Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Genre:   Adventure (Psychological Crime Drama)

Developer:    Legacy Interactive

Publisher:    Vivendi Universal Games

Released:  October 2005

ESRB:   Mature 17+

PC Requirements:   See end of review


Additional Screenshots




by infernoj13usa


Major Case 

“In New York City's war on crime,

 the worst criminal offenders are pursued

 by the detectives of the Major Case Squad.

These are their stories….”

And so begins my normal Sunday night, with an episode of Detective Bobby Goren and the rest of the usual suspects attached to Law & Order: Criminal Intent. I’ve been viewing detective stories offered on television since my school days and have always been drawn to them. But the Law & Order franchise has been my preferred choice of late. Now, I have to say here that I’m equally partial to each of the Law & Order series and actually watch them all every week, just as a true L & O fan should. My favorite (if I have to choose) has been Law & Order: Criminal Intent. For me, it has consistently shown more insight into the psyche of the criminal mind, created more depth of personality for the regular characters, and featured more deductive reasoning throughout the stories (or cases) presented as a whole.  So when the news finally surfaced that Criminal Intent was under development as the next offering of Law & Order’s Interactive Multimedia, my little brain was filled to the brim with wild anticipation.

Law & Order: Criminal Intent is produced by Vivendi Universal Games and developed by Legacy Interactive  (Executive Producer: Ariella Lehrer, Ph.D. and Producer: Craig Brannon, Ph.D. – hmm – both P.H.D.(s); impressive….)  I truly hoped that the developers would take a different approach to this wonderful and intense television crime series as opposed to their previous L & O undertakings. They did, and for the most part they did not disappoint. The script for this “gem,” written by Elizabeth M. Cosin is intense, focused and representative of the series. Twists and turns abound within the storyline. So I will put it to you now, my fellow adventure gamers, while this game may be advertised for the average adventure gamer and/or “casual gamer” (who may know nothing about the show Law & Order: Criminal Intent) it really would behoove you to watch a few of the episodes from seasons past and present.

Why? Nope, that would be giving too much away. Suffice it to say that if you do this for yourself before playing the game, you will better understand the strange and intricate plot twists contained therein and thus cull a much more satisfying psychological “crime drama” experience. The game’s writer, I believe, realized this as the script was taking shape and created one of the most “fan – intrigued” experiences I have enjoyed to date. The inside clues carefully sprinkled throughout the game are strokes of genius, and might easily have been spawned by the delicately balanced mind of Det. Bobby Goren himself. 

Detective Bobby Goren

“The greatest detectives in the world –

 you have to wonder about people who need such positive reinforcement.”

Those of you who, like me, are steadfast fans of the television series Criminal Intent know Det. Goren’s background all too well, his acts of quiet desperation concerning his family that now cause him to think and react the way he does to various situations in his professional life. His odd brilliance in putting two and two together to view an obvious conclusion…his eccentric genius in also putting three and five together, coming up with the same conclusion even though most others can not see it…his dark background with regard to his mother’s tragic life and his ultimate responsibility in having her committed.       

No doubt, here is -- albeit ever manic–depressive -- the modern day Sherlock Holmes. The Major Case Offices and his trusty PDA are Det. Goren’s “Baker Street,” and New York City is his “smoky and fogged drenched streets of London.” Not to mention Det. Goren’s previous cases and his reaction to various witnesses, clues, research and evidence -- these seemingly haunt him until he gets his man…or woman as “the case” may be.

One of the best features of the Criminal Intent game is that in this adventure we have the genuine pleasure of listening to the voiceovers for Det. Bobby Goren as done by Vincent D’Onofrio himself - absolutely key for this game’s success, and for my enjoyment. It is his voice which adds a certain hue, and colors the entire mood of the game. Mr. D’Onofrio’s vocal quality has that wonderful style of quiet intimidation…that tone of arrogance with a slightly deprecating edge; yet all throughout a pointed clarity, showing that he always remains several steps ahead of his witnesses and suspects. It’s an expert game of cat and mouse.

 I do have to mention here that I did miss the “Dr. Watson“ counterpart, who is normally quite spiritedly played by Katherine Erbe as Det. Alexandra Eames. She would have been a perfect foil for Det. Goren in this game’s story; but then you can’t have everything I suppose. 

The Story

“Notwithstanding your unrelenting pursuit of evil.”

