CSI: Miami



Genre:   Adventure

Developer:    369 Interactive

Publisher:    UbiSoft Entertainment

Released:  2004

PC Requirements:   see review




by gsd

CSI: Miami

Developer: 369 Interactive

Publisher: UbiSoft

Released: 2004

Reviewed 1/05/05

CSI: Miami is the third CSI game published by Ubisoft, all based on the popular TV show.  I should say up front that I have never watched CSI on TV, so I cannot compare the game to the series.  This could be good or bad, I don't know.  Good perhaps because I have no expectations; bad maybe because, not being a fan of the series and characters, I may not be as forgiving.

I have, however, played all three CSI games.   I felt CSI: Dark Motives was a step up from the first CSI game, which I found rather short and simplistic.  CSI: Dark Motives improved in length and case complexity and I assumed that this third game would step it up even more.  Not so.  Miami is essentially a clone of Dark Motives except for different cases, staff and setting and a couple of new options.  Unfortunately the characters in Miami are not as compelling and the script writers not as effective.


Before you start the game, you set your options.  If you fancy yourself an expert detective, you can turn all of the helpful stuff off.  This includes Navigation Hotspots (cursor changes color), Active Tool Hotspots     (new in Miami--cursor glows when over evidence that can be processed), Auto-Evidence Question (questions automatically appear with no need to drag evidence over a suspect when questioning him), Evidence Tagging (yellow tag appears when no further analysis is possible) and Location Tagging (new in Miami--location icon indicates when no further evidence is available at the location at the time).

In addition, you can choose to have the tutorial running as you play the game.  You are also able to set audio and visual options as well as performance settings.

Meet the Crew

The game begins with Horatio Caine introducing you as the new recruit.  He assigns you an assistant to help as needed during the investigation.  If stuck you can ask your assistant for hints, but it goes against your final rating.

Horatio will give you a brief synopsis of your new case, after which you will be dispensed to the crime scene to observe and collect evidence.  You are now officially a crime scene investigator ready to solve your case.

The Cases

If the cases aren't interesting it doesn't much matter if we solve them.  After all, we're not the real deal.  We can quit and allow the perpetrator to remain on the loose for eternity.  So, are the cases interesting?  Well, somewhat,  but  I will say this...we walk on the wild side a bit in Miami, which makes this game definitely not suitable for children.  But that's okay, they have Nancy Drew.  In CSI, we lucky adults have the gutter dwellers, the misfits and the nut cases.  We have the real world.

The first four cases are murders of varying complexity.  They're not exactly uninteresting but they won't keep you up nights either.  On the plus side, there was not a clear cut murderer-in-waiting in any of them so at least the element of surprise remained alive for much of the case.

The final case, however, was something else.  We had a reunion of sorts with our previously convicted murderers who supposedly had some connection to our latest case.  We interviewed them in jail and were now at their mercy for information.  Add to that the fact that a defense attorney in a previous case is now a murder suspect and, well, it was all a little much and whatever the writers were trying to accomplish by tying all this stuff together was mostly lost on me.  The ending, though, was rather clever.

How It Works

We solve cases by examining the crime scene and other pertinent locations, collecting evidence and submitting the evidence for analysis.  We do engage in dialogue with suspects but since we don't control the dialogue it is not part of our detective skills.  So even though the conversation is at times revealing, it's a strangely disengaged sensation to be a detective with no control over the direction of the questions.

There are three permanent locations for every case.  The lab, the morgue and the police desk.

We spend a lot of time in the lab turning over evidence to the tech and then using the computer for searches and cross-matches of things like DNA, tire treads, finger prints etc.  We also have a microscope at our disposal to examine and compare stuff like hair, fibers, bullets and the like.

In Miami, we also get to do a few simple puzzles in the lab.  This involves piecing together a shattered item and some torn papers, plus an occasional cryptogram.  Very easy, but not very realistic.

We pop in at the morgue a few times each case to first examine the body and then to ask some follow-up questions of the coroner as the case progresses.  Nothing is spared in the graphics of the victim on the slab, so hold the snacks.   Realism is definitely the theme here.

You will wear out your cyber shoes running back and forth to the police desk to ask for location warrants, suspect warrants, continued interrogation, more warrants as well as pertinent information about certain individuals and locations.  This is how new locations usually open.

As new locations open, we examine them and collect more evidence.  Eventually, we have enough evidence to tie certain suspects to the crime sufficiently to request a warrant to further explore their property and/or interrogate.

