369 Interactive and Ubi Soft teamed up to release CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, an interactive version of the hit television series, almost exactly a year ago. The game was polished and slick, but it was also easy and short (you could play it in well under five hours), and, as a result, it didn’t receive high marks. Now we have CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Dark Motives, and it’s longer and more difficult, but is it better? Keep reading to find out.
Just like in the original game, Dark Motives comes with five cases for you to solve. In each case you’ll team up with a member of the “CSI” team, and you’ll investigate things like the murder of an actor while on stage, the sabotage of a motorcycle stunt, and the theft of a komodo dragon. Each time you solve one case you’ll be able to move on to the next, and after each case you’ll be rated as a “rookie,” “investigator,” or “master.” The better you do in each case, the higher your rating will be, and the more bonus material you’ll get to see. Bonus material includes interviews, storyboards, and concept art.
Investigating crimes in the game is straightforward. There are basically three parts to it: scanning locations to find clues, questioning suspects and witnesses, and analyzing evidence. Scanning locations is just a matter of pixel hunting, which can be frustrating or not if you happen to find all the hot spots; questioning suspects is just a matter of clicking on all the available topics after you click on a person; and analyzing evidence mostly just means handing it over to Greg Sanders in the laboratory, although sometimes you’ll have to do a little bit more like combining objects or using a tool (such as a magnifying glass) on an object you’ve picked up. But there aren’t any puzzles to solve, and so, just like with the original game, Dark Motives isn’t an adventure so much as an interactive version of the television series.
As far as I could tell, the only real difference between Dark Motives and the first CSI game is the complexity of the cases. In the first game the cases were about what you’d see on the show -- realizing that the “CSI” team usually solves two cases per episode. The cases were straightforward and could be played in about a half hour each. In Dark Motives, the cases are more like what you’d see in a “CSI” movie: they’re more convoluted, with more suspects and clues and work to be done. Each case probably takes upwards of two hours to play through, giving Dark Motives a more reasonable 10-hour playing time.
The problem with the cases is that it’s much more difficult to construct convoluted ones, and developer 369 Interactive didn’t do a perfect job with them. On more than one occasion information suddenly popped up that I shouldn’t have known about yet (the most memorable time being when I asked a suspect if she had heard of a particular person, when I hadn’t even heard of him), and at other times the game wouldn’t allow me to issue a search warrant or bring in a suspect for questioning, when I had more than enough proof that the person or location was involved.
The game engine itself, however, remains pretty slick, and once again scenes are acted by the cast from the television series, and once again the dialogue is written by Max Allan Collins, who writes the “CSI” books. There are numerous developers out there who should play Dark Motives just to see a clean and intuitive interface in action. Everything you can do in the game is clear, and if you get stuck your “CSI” partner can give you helpful clues to keep you progressing in the case. Dark Motives is a game that even novice computer game players can succeed with.
Still, Dark Motives has about the same strengths and weaknesses as the original CSI game (nice engine but straightforward gameplay), and I think whether or not you enjoy Dark Motives will come down to how much you enjoy the television series, or how much you enjoy the investigative process. If you’re looking for puzzles, then there are any number of adventures better suited for you. But if you like the idea of hanging out with Gil Grissom and the rest of the “CSI” team, then Dark Motives can provide a weekend’s worth of enjoyment.