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.