If you’ve never watched the television series “C.S.I.” it involves a forensics (crime scene investigation) team that solves crimes by studying the evidence left behind. A fingerprint here, a paint chip there, and the team puts the pieces together to recreate what happened and solve the case. Now, just as the series has finished its third season, 369 Interactive and Ubi Soft Entertainment have teamed up to release C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation, an adventure game based on the series. Is it any good? Let’s examine the evidence.
For starters, 369 Interactive did their homework. C.S.I. isn’t just some throwaway product “inspired” or “loosely based” on the series. It features voice talent from the cast of the show, its dialogue was written by Max Allan Collins, the guy who writes the “C.S.I.” books, and it does an amazing job of duplicating the look and feel of the show -- to the point where there are even flashback sequences showing how a bullet entered a victim or how a crime was committed.
Unfortunately, 369 Interactive perhaps emulated the show too well. Each of the game’s five cases only takes a half hour or an hour to complete (just like the cases on the show), and so you can finish the entire game in well under five hours. I think they would have been better off emulating the books, to provide longer, more convoluted cases.
Moreover, C.S.I. is only sorta kinda an adventure, since there aren’t any puzzles to solve, and you don’t really get to be a crime scene investigator, since all you do is find evidence. Somebody else in the game analyzes it for you. Sometimes you get to use dusting powder to lift a fingerprint or take a cast of a shoe print and then search for a match or compare it to other prints, but your involvement with the evidence is fairly limited.
For example, a typical case might send you to a crime scene, where you’ll get a panoramic (360 degree) view of the surroundings. From there you’ll use your mouse to hunt for “hotspots” where you can zoom in the view, and it’s only in these hotspots where you’ll find evidence. Now, detecting and collecting evidence can be fun since you get to use up to 14 tools (including everybody’s favorite, Luminol), but none of this is overly complicated since you can just try each of the tools in turn until you find the right one. Then the evidence might lead you to a suspect to question, which might lead you to a new location or a new suspect, and then the process repeats until you finish the case.
So the difficulty in the game is finding hotspots so you can find evidence, but 369 Interactive made an effort to be realistic here. You won’t get a headache trying to pixel hunt your way through every square inch of every crime scene. There’s usually a smudge or a shadow hinting where something is, or else the clue is in plain sight. (If you made your way through a game like Dracula: the Last Sanctuary, then C.S.I. shouldn’t be any trouble at all.) Plus, you can always ask your C.S.I. partner for help, and the partner will either give you more information about a piece of evidence or give you a nudge in the right direction so you can move forward in the case.
Really, C.S.I. is accessible enough that people who don’t normally play computer games should be able to enjoy it, since it works better as an interactive version of the television show than as an adventure, and veteran gamers might like it as well, since it’s well made and different than other games out there. Plus, while it is short and easy, it looks reasonably good and is fun to play, and I think the process that makes the show popular will also work to make the game popular.