 (included with product).

Supported for: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Processor: Pentium III 500 / AMD K6-III 600, RAM: 128 MB RAM (256 recommended for -> Win 2000 & Win XP) Video Card: 16 MB DirectX 8.1 compatible hardware-accelerated 3D graphics card, Sound Card: 16-bit DirectX 8.1 compatible audio card, CD-ROM: 8x CD-ROM Drive, Hard Drive: 1.5 GB Free Hard Drive Space, Quicktime 6 (included with product).