Review: CSI: Deadly Intent (Nintendo Wii)

CSI: Deadly Intent
Publisher: UbiSoft
Developer: Telltale Games
Genre: Mystery
Release Date: 10/27/2009

Procedural dramas, America’s dishwashing soundtrack of choice, and 3rd party Wii games have quite a bit in common, so a procedural Wii game should come as no surprise. Procedurals, usually based around police work, hospitals, court rooms, or a wandering stranger who solves problems for people in trouble, have a simple formula. Something happens, there is a red herring or two, someone makes a witty quip, and the problem is solved, all within an hour. The regular cast escape without permanent harm or emotional damage and life goes on until the next episode. When I review a 3rd party Wii game, the formula is similar. Lucard sends it to me, I play it as much as I can tolerate, I write some witty quips, and my life goes on again like nothing happened.

This particular game should, if the formula holds true, be truly awful. It is not just a licensed game on the Wii, it is a sequel and a PC port. If ever there was a formula for agony, that would be it. Is CSI: Deadly Intent better than it sounds? Well, I guess we should investigate. Someone cue that “ËœDong’ sound.

What do you mean that’s Law and Order? Which one is CSI:?

Story
Of course I know which one CSI: is. CSI: is the show with a few really cool aspects. First off, it starred William Petersen, who starred in one of my favorite films of the 80’s, Manhunter. Second, all three shows in the franchise feature theme songs by the Who, which is pretty awesome. Thirdly, the CGI footage of the cause of death is one of TV’s darkest pleasures.

After last season, William Petersen was replaced with one of the very few actors who could one up his cult classic standing, Laurence Fishburne. Larry was in Apocalypse Now, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and the super great Assault on Precinct 13 remake. This game hinges on Fishburne’s character, the good Dr. Raymond Langston, and his crew of Las Vegas crime scene investigators as they work the night shift in Sin City. With a crew of quick witted scientists and cops working with you, your unnamed character must solve some truly sticky murders.

The game is broken down into 5 cases for you to solve. Each case is roughly equivalent in depth and complication to the “ËœA’ story on your average CSI: episode, with a few false starts and double crosses. Even without getting lost too often, each mystery is around an hour and a half, with the later cases taking even longer. For those who do not cheat, the solve time for each case will vary greatly, but the pace of the game dictates that it will still take at least an hour to solve any of the cases.

The writing is surprisingly tight. There are some pretty tense moments and the one liners vary between groan inducing and those worthy of stealing. The characters act consistently with their television counterparts, if a bit easier to deal with. None of the cases were particularly illogical, which is an important thing for a mystery game. While one murder was very obvious from the outset, there are enough twists to mirror the average episode you listen to while doing housework.

Story: GREAT

Graphics
When dealing with a point and click game, no matter the system, the most important thing is that the graphics are clear enough that items can be identified visually. This sounds fairly obvious, but I am amazed how often games get it wrong. CSI: Deadly Intent gets this aspect of graphic design just right. Backgrounds are detailed enough to look realistic, if not photo realistic, enough to put the focus firmly on finding the clues and investigating the murder. The individual items that are collected in the solving of the crimes are detailed and are never badly drawn enough to be ambiguous.

The character models are a different matter. When talking to Captain Brass, it is hard not to stare at the strange glassiness of his eyes and the strangeness of his mouth. Characters based on real actors look good as long as you are not up close, but in conversation, they are creepy mannequins, shaped right but wrong in a way that is hard to put a finger on. This is not to say they are bad, just off. You can instantly recognize all of the crew from the show, but some of the NPCs are unusual looking.

At the start of each case there is an animated sequence showing the murder, with the assailant out of frame. These animated sequences do a good job of communicating the evil of the act you are trying to solve without being as exploitive as they could be. As a bonus, the post mortem includes the CGI cause of death video I so enjoy from the television show, a nice touch to be sure. Another nice touch is the way some transitions are filled in with the footage of Vegas at night the show uses for such occasions. These little touches go a long way towards creating the illusion of participating on an episode of the show.

A major part of the game is analyzing clues on the computer. These sequences look great and really helped me get into the mood. Determining chemical compounds, matching fingerprints, and checking DNA had the distinct look of the show and really popped.

Graphics: VERY GOOD

Sound
When it came to the sound of this game, there was only one thing I was looking for. This game had to have good voice acting. They came through in spades. Each of the actors from the show does a good job and sounds like they were actually working, not making some money on a lunch break. It is very immersive to have a conversation with a character from the show, like Cap. Brass, and have the real actor cracking wise. A special shout out to Laurence Fishburne, whose dulcet tones make me wish he did more voice work.

The NPCs are more of a mixed bag. Some have very good voices, communicating the desperation, fear, and worry of someone involved in a murder investigation. Unfortunately, a few are lackluster, particularly a badly executed Southern accent that made me wish the voice’s owner would hurry up and confess.

