PLATFORM: Wii, Xbox 360, PC
ESRB RATING: M
DEVELOPER: Telltale Games
This review is based on the Wii version, but apart from the controls all are reportedly identical. The screenshots are from the PC version. Also, a confession: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a CSI episode in its entirety, so it’s very possible I’m not getting everything I could out of this game. If you’re a fan, take note.
“CSI in a box!”
You’re a new, unnamed, unvoiced, and unshown person who is just starting up the glamorous job of investigating violent crime scenes. You have 5 crimes to solve here, each of which will team you up with a different character from the show, which are all voiced by the real actors. You’ll use all manner of tools to find and collect evidence, link it all together, and then get a confession out of the culprit.
CSI: Hard Evidence is at heart a point and click adventure game. It’s no surprise really, as the devlopers are the guys behind the Sam and Max series, some games you might’ve heard me go on about, oh, once or twice before….
So, it controls pretty well. You’re just clicking on various people, locations, and items. The Wii remote is absolutely perfect for a game like this, allowing you to look around and select items with ease.
You start off each case on the crime scene. You’ll get the general overview of what happened and then start the search for evidence. Once you click on an item, you have to figure out how to make sense of what you’ve found. Sometimes you’ll have to spray an area with Luminol to see if there’s blood, collect pieces of fabric, dust for fingerprints, you know, the usual. When you’ve got something, then you’ve got to collect it using tools from another toolbox, be it simply gloves to pick up a big item, tweezers for a small one, or tape for fingerprints. There’s a lot of different tools to use and it can get confusing but there’s a nice, gradual learning curve for you to figure out which ones are used for what.
Once you have evidence you have to bring it back to the lab to find out what’s going on here. You’ll compare fingerprints against ones in local police, FBI and CSI records. You’ll look at bullets under the microscope to check the ridge pattern and determine which gun it was fired from. There’s a ton of cool little things you’ll do to figure out just who was where, who was lying, and who’s responsible. It’s a lot of fun. One of the coolest cases is centered around a shootout, and allows you to set up those awesome bullet trajectory lasers to figure out how many people were involved and where people were when they fired.
You can also visit the captain to get warrants to search places or bring people in for questioning, and visit the coroner at the morgue to see what the dead bodies have to say.
For newbies, they give you a lot of help to point you in the right direction, something that more adventure games should have. For example, it’ll check off a location when you’ve found everything there is to find there. Such a simple thing that alleviates so much of the normal aggrevation found in adventure games. There’s a whole bunch of hints and tips that you can use or simply turn off, depending on your level of skill. They obviously tried to cater to the casual CSI fan here, but if you’re an old school adventure game fan, you’ll want to turn a few of them off.
The cases are pretty fascinating, everything from finding out why a washed-up rock band got electrocuted on stage while filming a reality show (because there’s justice in the world?), to figuring out who bludgeoned a doctor to death in his bed while his blind wife heard nothing. The cases have nice twists, even if some are obvious from the start. Still, some clever cases here, and you’ll want to get to the bottom of the mystery in each one. The game’s also definitely for the Mature crowd, too, as there’s cussing and blood a plenty.
But not everything’s good in the hood. There are a ton of problems with this game.
First, there’s a lot of backtracking and repetition. Many a time you’ll go to a location, talk to the person, get evidence, go to Brass to get a warrant, and do it all over again. The game keeps you from examining certain locations until you find the evidence that allows you to get a warrant, which is irritating since you just want to check everything out you can, instead of doing it in intermittent intervals. Going back to the lab every time you find some new evidence gets tiring as well, since the load times are somewhat lengthy. It’s enough to make you miss the instant appraisals of Condemned.
Like I said, I’m not familiar with the show, but is the humor this cheesy and filled with puns? Like when the chief gives you permission to to bring a singer in for questioning and says “Let’s book her a gig and see if she sings”, or while a guy’s interrogating an eye doctor and says “It doesn’t take 20/20 vision to see you at the scene of the crime”. Oh, the wit! It hurts, it hurts!
Another satisfied Iron Maiden Sleep Mask™ customer!
The dialogue trees are also rather skimpy, usually allowing you only one choice to proceed. It feels less like an interrogation than clicking to advance the conversation. Not a whole lot of interaction there.
All of this said, the game still manages to somehow be compelling. Most of the game is surprisingly fun. Finding evidence and trying to match them together is interesting as hell, and you will feel a sense of accomplishment in solving the case. If only the game were put together a little better…
The graphics and sound are decent and do the job, but there’s nothing special or fantastic here.
The game tries very hard to emulate a lot of the style of the show, but you’ll find yourself skipping past the Las Vegas skyline montages everytime you go to a new location, and getting annoyed at the “SWOOSH!” sound effects when you zoom in on an important piece of evidence.
Some of the locations are also reused. There’s a standard Casino stage that shows up three times, a hotel that pops up twice. It’s just sloppy.
The game’s also pretty glitchy. I’m not sure if it’s just the Wii version, but the game just seems to skip a lot, such as when characters are first speaking after loading a level. At one point I tried to hit the Home button to pause the game and the damn thing crashed on me. I thought it was a fluke and tried it again later, with the same results. Both times I had to pull the power plug on the Wii to get it going again, and that’s never happened on my system. Not a comforting thing to see…
“Daaaaamn. You ugly.”
There’s also a ton of product placement. Chrystler, HP… a whole bunch show up. I don’t mind it normally (hey, you gotta pay for the games somehow), but it gets a little much when it’s part of the story. Visa’s constant monitoring of its customer’s transactions even saves the day at one point! (“They’re good people over there at Visa”)
There is stuff to unlock like movies, storyboards, etc, but you probably won’t want to waste your time trying to get these lame bonuses. You unlock them by being meticulous in your search and finding every little area there is to find, and by collecting insects for Grissom, who’s an entomologist. He doesn’t do anything with them, he just collects them. Ok.
With a little more polish and some more options available to you, this could have been great, but as it is now it’s just above average. Fans of the show might get more out of it than I did, but as a game it’s at least worth a rental.