Friday, June 12, 2009

CSI Hard Evidence (video game)

Platform: X-Box 360
Also On: PC, Wii
Developers: Telltale Games
Genre: Adventure
ESRB Rating: M
Release Date: September 26, 2007

Television shows don’t get too many video game adaptions these days, unless they’re animated. The reason can range from cancellation due to declining ratings – which happened to a game that was to be based off of Heroes – to the rising costs to actually make games these days. But CSI isn’t exactly your typical series - with at least four different shows falling under the franchises umbrella – so this particular brand getting video game adaptions isn’t all that out there a prospect.

In comes Hard Evidence, just such an adaption for the X-Box 360 done in the same style as previous CSI games on the PC. For better or worse, it’s a relatively precise representation of the show. That means all the ridiculous, unrealistic things about the show translate over to the game; you guessed it, Crime Scene Investigators doing everything from interpreting the evidence to interrogating suspects to actually arresting them. All the things that irritate about the glamorous portrayal of CSI agents in the show aren’t so irritating in the game; after all, without it there wouldn’t exactly be much of a game.

There are five cases to investigate in the game in total. It’s not a terrible number by any means – the Phoenix Wright games generally hit around that number and do just fine – but the problem is generally how short they are here. Considering how light the gameplay is on the whole, the game just flies by.

If you’re a fan of the show, however, the stories of the five cases will be enjoyable. If anything, they’re really the games sole real attraction. They hold up well enough; all five feel as though they could each be an episode of the actual television show, which I suppose is actually pretty good praise. They’re fairly interesting too, with each one usually having a few interesting twists and turns. You also have a different partner with each case, all of them from the actual show. In short, there’s not much to complain about in story terms. There’s even connectivity between some of the cases; the last case of the game, for instance, involves characters and issues central to the third, for instance.

The graphics are disappointing. Generally bland, many rooms and textures look more mid-life PS2 than X-Box 360; which, while serviceable, is always disappointing. The sounds not all that big a deal. You’ll notice some familiar themes if you watch the show at all. Nothing really stands out though. Voice acting is generally fine, though the characters sound almost bored sometimes. It’s slightly off-putting but nothing too bad.

The gameplay’s generally where things go to hell, however. The foundation is solid; you search around the crime scene and different locations for evidence, use tools to collect them and then analyze them in several ways back in the crime lab. You also question suspects, which gives you valuable information.

On the surface this doesn’t sound too bad and it generally isn’t; at least until you realize that the game basically holds your hand the entire way through. When you collect evidence, for instance, you have to choose the right tool, but the game automatically eliminated the tools that couldn’t be used from selection making it all too simple to use the right tool for the job whether you know what it does or not. Questioning someone is equally as bad; dialogue does not branch in the slightest, meaning all you have to do is just ask every question when you’re allowed to ask them. Evidence analysis is a bit more in depth on your part, but it still all leads to the same place. Each case is generally a pretty straight line from start to finish. A short line too; you’ll easily beat the game within an afternoon.

The controls don’t help much. The directional pad is used for way too much in the way of menu selection in this game; never much of a problem when the analog stick can be used for it as well, but the problem is that the analog stick isn’t usable. It’s very annoying to go to a menu and forget the directional pad controls it; you could easily sit there for about five to ten seconds trying to move to another item with the analog stick before you remember it doesn’t work. Movement of the cursor also feels a bit sluggish; it’s somewhat obvious this game runs on an engine designed for computers and the general stickiness of the controls reinforces that feeling.

Replay value is literally in the toilet. Due to the unbelievable linearity of the game – seriously, it’s linear even by the standards of this sort of game in general – there’s little reason to ever replay the game or any of the cases. There are some unlockable bonuses, sure – unlocked by collecting bugs during missions – but they’re nothing really worth it; just stuff like promo’s for the game that played on TV. The Achievements are laughable as well and don’t promote replay value; there are only five of them, one for each mission, worth two hundred points each adding up to the usual total of a thousand points. In other words, there’s absolutely no reason to replay the game, ever, unless you just feel like reliving the story.

The stories in this game would probably have been better served as episodes of the show, really, because they’re the only reason to ever even play the game at all. The game barely feels like a game at all; more like one of those “storybook” games you’d find for little kids than a modern day Adventure genre game. If you’re a fan of CSI, the games worth a rental at absolute best; a fan would likely enjoy the cases and their stories. I can’t believe it would be worth a purchase to anyone though, even a hardcore fan. There’s just not much to it at all. Simply put; rent, don’t buy.

My Opinion: Skip It

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree. I had bought the game, ($2 in GameStop's discount bin) and beat the dang thing in half an hour.