Review: CSI: NY (PC)

NY game boxCSI: NY
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 11/18/08


CSI: NY is one of my favorites on TV. I usually have to DVR it to watch it the next day as I have to be at work at the butt-crack of dawn, but it’s one of those shows that keeps me interested with the bizarre cases and mostly great cast of actors. Bear in mind I’ve avoided the other CSI games, so I’m going into this one fresh, looking to sort out the details, make a few rundowns on the crime scenes, gather the evidence and then take the perpetrators into custody. Let’s see if Ubisoft can deliver or if this is going to be another one of THOSE licensed games.

Story

CSI: NY blocks out its tale in 4 separate episodes with a 5th due out sometime next year for download. Ubisoft has really delivered on this end as each of the episodes has a rather unique plot to them, other than being based around finding a dead body of course. The investigations are pretty convoluted and are just as complicated to figure out as an episode of the show, which can have its good and bad sides as I’ve gotten really good at figuring out who did it fairly early on in the episode.

Did I mention that the nitty gritty details can get a bit bizarre as well? Like the one guy getting hooks implanted in his shoulder blades to install wings for glided flight. Yeah. That kind of bizarre. The writing really does capture the show. Bravo on this end Ubisoft. Bravo.

However, some of the actual dialogue in the game isn’t exactly up to par. Not saying that it’s terrible, but some of it just sounds awkward and could have used a little tweaking. It doesn’t kill the story or plot but it does bring it down just a bit. Which is odd because it’s supposed to have been written by CSI writers.

Story Rating: Great

Sid wants you to come on down to the lab, and see what's on the slab!

Sid wants you to come on down to the lab, and see what's on the slab!

Graphics

Welcome to the wonderful world of 2D sprite and static image entertainment! A powerhouse of graphical and next generation gaming, this is not. While the graphics do look amazing in some parts, bordering on full blown painting quality, there are other areas of the game that look like it was whipped up in Photoshop in about an hour when the designer was bored.

Let’s start with the characters. These are some of the more impressive images in the game. They have a great painted quality to them that works really well. Unfortunately most of them only bear a passing resemblance to the actor from the show. Others are dead on. I’m not sure if they had different artists and some were better than others or what, but Flack just was way off. The first time he popped up I literally laughed out loud. He looked decent, but it was NOT Flack. And they basically use the same four or five sprites of the actor throughout the cases, so that detracted a bit.

Detective Flack is NOT amused...but I am!

Detective Flack is NOT amused...but I am!

The labs were really well done, as well as the mini-games in the labs. You really had a sense you were working with the tools or mucking about under a microscope trying to isolate that one element. This is one area that really seemed to work and I wished had carried over into the crime scenes, which were lacking.

The crime scenes were varied in quality. Some looked really decent, but others were of the lazy Sunday variety. The first few are great but then you hit a stinker that is kind of visually jarring in and of itself but while you’re scavenger hunting you’re looking for objects that really stand out and they’re all cartoonish against this beautiful painted background and while it helps with collecting the evidence, it really makes the game feel like it was thrown together in a hurry.

I don’t mind my games not being on the cutting edge of the graphics spectrum, but at least keep the visuals consistent.

Graphics Rating: Enjoyable

Crime on the subways?  Bah!  Never happens!

Crime on the subways? Bah! Never happens!

Sound

Big plus for this is the entire cast is represented here. From Gary Sinise all the way on down. It’s fantastic actually hearing their voices coming out of the rather cartoonish representations of them. Also makes it feel more like the show. The bad news is that they must have done the voice overs on the worst day the actors were having, because every performance is flat or fall flat in the game. The vocal director needs to find work elsewhere. There are a few moments where they nail it but they’re lost between the lackluster delivery everywhere else.

The music is really lacking. Granted there isn’t much of it on the show, but almost every time they go into the lab there’s something in the background to keep it going and during the mini-games that represent the time in the lab there is usually nothing except the background noise. They do drop a few music cues when they flash between one area to the next with the NYC backdrop but those are really short and don’t give enough time for a fair assessment.