The storyline is rather simple in its complexity. As Det. Bobby Goren, we are presented with three files by the intrepid Capt. Deakins, and told to solve each of them in any order we choose. But solve them we must, and hopefully in short order. So we pick out one and go about the business of crime solving with the help of our trusty PDA and an innovative program on our laptop. As the cases move along to their completion and the perpetrators’ inevitable arrests come to fruition, we find that there is a yet a fourth case which rears its ugly head and is possibly linked to the other three. So the important and motivating questions then becomes for Det. Goren -- and indeed the gamer -- how and why? I can’t divulge any more than this, lest I spoil it for any prospective gamer who may be reading this humble review. Yet I will give you something to chew on….  Review everything – leave no stone unturned and analyze, analyze, analyze. It is only after you have followed this tack that then you’ll understand just what is really hiding behind this virtual crime drama.

They say that there is a light at the “end of the tunnel”…trouble is

…you have to find the right tunnel first.


“Evil is also unrelenting in its pursuits.”

Criminal Intent has a completely different look than the other adventures in the Law & Order series by Legacy Interactive -- one that I feel is a decided improvement overall. The game’s universe is indeed fairly large, sporting upwards of sixty locations and at least two hundred separate views and angles, all pre-rendered. There are more than fifty characters to interact with and quite a few more that are used as “set dressing.”

This is a third person adventure and the gamer takes on the persona of Detective Bobby Goren as he sorts through a number of violent homicide investigations hoping to bring the murderers to justice. Your character cannot die in this game, and I found the game’s path to be quite nonlinear on a per case basis. The movements of the character are completely mouse-driven, and while it is wholly point-and-click, there are some interesting “gadgets” to work with as we sleuth and deduce our way through to the game’s conclusion. The developers have decided to bring Det. Goren’s PDA full throttle into the gameworld. It is fully functional, completely portable, and ever-present if you choose -- or quickly appearing out of your virtual pocket without so much as a right click. It is important to note that it is here at the “disk” icon that you can save your progress. With one click you are whisked away to the “saving cells” which like the cells at Rikers Island, are endless (an item truly worthy of note as you will need to save often).

Here within the PDA we also have a map used for most “location jumping.” As we discover the addresses for various locations to explore, they are added here. We also can find a notepad of sorts in the PDA.  I advise you to check it often, as Det. Goren writes with a strenuous tendency toward prolixity. Continuing on, we find that the PDA houses (by way of the briefcase icon) all of the witnesses we speak to, an inventory of the evidence and useful objects that we discover and take, all documents we read and take, all reports and all the people we have analyzed, researched and/or have had under surveillance. There is also a personal phone book, cell phone and answering machine which will come in very handy upon occasion. And of course, besides all of this wonderment; it is a Nokia – so you know if you drop it in the Hudson, it has a great replacement policy…Ahem, sorry.

The next gadget in our intrepid hero’s arsenal is the laptop, which for some reason (probably budget concerns of the precinct) is a permanent fixture at Bobby’s desk at Major Case. Now, I’m sure that his laptop is just as ordinary as anyone else’s, but what is important to note here is the special program that our dear Capt. Deakins has installed on it during the first case investigation. What is it? Well, it’s a Criminal Profiler, of course. Here you’ll put in various reports, bits of evidence and crime scene photos to help you understand the “criminal mind” so to speak. When it’s completed you then can submit the various suspects from the PDA’s Witness Section, and the computer will give you a percentile ranking of the various suspects…which really does help when you are trying to procure a search warrant from the ol’ boss.

The last “tool” really isn’t a physical device at all, although it is portrayed as one in the game’s universe. I like to call it WIS or Witness Interrogation System. This creates some very interesting and psychologically sound examination techniques -- the detectives at Major Case excel at these. Whenever there is a question-and-dialogue session in the game, this handy dandy gadget will appear.  It shows subjects or themes with which to question the witnesses on the right and (here come the neat part, folks…) five “Bobby” faces on the left – each with an aspect of the indomitable style for which Det. Goren is famous. We have at the top and descending in counterclockwise order:

·          Confrontational - Strong, arrogant and intimidating (especially when it’s emanating from a 6’4”, 200lb man in a dark suit with a blue shirt and tie.) 

·          Deceptive - Bobby is a pro at this…(wonder if he is as good at poker???)

·          Flattering - Can be very effective in appealing to a subject’s vanity, don’t you think?  (Again, especially when it’s emanating from a 6’4”, 200lb man in a dark suit with a blue shirt and tie.)  

·         Straightforward – The calmest and most polite of all of these tactics.

·         Empathetic – This one really scared me more than any of them, because you just know that this type of questioning is pure manipulation.

