CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

2003 369 Interactive
Designed by Steve Bocska, Jason Bone, Cary du Gray, Tony Van;
Reviewed 2003 October 6

Rating -3 Linearity narrow, segmented
Reasonability deductive Connectivity high
Difficulty easy Relevance strong
Interface 1st 360 menu Real-time none

This game is based on the TV series of the same name. You play a new recruit to the Las Vegas CSI team. You are partnered with one of the series' regulars in turn over a series of five cases, with other regulars playing the other police department rôles. It's up to you to find and gather evidence, submit it to the lab, interrogate suspects, and so on.

I've never seen the show, but the game plays very much like I would expect the show to be like. You scour the crime scene, analysing and gathering itty bitty bits of junk and goop, question witnesses, interrogate suspects, eventually piecing together what happened and making an arrest. The people involved in the crime all have their own little bit of drama to add. The final chapter ties together some of the earlier crimes, bringing the drama to the CSI unit itself.

Unfortunately, your task as player is only to gather the evidence; the actual deductions are given to you by the CSI characters. This means that your primary activity is pixel hunting, moving the mouse around until it lights up. You then use the appropriate tools to analyse and gather the evidence. Since interrogation is menu based, with the game presenting the questions for you, there is little thinking required there, either. There is little challenge involved: you don't play this game, you just follow along.

The presentation is a pre-rendered 3D world with fixed nodes, with 3D puppets for the characters, and the whole thing wrapped into a 360 degree rotating view. The perspective warping for the 360 views seems excessive, but otherwise the presentation is attractive and clear. Some important things are hard to see, but they're supposed to be.

The control is primarily through icons selected from tabbed bars along the bottom of the screen. You select a tab and a sub-tab to get a row of icons, either tools to use, locations to travel to, or various kinds of evidence. Select an icon to use a tool, or go to a location, and so on. There's almost no node-to-node movement, each crime scene being basically one 360-view node, with close-ups for interesting areas. Navigation is almost completely done by selecting an icon from a location tab. This makes moving about quick and tedium free. All together, the interface is lightweight and intuitive.

CSI doesn't play like a regular adventure game. The active highlighting of hotspots, the tight control of dialogue by the game engine, and the deductions by your partners all conspire to rob the game of any challenge. However, if you like police procedural drama, it's an entertaining presentation. Each crime should take about an hour, about the length of a TV show.

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