Squinting: CSI Fatal Conspiracy Demo

Oh God.

There just can’t be enough of the plastic-zombie-faced nonsense-fests in the CSI game series. More and more, I cry! I want nothing more than the deep-seated fear that’s generated by hearing the show’s cast speak through the barely-reanimated waxwork cartoon bobbleheads. So just in time for Halloween, yet another game in the franchise is out, CSI: Fatal Conspiracy. With a name as imaginative as the reactionary nonsense that fills the source programme, it can only be brilliant, and there’s a demo you can play to be sure.

Development is still being handled by Telltale, although it’s not a game they appear to be boasting about, nor indeed mentioning on their site. There’s almost nothing. Tucked away in an embarrassed corner on their games page is a link that mumbles something about the Vegas CSI game, but goes to their overall store page, which appears to contain no mention of CSI at all. Ubisoft’s official site for the game makes no mention of a developer (and weirdly re-routes its front page to a screenshot page of a madly staring zombie waxwork), and its listing on industry press site, Games Press, also denies any developer was involved. But hidden, teeny-tiny in the smallprint at the bottom of the Ubi site, read the minuscule words, “Fatal Conspiracy console game engine © Telltale Inc 2010 All Rights Reserved.”


This time the five episodic cases are to be thematic, an arc running through. Ubi say,

“CSI: Fatal Conspiracy features five new connected cases written by the same writers from the television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Players will experience an authentic crime-solving video game with real CSI characters, heart-pounding interrogations and enhanced graphics. A unique story structure that unveils the truth piece by piece brings a new level of suspense and intrigue to the top-selling franchise.”

I love it when graphics are enhanced.

Sadly nothing else is. This almost the same as last year’s Deadly Intent, with the same barely involved game, the same giant-headed dead-faced creatures, and for reasons I cannot fathom, the poor voice quality that used to haunt Telltale games until recently. Many words sound like a stick hitting an electric fence. Twwwssssnnnnnng.

And the lunatic enthusiasm of the tutorial voice lady returns, once more enunciating every instruction to you with the sort of artificial excitement a kidnap victim might attempt when talking on the phone to the police, a gun pointed at her head, convincing them that she’s fine, just taking a short holiday. Best of all, click on something before she’s finished explaining the last thing, and there’ll be two of her, both talking at the same time.

Very strangely, especially since this edition is supposed to have a threaded overarching plot, the demo is the start of chapter 4 of 5. Once again you’re a mute slave of the cast, forced to pick up bits of evidence and run them through machines while the more famous detectives do all the talking. Click around a crime scene, finding every teeny hotspot, back to the lab to analyse it (thin, tepid mini-games) and then interrogating suspects by clicking on the conversation options available, in order, until it’s done. You’re incidental to the experience.

For fans of the series, although not for fans of games, you can see the appeal of new storylines featuring the regular cast. Which still, incredibly, features Laurence Fishburne. (Although looking at his IMDB page, things haven’t really kept up after The Matrix.) It’s more CSI. I’m tempted to say, “And if you’re willing to put up with that nonsense, then you’ll likely be numbed enough to enjoy this.” But then I remembered that I watch Bones. And I mean, love watching Bones. So I’m basically a massive hypocrite. Although if they made a game of Bones, which of course one day they will, it will be hideous.

So, yeah. I wouldn’t bother, really. This demo doesn’t even let you get close to figuring anything interesting out, unless your number one goal in life is to learn from which woolly source a piece of red thread emerged.


  1. M says:

    Yeah, I still watch CSI, and no matter how obvious – or so ridiculous as to become entirely non-obvious – it gets, it’s still mindless murderin’ and arrestin’ and sciencin’ fun.

    Terrible games, though.

    • Vandelay says:

      Obvious? My experience of watching a few episodes of CSI I was made to see by a housemate whilst at uni is usually that some bit of forensic evidence generally solves the case in the last few minutes of the programme. There isn’t really much sleuthing that can be done on the viewers part, besides wild guessing. Maybe I just wasn’t paying much attention.

      To be fair to the show, it is mildly entertaining for what it is. It doesn’t deserve the countless spinoffs that have run for thousands of years, but it can while away an hour ever so often.

    • dethtoll says:

      Sure, if 2 spinoffs (one of which is arguably more popular) can be considered “countless” and if each show’s run being 10 years or less can be considered “thousands of years.”

      Captcha: “LAZE.” How fitting, given the sheer laziness of your post.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Vwoop vwoop! Fanboy flamewar detected! Deploy the bucket of icy water!

    • TWeaK says:

      NCIS >>>>>>> CSI

      *kicks NCIS:LA and LL Cool J under the rug*

  2. Nova says:

    Jeez, that last screenshot is the scariest thing of all the Halloween stuff from the past days.

  3. noobnob says:

    The corpse in the second picture looks as alive as the main cast’s models.

    …it is a corpse, right?

  4. destroy.all.monsters says:

    I keep wondering if they are both on their period in the first picture It certainly looks as if Midol (or perhaps valum) is desperately needed.

