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CSI: New York PC Review

01/01/2009 Family Family Gamer Review
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CSI: New York PC

CSI: New York



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With CSI already having spawned games from its Las Vegas and Miami operations it was only a matter of time before the detectives of New York got their own. It's time for you to play as Mac Taylor and Stella Bonasera and solve four typical CSI style murders, with a fifth coming some time in the New Year.

While most modern adventure games have gone down the 3D route, with your character wandering the scene looking for items to interact with, CSI: NY has opted for a static 2D, hand drawn style that looks rather dated. It's not necessarily a bad thing though as just because something looks spectacular certainly doesn't make it a guaranteed winner.

Each case begins with the discovery of the murder victim and then it's your turn to ‘examine' the crime scene for clues. To do this you're faced with a room or scene that looks like it's been used for a student party – there will be articles of clothing, tools, cutlery etc. scattered all over the place and you have to start by clicking on everything and anything just in case it matches one of the items you have to find (indicated by initially blank boxes along the bottom of the screen). If you select a correct item it will pop into your inventory and gradually the blank boxes will start to show an outline of the other items you need to find so that by the end it's relatively easy to see what you need.

I know that every murder investigation will of course follow the same sorts of procedures but this doesn't make for gaming excitement.

Most of the items you pick up are actually irrelevant to the investigation but there will be two or three that clearly are. In some scenes clicking on an item will initiate a puzzle that you will need to solve in order to get a vital piece of evidence. These are generally pretty straightforward; such are rotating squares in order to create a pattern, arranging items in an appropriate order and so on. If you're stumped you can get a hint or you are allowed to skip up to two puzzles per investigation. It probably says something for the difficulty level that I only had to ask for one or two hints throughout all four investigations, and never had to skip any. Some of the searches take place in someone's office - seemingly ignoring any sort of requirement for a warrant!

Pick up the last piece of evidence and you then progress to an ‘interrogation' scene where you will question a witness or suspect by clicking on highlighted dialog items or showing them appropriate items you've picked up. Supposedly if you ask the wrong questions or show them irrelevant items then your credibility will fall and you may have to start the questioning again. This only happened to me once and it just seemed that all you had to do was show everything and click on all dialog options until you got the right ones. Maybe clicking the wrong items was reducing my score, and I did tend to get some silver stars instead of gold ones but there was never any real feedback so it all felt rather pointless. Add to this the fact that the items that elicit the right responses often seem to do so for no obvious reason and this adds the sense that your not really ‘investigating' anything but just being led by the hand through a linear sequence of events.

The third part of the investigative jigsaw takes place back at the precinct where you will perform various tasks like fingerprint matching, chemical analysis, ballistics testing and so on. While this sounds great, unfortunately the activities themselves are pretty dull. Mercifully they are relatively short, that is except for the chemical/DNA analysis which involves picking up pieces of DNA/molecules with tweezers (!) and sorting them into 8 sets. Once you've done this half a dozen times it gets seriously old. I know that every murder investigation will of course follow the same sorts of procedures but this doesn't make for gaming excitement.

One quite bizarre aspect of this game is that the game box indicates that it contains exclusive, behind the scenes footage with the cast of CSI: NY. I had imagined that maybe I would see little clips of the actors during the game, but as the game progressed I saw none. There are also no ‘extras' within the game menu. Finally I browsed the contents of the disk to find a folder containing four short wmv clips of the four actors recording their lines. A nice little extra for fans of the TV series - but why are they hidden away with no link to them through the game menus?

For me, only an occasional watcher of the programme (usually when forced to when visiting my Mum who loves this and the other shows in the genre) there was little to keep me interested.

There's no real way that a computer game can re-create the excitement of a TV show like CSI and the developers have to do their best to do what they can. If the investigations had been made more interactive with more thought being required then this game would have been much better, Unfortunately, part way into the second investigation it will slowly dawn on you that your just going to be following a fixed path through the game, with no real thought or intelligence required. As a result it all becomes rather a chore to get through. The game is very short - with each investigation taking around an hour or so, so we're talking about a five hour tops game. There will be another episode, but to be honest I couldn't imagine myself being bothered to play it again when I know I'd just be doing the same things all over again. It is however a reasonably priced game, and for fans of CSI it may be fun for them to play as their favourite characters. The voice acting is done by the real characters so this adds to the appeal. For me, only an occasional watcher of the programme (usually when forced to when visiting my Mum who loves this and the other shows in the genre) there was little to keep me interested.

Written by Andy Robertson

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Andy Robertson writes the Family Gamer column.

"Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."

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