I think if one were to read all the reviews for the first two Law & Order games and then tabulate the major complaints, the top five would probably be something like: a bad interface, not enough puzzles, a bad interface, too short of a playing time, and a bad interface. Well, it looks like developer Legacy Interactive took those complaints to heart because when they created the third game in the series, Law & Order: Justice is Served, they completely overhauled the game engine, and they paid particular attention to the interface. The weird thing is, I don’t know how much that effort mattered. I’m happy that Legacy Interactive tried to make the game better, but I suspect that Justice Is Served is going to appeal to exactly the same people who liked the first two Law & Order games, and nobody else. Why? Keep reading.
In Justice is Served, a young tennis star named Elena Kusarova is found dead in a locker room, the victim of an overdose of steroids. At first the police aren’t sure whether it was a suicide, an accident, or a murder, but pretty soon murder takes center stage, and the suspects start piling up. Was it her ex-lover? Her agent? Her doubles partner? A demented fan of her chief rival? Or maybe that chief rival herself? As with the first two games in the series, you’ll have to team up with the crew from the Law & Order television series to crack the case and then put the murderer behind bars.
The actual game mechanics in Justice is Served haven’t changed much. You still question witnesses by choosing the best question out of a possible three choices. You still search locations to find evidence, and then send that evidence off to be researched or analyzed. And you still eventually prosecute the case, making sure that the defense attorney asks his questions correctly. If you’ve played either of the first two Law & Order games then you should feel right at home with Justice is Served.
Where Justice is Served is different from the earlier games is in how you do things, and, in particular, how you manage your casebook. Before you just had a whole bunch of “slots” for holding evidence, and it was difficult to organize what you had, not to mention fit all it into the limited amount of space. Now the casebook is divided into four areas -- one each for people, objects, documents, and analyses -- and the evidence automatically goes into the correct area for you. Better, even though the casebook is still limited in size, the size is large enough so you don’t have to worry about throwing away old evidence to make room for new evidence, and so evidence is much easier to deal with than it was before.
Another change in Justice is Served is that there are more puzzles to deal with. Most of these are the traditional Law & Order fare -- where, for example, you have to figure out the code or combination to open something, and the answer is in plain sight in the same room -- but there are also some more adventure-style puzzles to solve, such as when you have to move boxes around so Detective Lennie Briscoe can get from one side of a room to the other. However, even with the extra puzzles, I don’t think Justice is Served is going to appeal to adventure game players more than the other games in the series. The puzzles are still really easy, and they still only account for maybe 10% of the game’s playing time.
Finally, the case in Justice is Served is much longer and more complicated than in the first two Law & Order games. This gives the game an extended playing time, which seems like a good thing, but the excess of characters involved (no less than 18), and the 10,000 motives of the killer you have to uncover, just make the case feel padded, and I grew impatient with it by the end, especially since I haven’t really enjoyed the prosecution part of any of the games. As a result, Justice is Served easily has the worst case of the three Law & Order games.
Chances are that Legacy Interactive is going to make a fourth Law & Order game, and despite my not giving any of the first three games in the series a score as high as 80%, I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll really like that fourth game. The first two games had interesting cases, and the third game had a nice interface, and so hopefully Legacy can put everything together for the fourth game. However, sadly, that sort of synergy didn’t come together for Justice is Served, and I’d only recommend it to fans of the game series or the television series.