Written by: Stoo

Date posted: August 18, 2011

Well, there he is, but he doesn’t do a lot.

You might have noticed we’ve covered a few CSI games lately, Rik having gotten hooked at some point. Well, the same thing went and happened to me, as I find it’s pretty much ideal for unwinding after work. You get the murder, the team of good-looking experts gathering evidence, the shifty subjects. Then we’re back to base to perform a load of fancy (and sometimes not quite possible yet in the real world) analysis, bringing us along a twisting path to the stunning conclusion. So it’s glossy stuff, nothing greatly challenging for the viewer, but intelligent enough to give a compelling story. Just the right balance for solid escapism.

What’s more, if you find yourself being drawn in, between Channel 5 here and it’s subsidiaries, you can watch about six hours a night of the stuff. It was time away on training course that did it for me – nothing else to do sat in a Travel-lodge for three nights.

Rik’s already covered the first three games based on the original CSI, at which point he proclaimed: no more! However his words bind only himself, and I wanted in on some fingerprint-dusting action for a change of pace after playing several RPGs. So I opted for 369 Interactive’s Miami game. CSI Miami being the one of the family with David Caruso in shades, a lot more sunshine (they’re a dayshift unlike the original) and possibly the most far-fetched scenarios. (one involved a space-plane, even). Rik’s not a fan but myself, I like all three shows more or less equally.

I should be clear, from the start I wasn’t expecting this to be an especially great game. 369 Interactive are the guys who did Dark Motives (before Telltale got the CSI license), and Rik didn’t rate that one very highly at all. This one, then, is basically the same game with new missions and the Miami cast. I really just approached it with vague curiosity, wondering if it might be worth a CSI fan’s time in a casual sort of way or if it’s utter junk.

This stage light went crunching into a vitctim’s head. Definitely search it over for evidence.

So, anyway, we know how a Miami story begins right? Maybe we start at a bakers, where the owner has been brutally murdered. Witnesses suggest he owed gangsters money. Caine surveys the scene.

“I guess he couldn’t… (puts on shades)…”raise the dough”.

yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Well, none of that happens. Looks like Ubisoft couldn’t afford to license the Who. So basically for each cases (there are five in total) you just start out at the crime scene, ready to get gathering. If you’ve played Dark Motives you know exactly what to expect. But then I could just skip to a rating and it would be a pretty short review, so here’s the rundown for the rest of you.

The “location” of a crimescene is basically a static image, or one you can pan around, and more locations become available as a mission progresses. Here you must look for evidence. Click on something containing clues and you can zoom in for a closer look. You have a toolkit for gathering and analysing stuff – plaster for footprints, three or four different kinds of fingerprint powder for differetn surfaces and so on. You can also pick up some items, and look at them more closely for swabbing and prints.

DNA matching, to show the hi-tech side of the forensics business.

Suspects can be found at the scene, standing there eternally with a rather bored expression, and they can be questioned, with more options coming up if presented with specific evidence. You’re also accompanied on each mission (5 in all) by one member of the Miami cast. All of which are voice-acted in a fairly monotone manner. Okay, with Caine that’s more or less his normal style anyway. Calleigh suffers a lot tho, given how smiley and sunny she’s meant to be, rather than throwing out lines with no real expression. The CSIs don’t actually do a lot apart from throw in lines like “we’re done here”; or you can ask them for hints, at the cost of detracting from the mission score.

Then there’s “back at base” stuff. You can look at the body once dragged back to the morgue, and ask Alexx about gory autopsy stuff. At the lab, data like fingerprints or DNA samples can be compared against each other, or looked up in records. Finally Yelena Salas can be asked for warrants on locations or suspects once you’ve built a partial case against someone. Ultimately you’re aiming to complete the “holy trinity” for a suspect, that is information linking them to the murder scene and their motive to commit the crime.

So, how does it all hold together. Well for one, there’s a hell of lot of clicking. There are visual aids that light up in locations to say “there is something relevant here”, and I ended up sometimes swallowing my pride and turning them on. It doesn’t affect the final mission score. Also when interviewing, another aid automatically brings up questions if a suspect has something to say about a certain piece of evidence. Otherwise you have to drag and drop each item to find out, getting a whole load of “I don’t know anything about that” for irrelevant items. Again, I turned it on.

The slight hit to my pride was worth it for avoiding the RSI. I get that thoroughness is part of the job here. (Gil Grissom especially would nod in approval). Also, it is kind of satisfying when you, say, find a blood trail leading to a ticket stub hidden in grass that fell out of a suspect’s pocket, or something like that. But there were points where I was pretty much just clicking all over the screen. Kind of like being stuck in an old adventure like Discworld.

Actually, I don’t think the gameplay is badly done, or unduly demanding. To a large extent I was just rushing. However, that’s because I wasn’t really getting into it on any other level. See here’s the thing about CSI: it shows that you can take a plot based on 42 minutes of people poking at bits of evidence, and make it exciting and engaging. That does not transfer to the game. Maybe because the show isn’t *just* poking at evidence, even if that is a central tenet.

So what’s missing here? Well, maybe some heated dialogue (involving voice actors not just phoning their lines in whilst glancing at their watch hoping to get to the pub soon). Interactions between the CSI cast. A CSI sat at his desk with a look of grim determination and pouring another coffee saying “we’ve got to get those bastards” to make me feel like I too want to get those bastards. Hey, how about some events mid-case to shake up the situation? Or maybe even some subplot involving a CSI having a personal connection to a suspect (and again, interaction between them beyond flatly delivered interview questions).

And course, it really needed the Horatio Caine one-liner intro. I’m just throwing out ideas of how this could all come to life a bit more, because it’s all ultimately rather flat. There’s not enough sense of pacing or urgency, nothing to push you to solve the case beyond the satisfaction of progressing through the mechanics of solving a case. It’s really not like being in an episode of the show.

I don’t feel like I wasted my money here. However I only spent £2.50 on ebay. For the CSI fan, well, no it’s not something you need in your life. If you really want to investigate some murders I’d suggest digging out one of the Police Quest titles. They’re not about being a CSI, and they themselves could feel a bit dull and pedestrian at times, but they’re rather more well-rounded and engaging stories nonetheless. As for us, well, there aren’t any CSI games left that fall under our rule of “at least 4 or 5 years old”. Maybe one day we’ll look at a few more of the Telltale games (big improvements, I hear) but for now, that’s it!