Obviously they were not going to spring for the Who penned theme song for the show and music is not really that important to this type of game. What music there is in the game never distracts from the business at hand and fits into the music of the show. Honestly, it might even be the show’s score, for all I know. Either way, the music is not a big deal, the voice acting is.
Sound: VERY GOOD

Control and Gameplay
CSI: Deadly Intent is a point and click adventure game so, like with graphics, the most important aspect of control is whether or not it makes finding and dealing with clues easy or hard. Luckily, the WiiMote is a natural for point and click and it works well in this game. From collecting evidence to dusting for prints, the WiiMote does a great job of keeping up.

When used to play the Lab minigames, like matching chemical compounds, the controls are fine. The DNA match can be a bit of a hassle, but it was nothing some patience and a beer could not fix. While it can be fairly easy to find evidence, there are occasions when it is a pain to figure out exactly what it is you are doing with a piece of evidence. Persistence pays off, though.

Control and Gameplay: GOOD

Replayability
There are a total of five cases. Each case takes about an hour and a half. I would imagine the average player can finish this game in 10 hours or so. Within each case, there are Awards to be earned and you are rated on how efficiently you solved the case. All of this is fine and good, but I am not too worried about such ratings. As far as Awards go, it is time for a miniature rant.

When it comes to Awards, Medals, Trophies, or whatever you want to call them, I can barely see the interest in them on systems that share such information online. When it comes to one player games on the Wii, I see no reason to plug away at a game to earn awards no one, including myself really, will ever see. It is a cute idea, but the amount of replay it adds is negligible. I wish developers would focus more on the main gameplay than on Award systems, particularly on Wii games. Thank you.

All of that being said, after beating the game, I see no reason to go back. It might be fun to watch a non-gamer make their way through it, but that would be the limit of my long term interest in CSI: Deadly Intent.
Replayability: BELOW AVERAGE

Balance
I am not a mystery game player or a point and click enthusiast. These are genres I generally avoid. That being said, I never ran into a challenge I could not figure out in the process of beating this game. Thing is, I do not know how to rate this aspect.

I am the sort who regularly figures out plot twists on movies and TV shows. Hell, I have to put myself on mute when it comes to most any form of entertainment, lest I spoil them for everyone else. I enjoy trying to out guess the writers and see what is coming next. Maybe it is the writer in me. If you find yourself doing the same thing, this game will be very easy for you. If not, then this might be just the right amount of challenge for you.

Even if you do find yourself lost, there are plenty of hints along the way. Just asking your partner will almost always point you in the right direction. If that does not work, all you have to do is look at the locations and see which ones have been completed and which ones still hold clues.
Balance: ABOVE AVERAGE

Originality
This is a port of a sequel of licensed game based on a television series that borrows heavily from a number of other shows and movies. On top of that, the whole point and click mystery game thing goes back to the VGA days of PC games. This is not a game you are picking up because you are expecting the next new thing in gaming, this is the gaming equivalent of comfort food. There is nothing wrong with that.

Originality: POOR

Addictiveness
This is the rare case where being called unaddictive might be a compliment. If a player sits and blows through this game in one or two sittings, they are doing the material and themselves a disservice. By tackling the cases one at a time and taking breaks between each new case, the mood and spirit of the show is maintained and the game shines.

All of that being said, I had no problem putting this game down or picking it back up again. Not every game has to take over your life and make your wife a widow. As a light snack between blockbusters, this game does just fine.

Addictiveness: DECENT

Appeal Factor
Being based on one of the most popular shows on television cannot be a bad thing if you are trying to sell a game. That would be the reason for using this license instead of making an unlicensed point and click mystery title. In this case, they got it right. This game is a perfect rendition of the show it is based on. While the genre it represents is not popular, it is a niche with loyal fans. For fans of either, this game has a load of appeal. For an occasional viewer like myself, it still holds up.

Appeal Factor: VERY GOOD

Miscellaneous
The biggest factor of the game that does not really fit under the other headings is the pace. This is a very slow game, which I say in the most complimentary way possible. By taking slow and making the player wait, this title perfectly mirrors the source material. If the thought of a slow, meticulous mystery game frightens you, run away now.

Another talking point would be the content. Just like the show, this is a game with sex and violence, so the player must be prepared for some strange sexual couplings and having to deal with semen samples. This should not be a big deal, but I really appreciated the way this game handled mature subject matter.

Miscellaneous: VERY GOOD

The Scores
Story: Great
Graphics: Very Good
Sound: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Below Average
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal Factor: Very Good
Miscellaneous: Very Good
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary

I came into this game expecting a nightmare come to life. What I instead experienced is a very competent game that perfectly captures the source material without being a slave to it. Few licensed games capture the nuances of the characters and world like this one does. For the point and click mystery game player and fans of the show, this is a no-brainer. Anyone with a Wii and a passing interest in the show should definitely give this game a try, if only for the voice acting.