CSI: Dark Motives

Developer:  369 Interactive
Publisher:  Ubisoft
Year Released:  2004

Review by Gordon Aplin (March, 2004)
Games based on movie or TV licences can be hit or miss affairs so first up I'm pleased to report that the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation games hit the mark. It's both good and wise that the developers have stuck to the show's investigation and analysis format and resisted the urge to 'spice up' the game with unnecessary action sequences because CSI fans will find a lot to like here.

I mention this because the premise behind this popular show is one of careful exploration and observation, meticulous searching and analysis of the evidence, and interviewing suspects so that the 'truth' or solution to the puzzle can be safely arrived at and justice dispensed. These attributes, which clearly enthrall the viewing audience or the show wouldn't rate and wouldn't produce spin-offs, also feature strongly in adventure games making for a perfect crossover. It is my hope that these games, whilst finding a tailor-made audience amongst established adventure game players, will also attract fans of the show who may be only casual gamers or perhaps have never tried a computer game before, and may lead them to seek out other adventure game titles.

The first CSI: Crime Scene Investigation game was quite entertaining and ideally suited to new or casual gamers and you can read Rosemary's review so I'll try not to repeat too much. CSI: Dark Motives has raised the bar a notch or two adding more depth and complexity to the five new cases that are available for you to investigate, whilst still being perfectly accessible to new players. It is a worthy successor to the first game and I found it to be more challenging and engrossing.

"Let's keep our eyes - and minds - open"
In this first person perspective adventure game you are once again a new intern joining the experienced and slightly intimidating CSI team on the 'graveyard' shift at the Las Vegas crime lab, and you need to prove yourself by successfully investigating the five cases. The format and interface are similar to the first game. Gil Grissom will greet you and give a brief outline of the case on hand and assign you to work with one of the CSI team before joining you himself on the last case. So you also get to work with other characters from the series in Catherine Willows, Nick Stokes, Warrick Brown and Sarah Sidle as well as getting valuable assistance from Jim Brass, Greg Saunders and Al Robbins. Being the new kid on the block you have to do most of the investigative work. Your partner is really only on hand to provide commentary and hints if you are stuck, but you won't want to use them too often or your final ranking will go down.

Your tool bar appears at the bottom of the screen giving access to new locations as they become available as well as your important detecting and collecting tools, case notes and any evidence you may discover. Evidence can be traces such as fingerprints or blood, it can also be items like clothing or possible weapons or documents like receipts and photographs. Anything you gather can be examined in detail by double clicking on the icon and viewing it in a pop up window. You may even extract more information in this view by further scrutinising items and they can be combined or fitted together by dragging another icon onto the one that you have opened. It's essential that you give everything you find to Greg in the lab so that he can subject it to further analysis and add it to the microscope or computer for you to do further research such as matching fingerprints or tyre treads or determining the relative age of blowfly maggots to estimate time of death. Once you have gathered some evidence and talked to the suspects it may be time to visit Jim Brass to get a search warrant or to bring in a suspect for a formal interview.

Let's go see where reality messed up the fantasy"
The cases are interesting and varied and encompass a motor cycle stunt that goes wrong; a body found on an ancient site; a body dumped in an abandoned asylum; an actress who literally dies on stage, but not of fright; and a missing Komodo dragon. One thing links all the cases and that is the minute evidence that you must uncover and interpret correctly. Careful exploration is called for and this is one game where diligent searching is in context as perpetrators don't leave flashing signs that say 'click here for tell-tale bloodstains', but they do leave traces. On a number of occasions I was convinced I had discovered everything that a location had to offer only to find that I had indeed overlooked vital clues on my initial 'sweep' of the scene. I'll give one general hint here ... don't just look on the floor for clues. And there is another reason to be generally observant ... at the end of each case there is a small quiz where you have to answer five multiple choice questions about things you learned or saw during the investigation. This can help you to improve your rank.

Successful completion of a case with a rank of Master allows you to access all the bonuses for that level. These include views of the original artwork of characters and locations that then become the finished product. The changes are quite dramatic and give an idea of how an artist's concept is translated into the gameworld. If you complete all five cases as a Master you should be able to access the final bonus but a glitch (that others have also reported) prevented me from viewing it. The only other glitch I encountered involved the labels on the toolbars disappearing at odd times but I easily overcame this by quitting the game and reloading. Once again I have heard of other players experiencing this so, although these two problems aren't show-stoppers, hopefully a patch may be forthcoming to remedy them.

"How about you drop the act and stick to the facts?"
The game automatically saves your progress and this works very well but I must admit that I like to be able to save my own games and I missed being able to do so. The main menu has a range of options enabling you to adjust the amount of help you get from the interface such as an active cursor that turns green when you can zoom in for a closer look, auto tagging of evidence and auto evidence questions when interviewing suspects. If you turn this last option off you will need to 'drag' evidence over suspects in order to ask about it. There is also a useful tutorial mode to get you used to the interface. Other options allow you to enable subtitles and select graphic quality and adjust for performance issues. The game comes on 3 CDs and you can do a full install if you have the space.

CSI: Dark Motives features improved graphics over the original game. The characters are certainly more finely detailed though their range of movement is still fairly restricted. The voice acting once again is by the original cast and lends an atmosphere of authenticity to the game.

As I mentioned earlier it's an engrossing game and I enjoyed uncovering clues, fitting the pieces together and linking them to suspects as I closed in on the perpetrator. I also liked the way the game keeps you honest and lets you know there is more to find. Approach Jim Brass for a warrant prematurely and he is likely to tell you, "That's what we call around here a theory - which is what it will stay, unless you come up with some supporting evidence." Though a couple of times he let me have a warrant when I thought the evidence was flimsy and once he refused my request when the evidence was overwhelming. The insignificant step I took to rectify that shouldn't really have made that much difference. But, hey, I'm an investigator not a lawyer. With CSI: Dark Motives released and CSI: Miami still to come, adventurers are going to have a heavy caseload.

See the CSI: Dark Motives walkthrough. rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2004. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Minimum configuration: Supported for: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP only, Pentium III 600 / Athlon 600, 256 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0 (included with Product) 16 MB DirectX 9.0 compatible graphics card, DirectX 9.0 compatible audio card, 16x CD-ROM Drive, 650 MB Free Hard Drive Space