Wednesday, November 4, 2009

CSI: Hard Evidence - Review and Achievements

CSI: Hard Evidence is a game based on the very popular TV show. I'll say right upfront that I don't watch CSI, so I'm not really sure how true to the show it is. It does use actors and settings from the program. On the downside, the character models are primitive so the likeness between some of the actors and their virtual avatars is not terribly convincing.

The game consists of five cases that you must solve using techniques culled from CSI shows. You visit crime scenes, collect evidence like fingerprints and blood samples, interrogate suspects, and piece together the details of the case. It's all done in a point and click mechanic similar to PC adventure games of a bygone time. The gameplay works pretty well, though I couldn't shake the feeling that it would be a lot easier to interact with a mouse rather than a gamepad.

On the plus side, the cases are pretty compelling. Each one weaves a pretty interesting story, and there are always multiple suspects so it's not easy to narrow down who the guilty party is. The voice acting is mostly solid, which is good because a lot of your time is spent questioning witnesses and grilling suspects.

The game is also highly accessible. There are no tests of speed or dexterity can take as long as you need and skill with a controller is not mandatory. The game also provides hints if you want them at any time, though using hints hurts your final rating for the case.

The downside of the game is that it gets pretty repetitive once you learn the format. You find the clues, you process them in the same ways, and you click through conversation options until the suspect cracks and gives away key information. I found the first couple cases pretty enjoyable, but by the end I was mostly going through the motions.

I was also frustrated by some unfairly hidden clues. As an example, one case hinged on finding a matchbook in the back seat of an impounded cab. The cab was dark, and for some reason the garage where we were keeping it was poorly lit as well. So you have to fumble around in the dark until you put the cursor over the matchbook by chance, THEN the game lets you turn on your flashlight, and only then can you find the matchbook. Couldn't I use the flashlight from the start? Or better yet, could we set up some lights while inspecting a vehicle for evidence?

The Achievements are not well done, but they're definitely a quick source of 1000 points. There are only five awards, one for solving each case. You can beat the case with any rating and still get the Achievement, so it doesn't matter whether you deduce the facts on your own merits or make full use of every hint in the game. I'd estimate that it took me about 8 hours to beat the game and get all the points. Oh, and all the icons are the same crappy picture shown above...weak!

Still, I'll give CSI credit for what it is. It's a short but relatively well constructed foray into the world of a crime-scene investigator. Plus it's not every game where you have to swab DNA samples from both sides of a used condom, prompting your wife to ask, "What kind of game are you PLAYING?!"

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