CSI: Miami is the third game based on the “CSI” television franchise. The first two games, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Dark Motives, received something less than critical acclaim. Looking over at gamerankings.com, both games scored in the 60’s, probably because despite being polished and doing a good job of capturing the essence of the show, there wasn’t a whole lot to them, and they could be finished quickly. With CSI: Miami, developer 369 Interactive has attempted to add some puzzles to the cases, and they’ve changed the venue from Las Vegas to Miami. But is that enough? Will this third game finally appeal to gamers in general and not just to those who are fans of the show? The answer, unfortunately, is no.
The engine behind CSI: Miami is almost identical to the engines of the first two CSI games. That means you’ll spend most of your time scanning crime scenes to find clues, questioning witnessing and suspects to pick up new information, and hitting the lab to compare fingerprints, examine bullet slugs, and otherwise analyze everything that you pick up. Gameplay is handled in a friendly manner using a point-and-click interface, and if you’ve played either of the first two CSI games, then you’ll be right at home with this new one.
So what’s new? Two things. The first and most obvious change is that the game involves the cast from “CSI: Miami” rather than “CSI.” Sadly, this makes less of a difference than you might think. None of the cases really scream out that they’re in Miami. The first case has an alligator in it, but otherwise they could all be back in Las Vegas (and since Dark Motives included a komodo dragon, even the alligator doesn’t mean much). And so you get to see Horatio Caine as the CSI lead instead of Gil Grissom, and Yelina Salas as the police liaison rather than Jim Brass, but the difference is purely cosmetic. “Bullet girl” doesn’t do anything with bullets, and Caine doesn’t take any children under his wing. Anybody could be speaking the lines in the game.
The other change is that CSI: Miami has some puzzles in it. These puzzles come in two flavors: puzzles where you must put things back together (like torn up pictures) and puzzles where you must solve cryptograms (that is, decode messages). This is a nice enough idea, but the reconstruction puzzles are really easy, since none of them involve more than a dozen or so pieces, and the cryptograms are really boring, unless word games of that sort are your thing. Plus, none of the puzzles really play an integral part in any of the cases, and since they don’t take long to solve, you’ll still spend most of your time doing exactly what you did in the first two CSI games. That is, if developer 369 Interactive thought the puzzles would appease the adventure game crowd, I don’t think it’s going to happen. CSI: Miami is still an interactive version of the television show rather than being much of a game.
I liked the first two CSI games about as well as anybody. I liked being put into the show. But now this third CSI game seems a little bit tired. The five cases that you solve are pretty ordinary, and you spend way more time chasing down false leads than figuring out what happened and why. I mean, in one case, after wasting an hour interviewing everybody and studying wills and determining who was related to whom, one witness suddenly remembers a person digging in the ground near the crime scene, and what you find there solves everything. Worse, the cast from “CSI: Miami” sounds like it was forced at gunpoint to do the game, and all of their lines are delivered without enthusiasm or inflection. If 369 Interactive makes another CSI game, they need to re-think the format (perhaps taking the Law & Order route and only having one case per game), and they certainly need to work with a better script. CSI: Miami is about as uninspired as a game gets, and it’s not worth the purchase price.