By John Walker on January 5th, 2010 at 10:47 pm.
I look forward to new TV-tie-in games like a child looks forward to a visit to the world’s angriest dentist. Over the oh-so many years I’ve been doing this job, I’ve played a lot of them, and they’ve been universally terrible. Oh, with one sort-of exception – the extraordinary ER The Game, which managed to be a mix of Theme Hospital and a lunatic’s fever dream. That game had ninjas and ghost American footballers. Anyway, sidetrack. Perhaps the most consistently awful are the CSI games, whether developed by 369 Interactive or Telltale. (Telltale’s first, 3 Dimensions of Murder, holds a place in history. It has a plot about a developer who may have murdered a former publisher, for screwing him over for his rights to a game based on his two wacky cartoon characters. This was before they regained the rights to Sam & Max…) Anyway, this latest, CSI: Deadly Intent, also by Telltale, has recently had a demo appear. Despite being two months old. And while it’s not nearly as bad as previous games in the series, it’s not that great.
A year ago Ubisoft tried another angle on the CSI series with spin-off CSI: NY. It chose the direction of being a casual game, made by Legacy Interactive (as far as I can tell – they seem in denial of it, as well as their masterpiece, ER), they who will soon be bringing us the House PC game. I’ve not played it, but reports weren’t good. But now we’re back to the original CSI series, and back to Telltale for development duties. The result is a little peculiar. The demo gives you a sizeable chunk of the third of five chapters, although is accompanied by an endless tutorial, and despite lasting a good hour, will cut you off before you’re able to find out who the killer was. Heavens.
TT were responsible for moving the hideous series from 2D into 3D with their hilariously punningly titled 3 Dimensions Of Murder. Except this meant little more than being able to slightly rotate the camera in any scene. The same is pretty much true here, letting you nudge the camera left and right, but not actually move inside the game world. Because it’s 1996, right? Right. However, it’s much prettier now, I think using a version of their regular adventuring engine, although aiming for a more realistic look than their other games. Not that their aim is on target – the result is a peculiar half-cartoon world inhabited by bobble-head humans. The most odd-looking of these is Laurence Fishburne, who apparently joined the cast of the show about a year ago, the poor bastard, and is your buddy throughout the demo’s investigation.
So a lady’s been all murdered, and you’ve got to find out who done it. So of course you use your finest policing skills to drag the mouse around the screen hoping to find a hotspot that lets you zoom in to another screen to search for another hotspot, that sometimes will find you some evidence, or otherwise zoom in to… Gather evidence and it’s off to the lab to process it in the magical machines (mostly play picture pairs), and then do a bit of interrogating suspects (asking them the questions in the order they appear until it’s over).
As is, this is all fine, if what you want is tepid mediocrity (and let’s be honest, target audience, source material, etc). But it’s very dodgy. Using the idiotic microscope I identified a crucial pattern in a bruise mark on some skin (from a super-high-res photo, I guess), to which Fishburne assured me, “Nothing interesting there.” No Laurence sweetie, I think the evidence that will make this case is perhaps of some interest. Another highlight was entering Mr Boss Man’s office and receiving an email as I arrived. It told me that the victim’s husband was in Mr Boss Man’s office, so I should head there. He wasn’t there. I left and went back in. He still wasn’t there. I went somewhere else and received a voice mail from Mr Boss Man telling me the husband was in his office. I went there. Mr Boss Man told me the husband was in the interrogation room. Smooth.
But nothing manages to match the tutorial voiceover for driving you loopy. The shrill voice gleefully announces key information to you when you encounter something new. You can skip it, sure, but you also need to know what you’re doing, with the DNA machine or whatever. So you need to listen. And listen. And listen. And listen. Every time she sounds like her spine-chilling cheeriness is done, no, she starts up again, but then you can, wait, no, she’s still going, and then finally, oh no there’s more. If you don’t shout, “OH JUST SHUT UP!” then you are made of STEEL.
Anyway, there you go. Far too much information about demo that’s really not worth bothering with. Um, sorry about that. I mostly just wanted to post the picture of the Lord Of The Rings wedding ring, with the Hobbit-like Fishburne crouched next to it, and I think we can all agree I’ve managed that. Oh, and finally: