Ever since reading the
autobiography of Professor Sir Keith Simpson (one of the most
eminent and respected names in the history of British forensic
detection and medical jurisprudence) at the impressionable age of
16, I have been fascinated by the various elements of criminal
detection in all their many and eclectic forms. I have always been
particularly interested in the art of forensics and criminal
pathology and have often found myself engrossed by somewhat grim
accounts of the painstaking collection and examination of evidence
and the subsequent logical determinations of how a particular murder
It is perhaps of little
surprise therefore that I was instantly captivated by the engrossing
TV series CSI. For here was a TV drama dedicated solely to the
scientific art of forensic criminology, which provided the viewer
with an intriguing insight into the systematic analysis, collection
and evaluation of forensic data in order to construct a vivid
representation of how a particular crime was contrived and executed,
ultimately leading to the identification of the perpetrator.
Needless to say, as an ardent
adventure gamer also, it is of even less surprise that, when an
adventure game based on the CSI TV series was released, I was
naturally thrilled and obviously keen to rush out and BAAG it
immediately. Unfortunately due to the demands of my job I wasn’t
able to acquire a copy of the game until recently, when I persuaded
my wife that my eldest son really wanted to purchase the “Medal of
Honour” expansion pack with his birthday money and that I would be
more than prepared to take all the children into the city, thereby
graciously relieving her of this rather burdensome task. It was only
upon our return when she compared my son’s modest single game
purchase to my bag stuffed full with no less than nine titles that
my wife began to suspect that my motives for the shopping trip with
the kids might not have been as entirely altruistic as they had
Nevertheless, it was not long
before the shiny polythene wrapping was consigned to the bin and the
computer was humming into life, which is where our review proper
As anyone who has read even a
handful of my previous reviews will know I am notoriously slack at
providing the technical specifications for the games I am reviewing,
unintentionally and inadvertently leaving this onerous task to the
forum moderators to whom I would like to take this opportunity to
apologise humbly and unreservedly. There are two main reasons for
this failing. Firstly, I usually find myself penning these reviews
from memory when I am 1000’s of miles from home, living temporarily
in some third world country with little to entertain myself whilst
my games are sitting on a shelf in my study at home rapidly
gathering dust. Sadly this is the case in this instance and I cannot
recall the specifics.
Secondly, I rarely trouble
myself by looking at the operating specifications. The game either
works on my PC or it doesn’t. In the event of the latter I usually
solicit the assistance of the experts on this site.
In “CSI: The Game” you play a
rookie forensic technician fresh from college, brandishing your
degree certificate in criminology and itching to put your intellect
and skills to work tracking down the bad guys. You have just joined
the CSI unit and in the opening sequence you are greeted by the ever
stoical Gil Grissom who explains a little of what you will be
engaged in while working with his team. All of the TV characters are
present to help and guide you through your initial investigations
and these are played by the actual TV actors who appear in the
The game is composed of five
cases for you to investigate and obviously solve. I was pleased with
this particular feature of the game, as I had previously had a
slight apprehension that if the game had just involved one case
there might not have been enough to keep me interested or occupied
for any great length of time. (SPOILER ALERT: Pseudo-spoiler coming
up relating to the plot, so if you wish to avoid it skip to the next
paragraph!) However, having said this it became apparent during the
game that the cases were not all separate and that what at first
appeared to be completely unrelated cases were actually linked by a
single plot theme that was evolving in the background. Depending on
how clever you are and how attentive you have been whilst working
through the investigations, either sooner or later you could begin
to suspect that some of the cases were related. I found this a
clever aspect of the game and it certainly heightened my overall
enjoyment. Personally, the penny did not drop for me until it was
revealed rather obviously in the final case, when in hindsight I
could have cottoned on slightly earlier if I had made a few
connections, but this does not affect scoring and you are not
expected to work this out, it is just a feature of the game that
develops as you progress. Oh well, better luck next time I suppose
(I shall be ready for the developers in CSI-2!).
On the whole I thought the
individual cases were relatively well constructed and believable,
though quite short and not desperately difficult. These two features
of the game are perhaps my two biggest gripes, but more of this
later. The investigations include murder, arson and kidnapping, just
a regular day in law enforcement I guess!