Country don't mean dumb!

Country don't mean dumb!

The theme song from the show doesn’t even make an appearance, in either the new synthed up version they started using last year, or the edited version. If you’re going to be charging me $30 bucks for this I’d better be hearing Baba O’Reilly by the Who in some way, shape or form for the theme, not whatever they used to pass off as the show’s theme. Which by the way, the intro music is terrible. It tries to be the theme without being the theme, which is like going to your local video store and renting Transmorphers (yes it’s a real knock-off film) instead of Transformers. You just don’t do it!

The ambient noises in the case areas, are usually pretty sedate and not noticeable, which they should be, but they loop. And they loop often. And I noticed it, and got annoyed while I was putting bone fragments together. Granted I’m pretty anal about what I’m hearing, and most people probably won’t notice, but a bit more variety when you’re denying me any kind of other musical interlude would have been nice. Wow, all this talk about sound and I’m not even that much of an audiophile. That tells you something right there, doesn’t it?

Sound Rating: Decent

Gameplay

Most of the gameplay is fairly straightforward and consists of hunting and clicking with the mouse through a series of mini-games throughout each case to put it all together and catch the bad guy. Each mini-game is a bit unique, but most involve sorting or matching until you’re left with the one that isn’t like the others. Yes, to be a CSI you have to go back to Sesame Street. The ones that really feel lacking are the ones involving the gathering of evidence.

You’re presented with a scene with lots of neat clickable objects everywhere, and only some select ones are pertinent to the case, but instead of letting you figure out which ones later are relevant, you’re given a laundry list of clickables that slowly show up as you collect them. And most of the time half of what you are supposed to collect either has absolutely no bearing, isn’t something you’d collect at a murder scene (Like a stapler! Every office I had to pick up a stapler! Apparently my CSI is a stapler clepto!).

I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with...B!

I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with...B!

Once you’re done with the scavenger hunt you can interrogate, er, interview witnesses and show them things. This seems a bit stupid to me. A few of the objects I wouldn’t show a suspect as I wouldn’t want them to know I have that bit of evidence, but you have to go on showing them anyway. You have a credibility meter that goes along with your questioning, and if you happen to click on the wrong part of the evidence you’re showing the suspect or witness it drops and effects your CSI rating.

The problem with this is that there is no rhyme or reason to where you need to click, like say on a corpse’s photo. One witness might need to see the face, the other might get annoyed at having seen the corpse photo if you click the face, but oh look, if you click on the bloody fingertips, suddenly he’s interested. Yeah, ok. ‘Cause that makes a lick of sense. They’re still looking at the same photo either way!

You get rated on how well you’re doing using a kind of gold star system that you can click on the lead CSI to see for that point in the case. If you’ve got a gold you’re doing really well, silver, good, but you can do better. If you’re getting the bronze you really, really suck. No soup for you!

Most of the mini-games are pretty straightforward besides the interrogation, but the scavenger hunt of looking over a crime scene could have a bit more thought put into it. It’s way too random, even for a CSI: NY crime scene. The other part of it is that it feels like you’re playing an interactive flash game. There’s no real substance to it. I like to point and click as much as the next guy, but I want a little bit more than something I can get off of the free games on Yahoo!

And if the puzzles are too hard, or if they’ve placed the evidence a bit too randomly or actually BEHIND a piece of furniture that you CANNOT MOVE, there is a HINT button that loads up after a few seconds that’ll help you find the hidden objects the developers thought to hide behind things that you have no ability to move, which, by the way, lowers your CSI rating. Fantastic!

Gameplay Rating: Mediocre

Print 'em!  And don't be stingy with the ink!

Print 'em! And don't be stingy with the ink!

Replayability

Other than going through cases over again to try and improve your star rating, or going back in to finish that elusive 5th case that isn’t available yet, I see very little reason to play this again, unless you’re really into it or the show. The outcomes will all be the same, and once you know how the case plays out, it’s all to easy to go in and ace it as there isn’t a difficulty level in sight. The stories are interesting, but the flat acting and the other annoyances are leading me to believe most people aren’t going to want to play this over and over again.

