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.
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
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
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
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
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
P. III, 750 MHz or AMD
Athlon 750 MHz
RAM: 256 MB
16 MB DirectX 9-compliant
DirectX 9-compliant sound
DirectX 9 (included on
16x CD-ROM drive or
650 MB space available
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
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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