York City's war on crime,
worst criminal offenders are pursued
detectives of the Major Case Squad.
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
Law & Order:
Criminal Intent is produced by Vivendi Universal Games and developed
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.
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
greatest detectives in the world –
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
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.
“Notwithstanding your unrelenting pursuit of evil.”
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
that there is a light at the “end of the tunnel”…trouble is
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
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
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
– The calmest and most polite of all of these tactics.
– 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
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.
Beauty, brains, and a complete psycho.
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.
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.
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.
wanted me to see who you truly were –
smart, how funny, how charming you were.
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
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.
Minimum System Requirements:
Pentium III 800 MHz or equivalent
128 MB RAM, 2 GB available hard disk space
12x CD-ROM drive
DirectX 9-compatible 64 MB video card
DirectX 9-compatible sound card
Windows XP Home Edition 2002 w/SP 1
Pentium 4 CPU
64MBNVIDIA GeForce 2 MX/MX 400 AGP
Creative SB Live
Quotes: Law &
Order Criminal Intent
Law & Order
Series Creator: Dick Wolf
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