Replayability Rating: Poor

Balance

Hard to judge with this. The mini-games have some challenge to them, but overall this is a fairly easy game to move through. Almost way too easy. It’s made even easier with the Hint button. You can get stuck with a few things, but it’s almost all trial and error. Your CSI rating might drop a bit, but it’s just like that gold star in school. You can do good work to get it back.

Balance Rating: Poor

Originality

Based off a tv show, formulated like said tv show and the 8th release in the series of CSI games, and from what I can see using the same mini-game mechanics in each of said games, we can pretty much throw originality out the window. Sure this is the first of these games based on CSI: NY, but none of this is anything you haven’t seen before if you’ve played any kind of flash games online. The only thing really original about them is the plots for each episode, so I do have to give them points there.

Originality Rating: Poor

Addictiveness

Yes, the mini-games are addictive. Yes, I’m one of those people who can’t let go and HAS to know what has happened. Yes, I sat at my wife’s laptop playing this game for 4 hours straight after I first installed it. Being addictive is not one of this game’s faults. It has enough to keep you interested and while sometimes being annoying it does keep you looking for that next piece of the puzzle that could break the case wide open. You just keep playing until you can get it all done. Bravo on that end of things Ubisoft.

Addictiveness Rating: Classic

Yes Alex, I'll take Lethal Injection for 800 please...

Yes Alex, I'll take Lethal Injection for 800 please...

Appeal Factor

If you don’t like CSI: NY, or don’t like procedural shows on tv, or hate casual games that are fun but way too easy to move through, then this game isn’t for you. Given how many people tune in weekly to the show, and that there are a number of CSI games already out there, these obviously have an appeal to them. Having the actual cast of the show and a few options in there that mimic the show really does help, despite me tearing into it in other sections of this review. If I saw this on the shelf I might pick it up and think it over, but even if I hadn’t played it, the $30 price tag would scare me away until it was on sale.

I may be a fan, but being one who tends to get games based on movies and tv shows and the like, I’ve been burned way too often on games that don’t live up to what they promise on that end, and I think a lot of people out there might have the same idea. At $20 I’d consider it but I’m also a tight-wad when it comes to cash and games.

Appeal Factor Rating: Good

Miscellaneous

I’ve been a bit harsh on this game. Depsite the faults I have with it, the whining, the moaning, I did have fun playing this game, and ultimately it was a fun escape for a few afternoons of fun. Don’t discount this game because I wasn’t feeling it. I’m picky and I admit it. There’s much fun to be had and any fan of this show and a gamer will get a kick out of solving cases with the cast from the show. It won’t take a monster gaming machine to run this, and even though my wife’s laptop is a desktop replacement and is a beast, this would run on just about any PC that can run Windows XP out there.

You can save at pretty much any time so it’d be great to play even on the go, if you have that option with your computer, and because it’s so system minimal you don’t have to wait for it to load or wait for it to clear up your system resource when it closes. I also had zero crashes, so it’s a pretty solid game. They’ve also included some behind the scenes cast interviews if you’re into that sort of thing, although I didn’t think it rated taking up such a big section of the front of the box.

Miscellaneous Rating: Great

I would like to have seen Montana...

I would like to have seen Montana...

The Scores:
Story: Great
Graphics: Enjoyable
Sound: Decent
Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Poor
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Classic
Appeal: Good
Miscellaneous: Great
FINAL SCORE: DECENT

Short Attention Span Summary:
While fans of the show and casual gamers may enjoy this game and what it brings, I feel it is not worth the $30 price tag that accompanies it. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that this game doesn’t offer anything new, other than the cast of NY and the new cases to puzzle through. This is definitely a wait before you buy type of game, especially since case 5 won’t be available to download until sometime next year. If you’re really jonesing for a CSI:NY fix, there’s still new episodes waiting to air this year. Watch those first then buy this out of the bargain bin or on when it’s on sale. To quote Mac Taylor, “Use your head, Stella, not your heart. “

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