CSI: Hard Evidence Review
Written : Friday, March 07, 2008
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
Ubisoft should have known better. With a catalogue of games covering the likes of Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six and Assassin’s Creed they surely shouldn’t have to resort to the kind of cheap cash-in that this game whole heartedly represents. Admittedly they are only the publisher, but you would have thought they would have examined Telltale Game's work and said ‘this isn’t good enough’ and moved on. Sadly for us they didn’t and, even more sadly for me, I’ve had to play through the results.
This game is aimed squarely at the multitudes of fans that tune in to see CSI or one of it’s many spinoffs each and every week, putting you in their shoes to successfully crack cases based upon the forensic evidence left at the scene of the crime. There are five cases on offer, with each one seeing you ably assisted by one of the shows ‘stars’ as you aim to unravel the case. Successful completion will see you rated depending on your performance and the next case will be unlocked. Your rating depends upon how much evidence you uncovered and how well you analysed it, plus you can also gain thoroughness points (TP) by searching objects that aren’t necessarily linked to your case and snag bugs for you boss to add to his collection. All of which will see you achieve the best performance possible.
A body. Time to get to work.
The game is set in a first person perspective though with much less freedom of movement; each crime scene consists of a few different viewpoints that you can move between to search for clues. Sometimes you can pan the camera for a closer look and sometimes you are merely stuck with what you can see, which is a major annoyance when you are missing that one vital clue and basically have to sweep an entire screen in the hope of stumbling across it. You control a cursor to highlight objects, and can then be given the chance to analyse them further depending on what you find. Some items can be examined on the spot with a number of tools that you carry about, such as dusting for prints, swabbing blood for DNA and so on, while larger items are sent back to the lab for further analysis. In the lab you then have access to a number of machines that can grant you further valuable clues; including DNA matching, bullet testing and a big board for putting together ‘jigsaw’ clues – it’s all very advanced.
As you analyse and piece together the evidence you will then be able to interrogate key witnesses or suspects, as well as getting warrants to search their homes for further evidence that might incriminate or exonerate them. Each case throws up a number of clues and suspects and it’s up to you to sift through them to get to the truth, by getting the right clues, speaking to the right people and collecting the final piece of the puzzle.
Get used to your home away from home.
If it sounds alarmingly simple, it is. The game pretty much repeats the same chain of events through all five cases on offer, with only minor variation in the techniques you’ll use each time. The first time you test blood or photograph a corpse it’s all pretty exciting but by the time you reach your hundredth pool of the red stuff, it's become strictly regimented. Gosh, another swab needed you say, what an absolute THRILL. It might give real fans a kick to play through some cases but there is really very little excitement to be had as you’ll know the outcome of each case long before your character is allowed to stagger over the finish line and denounce the evildoer. When you finally get a confession its more surprising that everyone else in the room doesn’t chime in with ‘well duh’.
If that wasn’t enough the game is alarmingly easy too, requiring you to do nothing more than examine everything you see and speak to everyone you meet. Following this tried and tested formula will see you zoom through the game in a matter of hours, but wait, there’s more. As obviously the game may tax even the greatest minds so they have also thrown in the option of asking whichever sidekick you have on a case for help too. They’ll then point you in the right direction should you be hopelessly lost. It’s hardly likely to happen much but, just in case, it does make things surprisingly easy and pointless. There is no impetous to scour every last area for clues or blunder around trying to sort out which lab machine to use when you can just ask exactly what you should be doing. Sometimes the help is ambiguous but more often than not will steer you right.
Getting around is made extremely easy through the use of your PDA, which can zip you between the crime scenes, labs and offices at the click of a button and will also store all the evidence you find. It’s a handy gadget and makes things extremely easy to navigate, you never feel that you are struggling with the menus at least as it as all very helpfully set out.
Any chance of a ride out of this game?.
I suppose the fact that the whole game feels like a glorified mini-game from Condemned (or similar) could be overlooked as long as the presentation is spot on. After all most people will buy this game to recreate the experience that they have seen on TV and an accurate portrayal is what they will be craving. Unfortunately it doesn’t even succeed on that level. The characters are sparingly animated and look like cardboard cut outs of the people they are meant to represent, plus they are seen very little, if at all, during the actual game-play. When they do finally pop up outside of cut scenes, usually in the lab or an office at HQ, they are very static and will only speak when spoken to. The only dedicated lines of dialogue occur in specific scenes or during interrogations, and most of the time you feel as if you are left to fend for yourself. It doesn’t help that not all of the voice talent is provided by the actual actors either, surely a game like this should go all out to tie in to the TV show rather than relying on mere stand-ins.
The overall presentation is that of an old Playstation game rather than a supposed next-gen title and it’s a real shame, a lot of licensed games may be bad to play but at least they get the basic look and feel right but you can’t even claim that minor vindication in this case. It doesn’t help that a lot of the backdrops and characters from the earlier cases are just used again later on. The fact that they couldn’t even come up with original locations and people to populate a mere five cases is just staggering really. Another gripe is the fact that minor bits of evidence can be rendered almost invisible depending on the TV you are using, all I can say is that the contrast button is your friend but it can be annoying constantly sweeping an area for something you know is there but just can’t see.
The achievements are a blatant representation of the overall quality of the title and it’s pretty easy to judge the rest of the game based on the lack of effort on show here. You basically have five achievements, one for each case, and you’ll get them all by simply playing through the game. I could come up with a better list right now; points for finding the hidden bugs, acquiring all thoroughness points, even using each type of forensic tool for goodness sake. They could have done something, anything, to make this list a lot more varied and interesting rather than making it look like a simple cash in. In a launch title this kind of list could be forgiven but we are really used to a lot better nowadays and this is a pretty feeble effort.
Average voice acting on offer here especially considering that many of the actors from the show aren’t even in the game, most of the dialogue also feels very wooden and you feel that those involved just saw the paycheck.
Static backdrops and barely animated characters that don’t belong on the 360, plus evidence that can be lost on certain TV’s is hardly helpful why trying to crack a case.
Feels like a collection of detective mini-games rather than a full priced title. It starts out fairly interesting but using the same tools over and over again soon gets dull and none of the cases have particularly compelling storylines that will keep you guessing.
Far too short and easy, not to mention the fact the whole thing feels like a budget title because the effort on display seems to be minimal. The characters barely look and sound like their real life counterparts either which means this game will not even appeal that much to fans.
The poorest kind of achievements here, with only one game coming to mind that offers a worse list. Zero thought has been put into them and zero effort will really be required to get them all either. The fact that you can scrape through a case with minimum effort and still get 200 points is a joke.
Rent this game for points but only if you are desperate. The storyline and acting are poor, the graphics are sub-par and there is no replay value at all to be had. I can’t honestly tell who this game was meant to appeal to as the basic game mechanic soon becomes repetitive and the presentation is more of a parody of the show rather than an accurate representation. Steer clear.