In this section I would like to
discuss all aspects affecting the gameplay. This includes a
discussion on actual game-play, the game interface, graphics and
CSI is a standard full screen
first-person completely mouse driven point and click adventure.
There are several locations to visit in each investigation. Each
location acts as a hub with one main position from which the entire
location can be viewed via 360 degree panning. Hotspots in the hub
location can be zoomed in on, however, these are generally static 2D
rendered images over which you can move the cursor in order to find
even smaller hotspots to zero in on to reveal evidence and forensic
clues. For example the main hub location may well be a hotel room,
which you can pan around to get a view of everything in the room.
There may be a body in the hotel room which you can get a closer
look at as a 2D rendered image by clicking on the hotspot as the
cursor passes over the image of the body, you may then find a
smaller hotspot on the body itself such as a wound which you can
zero-in on still further to get a better look, examine in more
detail, analyse, process and take samples from if possible.
The main complaint here is that
exploration around the hub location was very limited and you were
only given the basic evidence that you needed to continue with the
game, from a few not too difficult to find hotspots. I would have
preferred more freedom to ‘sniff’ about, maybe a few red herrings or
maybe more evidence, which eventually turns out to be irrelevant or
not useful (such as is the case with “Law and Order”). Another
feature that could also have been considered would have been the
ability to turn off the cursor ‘hotspot’ facility, thereby leaving
the crime scene investigation up to the player’s intuition and
judgement. I found myself leaving the crime scene feeling rather
disappointed because I knew that I had all the evidence I required
and that it was evidence that was actually important in some way and
would result in the resolution of the investigation; this is
certainly not the case in real-life and this did detract quite
considerably from the realism factor.
Another rather disappointing
feature of the hubs, is the excessive in-game help provided by your
colleagues. While examining a crime scene or location I found myself
becoming increasingly frustrated and annoyed at being continually
pre-empted by my partner. For instance while panning around a room I
would spot something that looked as though it might warrant further
investigation, then upon placing the cursor over the spot I was
promptly told by my partner the importance of the ‘hotspot’ and to
investigate it for x, y and z even before I had had a chance to
examine it myself and come to my own conclusions on how to proceed.
And there is no way of turning this feature off. There is actually a
help system whereby you can ask your partner for assistance if you
get stuck on what to do next. This can be facilitated by clicking
the cursor on them and asking about something from a pre-determined
list of options or by clicking an inventory item on your partner.
This is fine, at least you have the luxury of choice, unfortunately,
in many instances the partner gives you assistance without any
prompting and there is nothing you can do about it (unless you turn
the volume down to zero of course).
Lastly, in some instances you
are given the opportunity to question witnesses, either at the
initial crime scene or at some of the locations you visit. Again
this feature of the game is remarkably unintuitive and you are left
to run through a list of pre-determined options, to which the
witness has a number of predetermined responses. An alternative
option here would have been to adopt a “Starship Titanic” approach
whereby the player could question the witnesses by typing in
questions and the witnesses could respond to keywords, phrases or
themes. This would have been far more challenging and the player
would have had to rely far more on their own judgement, intuition
and deductive reasoning.
Once you have processed a crime
scene you have the option to go back to the laboratory to analyse
the evidence and question some of the experts or to go to any other
locations, which have become available to you as a result of your
initial CSI or the questioning of witnesses. In addition, other
locations open up to you as your investigation progresses.
At the lab you have the
opportunity to check evidence on a computer database or microscope,
however, yet again most of the work is done for you by the lab
technician, which leaves you to just click a piece of evidence on
him and then merely listen to everything he has determined about it
through a variety of analyses. Would it not have been nicer, and
certainly more interesting, to have had a go at doing this yourself?
Personally I would answer in the affirmative. Sigh! No one takes me
seriously around here, I’m just the data-gatherer and tea-boy.
There is also a medical
examiner who will give you any pertinent pathological details you
need. Lastly, detective inspector Brass is on hand to help out if
you need some good old honest-to-goodness police legwork or research
or if you need to ask for a warrant to either search, interrogate or
The game interface is one of
the strengths of the game. It is easy to use and quickly mastered.