Finally, if we have been diligent and insightful detectives, we have narrowed it down to a single suspect and solved the case.  We get praised by the Chief and move on to the next case.  That's about it.


Playing the game is easy.  The cursor (arrow) turns green whenever there is a hotspot or object to examine (assuming you have activated this option).  If not, just keep clicking on things that look promising until you have exhausted the area.

You don't walk around in this game as we normally do in an adventure game.  We go from place to place by clicking the location icon on the tool bar.  Once we arrive, we move only where a hot spot will takes us.  The location scenes are very limited in scope, so it's not terribly difficult to comb a scene for evidence in a reasonable time (although you need patience, as there are hotspots that are small and sometimes not real obvious to the naked eye).

We detect and collect evidence by using the appropriate tools and there are a number of rather sophisticated ones.

I suppose there's no way around being repetitive in this type of game format.  After all, how many new and clever ways can the lab tech tell you that your evidence has been processed, or how original can the Chief be when he refuses your warrant for the tenth time?

The evidence research becomes repetitive as well.  What begins as a fascination with the tools of the trade gradually evolves into a tedious affair after we've matched, cross-matched and compared our umpteenth finger print.  I guess that's why being a detective is called a "job" and doing this stuff is called "work."  Maybe that's what it's supposed to feel like but hey, it's a game.

Part of the repetition could be eliminated if the game did not force a very restrictive pattern of analysis in order to progress.  For example: you have already documented that a fingerprint lifted from a glass belongs to Joe Doe.  Now you lift a fingerprint from another glass and compare it to the first one.  They match.  Doesn't that fingerprint also belong to Joe Doe?  Why is it necessary to search and cross-match any further?  Well, I wasn't able to get a warrant in one case because I didn't follow the expected approach and it took me forever to figure it out.  So keep that in mind when you play the game.

No matter how you look at it, whether the help options are on or off, the game is easy.  You can use trial and error on your detection/collection tools until you find the right one.  You can't go wrong with interrogation because the questions are asked for you.  You have no decisions to make about evidence to be processed because if you can use a tool on it or pick it up, it must be processed.  Basically, you are a collector of evidence, and if you find everything the case drives itself to a conclusion.

Finally, depending upon how well you score in each case you will unlock a certain amount of bonus material.  If you finish as a master (the highest rating) you unlock everything, including the super CSI bonus materials.  I won't comment further except to say it's really not worth replaying the game should you not unlock it all the first time.

Interface, Graphics, Acting, Script

In a game designed around a mountain of evidence and a bunch of collection/detection tools, it makes a huge difference how efficiently the items are organized and categorized.  Otherwise we could find ourselves hopelessly confused and ultimately frustrated enough to abandon the game.  CSI: Miami has attended to this very well.  Not only are the tools separated between collection and detection, but the evidence is also separated according to categories.  The case file is located at the bottom right of the screen and it automatically updates when new information becomes available.  We can access the case file at any time to review pertinent information regarding the crime scene, suspects and victim.  The interface is very functional and attractive.  Real slick.

The graphics are okay, not great...just okay, and not always the same quality from case to case.   Some of the transition scenes are choppy but overall pretty good.  The characters are rendered and look realistic except for the horrendous lip synch movement.  The ambient sounds are very good and the music is suitable.

Some actors tended to ham it a bit, which made certain characters a little irritating.  But overall they did a decent job.  The script could have been better both in dialogue and case plots, but it worked well enough for a game that focuses strictly on evidence.

(Minimum) System Requirements

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP (only)

P. III, 750 MHz or AMD Athlon 750 MHz

RAM: 256 MB

16 MB DirectX 9-compliant graphics card

DirectX 9-compliant sound card

DirectX 9 (included on disc)

16x CD-ROM drive or better

650 MB space available

Final Thoughts

I did not enjoy Miami as much as Dark Motives.  Perhaps the format is getting a bit tired.  Also, I felt that the characters in Dark Motives were more compelling and the script was far superior--in Dark Motives a great deal of interesting information was woven into the interaction between the detective (us) and the staff, which eliminated a lot of the repetitious responses.

It's pretty obvious that the CSI games are directed toward the casual gamer, namely those CSI TV fans who rarely, if ever, play a computer game.  In that capacity, Miami holds up okay; it is easy, has the familiar setting and characters, plus reasonably interesting cases and some nice screen shots.  But for an adventure gamer used to heavier challenges, or one expecting at least as much or more than Dark Motives, CSI:  Miami falls short.

Final Grade: C+


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