    Either that or it’s zombies sneering – which is new on me.

  5. dobber says:

    i like bones. THERE I SAID IT

  6. Crane says:

    Of course you do. Bones is awesome. CSI is horrible though.

  7. spork says:

    I’m sorry, but TELLTALE GAMES is making this garbage? You mean the same company that’s tasked with making the Back to the Future games? Oh great, so the BTTF games are gonna be shovelware garbage like this then eh?

    Great Scott!! I am now deeply concerned about the state of the forthcoming BTTF games!! This is not good!

    • Brumisator says:

      Nothing is stopping them from making licensed shovelware in order to fund their lovingly crafted games.

      I played a decent CSI game on DS once, but then again, I didn’t expect much from it.

    • Navagon says:

      The CSI games are the only bad Telltale games there are. I’ve got no idea why they’re involved in that but it’s clearly not something they’re proud of.

    • LionsPhil says:

      You say this like it is a surprise.

      Taking classics and trying their damndest to ruin them is what Telltale do.

  8. Sly Boots says:

    Another thumbs-up for Bones (just finished watching the boxset of series 5 in fact, still great).

    Can’t stand CSI though.

  9. Aerozol says:

    If Telltale has (c) on the “console game engine”, does that mean they are developing it?

    • John Walker says:

      Yes – they’re definitely developing it. When you load the demo it’s in the Telltale launcher, with their logos all over it.

  10. Spacewalk says:

    These people look disgusted to be here.

    • Spacewalk says:

      I used my pallor tricks joke elsewhere but it works just as well here.

  11. a says:

    Come on Jon, Bones may be another police procedural but the characterization is good! At least from the like… 10 episodes I’ve seen. Don’t compare it to rubbishy old CSI. ='(

  12. Rick says:

    Given how little acknowledgement this gets from TTG, it always strikes me that the CSI series is simply a necessary evil to secure additional income that they can funnel to their decent games. Ubisoft want quick CSI games, TTG need cash. They’re small developer just above indie but with big expectations for stuff like Sam & Max and Monkey Island, they need the funds to make it happen.

    I wouldn’t worry about BTTF or Jurrasic Park, TTG are actually putting effort into those, and are touting them in a same way as their other major works.

  13. Web Cole says:

    David Boreanaz: You so would.

  14. Lucas says:

    RPS caption contest, GO!

    Pic1: “Did I just sit in…?” “Yeah, I sat in it too.”
    Pic2: “Apparent cause of death is … wait, did these just move?”
    Pic3: “Huffing what? Affecting my work? My patients aren’t complaining!”

  15. pipman3000 says:

    needs csi: miami game

  16. AllyJC says:

    Still waiting on an official Quincy ME tie in, where all the evidence collecting is handled by your long suffering assistant Sam and you spend your time arguing with your boss and angrily shouting at the suspects until they crumble into a quivering mass of guilt. Mini games would include pottering around your houseboat and hanging around the local bar being the butt of jokes.

    • LionsPhil says:


      I’m still waiting for the Columbo game where the vital dialogue tree options all appear after you’ve clicked “end conversation”.

    • oceanclub says:

      You should read “Permanent Midnight”, the autobiography of a heroin-addicted TV writer (turned into a Ben Stiller movie). He worked on ALF and Quincey, among other things and has some great Jack Klugman stories.

      I always loved how this wrinkled old coroner was an uber-babe magnet.


  17. Auspex says:

    I like the CSI games and have played them all to completion but… I… I really couldn’t tell why on earth I feel like that: I don’t even like or watch the TV show.

  18. kwyjibo says:

    If I squint, then that guy at the top is Charles Cecil.

  19. Christy says:

    It certainly looks as if Midol (or perhaps valum) is desperately needed.

  20. MindFukr says:

    I miss you Gil…

  21. Dean says:

    Thing is, clearly these games sell. And I imagine they sell to CSI fans that don’t do much other PC gaming. The graphics suck as they want them to run on as many machines as possible, and any attempt to make the game more challenging risks putting off the existing fans who suddenly find it too hard.

  22. Wed Frester, Interactive CEO says:


  23. BeamSplashX says:

    By the way, how many vaginal vaults are in this one?

  24. zipdrive says:

    John, did you ply the House MD game? If so, is it as bad as the CSI ones? If not, is it because you’re afraid?

  25. Vodka & Cookies says:

    Telltales game engine has always been their weakest point I would wish they could invest in it just a little more to make it run better on all platforms (even Sam and Max stuttered on the PS3) and get some better texture artists but all those things cost money.

    A small studio like Telltale is probably hesitant to spend that level of cash so I understand why so many of their games have that plastic look to them.

  26. adonf says:

    “the reactionary nonsense that fills the source programme”

    This made me hope for a Law & Order game, with scores based on prison time (with Cumulative Charges Combo !), and achievements on each death sentence. Oh and if the person on trial is only thinly related to the murder you get an extra multiplier.