As you move throughout each of the cases, near the end you will have to secure a search warrant for whomever you feel is the guilty party. Once this is done correctly, a newspaper headline will flash across the screen, signaling the end of that particular case.

There is much to do in this game besides the inevitable sleuthing. There are loads of puzzles and conundrums here. They run the gamut from sliders and inventory-based puzzles to music, color, and chase puzzles to mazes…and there is even a crossword puzzle…lovely.  (I’m so glad that Ray Ivey was a consultant for this section…it really shows).  

It is also important to note here that there is an excellent Options screen which allows you to set up the game parameters, such as volume, subtitles and mode of play (difficulty level): Novice – Standard – Expert. Here you may also choose to have your PDA either minimized and present at all times, or hidden. If you feel that your video card might not be up to snuff, you can turn off the incidental background animations and subtitles as well as choose between high quality or low quality shadows. Just make sure that you choose “save” before you exit the Options screen.   

Sound and Graphics

“Wow. Beauty, brains, and a complete psycho.

My dream girl.”

As I have mentioned before, this is a huge game…and not one I feel should be rushed through. Take your time and enjoy the scenery. There is certainly enough of it --  over two hundred different magnificent pre-rendered shots. Some were absolutely breathtaking. Thanks, no doubt, to the inspired art direction by lead artist, Jesus Uriarte. Well done! The facial characteristics were beautiful as well, extremely detailed, although the look of the bodies themselves was slightly blocky -- but I’m not complaining. I absolutely loved the look of the game, especially the “lighting” effects. It made me feel as though I had walked into a real episode of Criminal Intent. 

The Foley sounds and ambience, masterfully edited by Abby Schneider North, lent a heightened sense of realism. I was hooked and drawn in to the game within the first ten minutes…this was one that I really didn’t want to stop playing. A lot of work went into the ambient sounds here. I liked the fact that the footsteps, for example, sounded different whether Det. Goren was walking (or running) on concrete, carpet or gravel.  The incidental music created by Chris Rickwood really grabbed me and made me homesick for the gritty streets of my beloved Manhattan...right down to the "ching – ching."  The musical score provides the gamer with a quiet sense of urgency – after all NYC is very fast-paced, as you well know. The music lends to the game that grainy, no-nonsense attitude as the story unfolds. Wonderful stuff. One of the elements that I noticed was that each location had its own entrance music as you clicked on various points on the PDA’s Map.

The voiceover cast was massive, with many actors doing more than one role, all professionally and admirably done, and with accents sounding quite believable. But I do have to say that Vincent D’Onofrio and Jamey Sheridan took their roles and claimed the day. A most enjoyable experience…I loved every minute.


“When I met you,

 you wanted me to see who you truly were –

 how smart, how funny, how charming you were.

You wanted me to see you….”

So, then, was this game utter perfection?

No, but the problems that I encountered had nothing to do with the game per se. They were more of a technical nature, and they have inspired me to issue a warning. Make sure that your system meets the minimum requirements or you will have difficulty running this game -- this engine is very taxing on systems more than two years old. (Mine is three.) Make sure that your system is truly up-to-date, with all the correct drivers, especially your display drivers. My chief complaint is that my Video Card is an ol’ granny card...GeForce2 MMX400 64Mg.  This game really calls for a faster card, IMHO, since it is so graphic intensive. I sometimes found that the characters started doing strange calisthenics with their arms, or running into the occasional wall.  And my mouse intermittently became aware of itself and sporadically proved to have a mind of its own. Still, these glitches were minimal and were corrected by a simple save and restart.

Other than that, I would highly recommend this game to one and all. I feel it is one of the best detective games I’ve played, certainly the best in the Law & Order, Crime Scene Investigation and Cold Case File genre to date.

Grade: A

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 2000/XP/x64

Pentium III 800 MHz or equivalent

128 MB RAM, 2 GB available hard disk space

12x CD-ROM drive

DirectX 9

DirectX 9-compatible 64 MB video card

DirectX 9-compatible sound card


Played on:

Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition 2002 w/SP 1 

Pentium 4 CPU 2.00GHz 

512MB DDR Memory


Video: 64MBNVIDIA GeForce 2 MX/MX 400 AGP

Driver version: 6.14.0010.7801

Sound: Creative SB Live

Quotes:  Law & Order Criminal Intent

Law & Order Series Creator: Dick Wolf

Law & Order® is a registered trademark of Universal Betwork Television LLC.




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