At the bottom of the screen you are given several tabs which open
notebooks, inventories of documentary and physical evidence,
locations, a case file and the tools of your trade which you will
need in order to examine and process crime scenes and collect
evidence. I shall not describe these further as getting familiar
with your interface and determining how best to use it is one of the
more interesting aspects of the game.
You will receive a different
partner for each case and finally, when you have solved the case and
made an arrest, you will be scored out of a 100% by Grissom. The
better your score the better your little bonus at the end of each
case. I wish I could tell you that the bonus is worth getting, but
unfortunately I can’t because it isn’t. At the end of each case and
after your assessment you are treated to a certain number of
development sketches and extra graphics (whoopee!
Graphically CSI hardly
registers on the Richter Scale of drop-dead gorgeous and breath
taking imagery. Technically it is well drawn, well rendered and
well-defined, it’s just a bit dull. There is no stunning scenery and
you will not be blown away upon entering a new location (as is the
case with say the latest Myst offering, Uru, the graphics of which I
found completely stunning, especially for a first/third person full
movement game, but that’s another story).
Sound – not much to say really.
Sound is sound! I did not have the music on and was only subjected
to vocalisations and special effects, which were fine and in-keeping
with the theme of the game.
In conclusion I suppose I have
to answer the timeless question; “Did I enjoy the game?”. Simply, in
response to this I would answer yes. Conversely I would also have to
answer yes to the question, “Was I disappointed by the game?”.
Overall, I enjoyed “CSI: The
Game”, principally due to its compelling subject matter and
absorbing storyline. I quite enjoyed exploring the crime scenes and
collecting evidence with my forensic technician’s trusty tool kit,
though again it got frustrating when I kept being told what or what
not to do by my colleague (so what if I cannot use a specific tool
at a specific ‘hotspot’ at least let me try and then determine for
myself if it is useful or relevant!). I also enjoyed the storyline,
which turned out to be far stronger and more immersive than just a
collection of separate investigations.
Although you were not given
much of a chance of independently solving a great deal in the game,
in one’s mind you could see where things were going and make
personal deductions, which often turned out to be correct. Lastly,
despite its drawbacks I did find the game engrossing.
So what were my main gripes?
Well essentially it was too short, too simple and, disappointingly,
too shallow. The whole game was over in a matter of hours and this
was primarily due to its simplicity and abundant unsolicited help.
Similarly, for most of the time you end up merely being a data and
evidence gatherer and following the storyline as the clues emerged,
primarily without your full involvement. I would have preferred the
developers to have taken a more challenging approach and constructed
a game that gave you far more of a role in the decision-making,
investigative and analytical processes; a role where you made
mistakes, followed red herrings and ended up in blind alleys; a role
where you chose which analytical technique to employ and where you
made the deductions instead of merely being informed of them by a
wisecracking lab technician.
Maybe I am asking for too much.
Is the above wish list possible in the adventure game genre? I would
certainly like to think so, and after having started “Law and Order”
(I have just finished my first crime scene investigation) it may
well be the answer to my question. Only time will tell.
In the meantime I will buy and
play CSI-2, as overall I did enjoy my outing on CSI-1 (though
perhaps I will wait until it reaches the discount shelves) and I am
keen to see if the developers can improve on the features that I
felt let down the first game.
My overall grade for CSI would
be B-, though on a less generous day I could well be inclined to go
as low as a C++.
To serve as an addendum, below
are a few more beneficial features of the game.
- you cannot die.
- there are no mazes.
- there are no timed puzzles.
- there are no slider puzzles (though I have to say
that after reading TallyHo’s excellent sliders solving procedure,
these no longer present the headache to me that they once did!).
- there is a very good tutorial session with Grissom
at the start of the first case.
- there is a handy autosave when exiting the game.
- the game loads up fully and there is no disk
All in all, this game is
reasonably enjoyable and worth a spin for any adventure gamer,
especially new recruits to the genre who could cut their teeth on
this offering. Experienced gamers will find it generally
unchallenging and short-lived, however, if you like criminal
detection and murder mysteries then you really cannot afford to miss
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