Law & Order Legacies
Publisher: TellTale Games
Developer: TellTale Games
Release Date: 01/24/2012
When I got to review the first three episodes or chapters of Telltale Games newest take on a media franchise, Law& Order Legacies, I really enjoyed it. Telltale’s style and set-up really work well in brining the show to the PC, and I like that you could pick and choose your cases or just play them all. Well it’s a new month and we have 2 new cases to take on. As most of what I’d written before will still apply here, anything from the previous review will be in italics. Will the newest cases further my interest in this series, or kill it dead? Let’s take a look.
Law & Order Legacies deals with seven separate cases. Three of these are available at the start, which I’ve already reviewed here, I’m dealing with four and five now, and six and seven should be out soon. They’ve chosen an interesting mix of characters from the show, including Lennie Briscoe, one of the more famous detectives portrayed by the late Jerry Orbach on the original show, Olivia Benson from the spin-off series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Rey Curtis a former partner of Lennie Briscoe, Mike Logan, one of the original Law & Order characters who re-appeared later in a TV movie as well as Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Abbie Carmichael, one of the District Attorneys from later in the show’s run, Adam Schiff, the original head District Attorney from the start of the show before a few rotating DA’s went through and Jack McCoy took over, Jack McCoy of course, and his replacement Michael Cutter, and finally Lt. Anita Van Buren, the long time head of the precinct the original show was based out of. Overall it’s an interesting choice and mix of characters, with several fan favorites from nearly every series (three of the series’ were overlooked: Law & Order LA, Law & Order Trial By Jury even though Briscoe was in Trial By Jury for a short time. and Law & Order UK), and while I would have loved to see Detective Goren and Eames from Criminal Intent as well as Munch and Fin Tutuola from Special Victims Unit, that’s just me playing favorites.
One of the things the show has been more about over the years is the ‘ripped from the headlines’ cases themselves, with a few smatterings of character development among the ensemble casts. This kind of happens within the game, with mentions to old cases and a little play back and forth between the characters, which works fine. Episode Four is another flashback episode that takes place at the turn of the Millenium with Briscoe and Rey investigating the murder of a child that spirals out into the Mother’s apparent overdose with an eager but over-reaching Parenting help group making things difficult behind the scenes. Episode Five is back in present day with Curtis and Benson investigating the murder of a woman where the only reliable witness is her blind son. Both cases have some interesting twists to them in the cases thesmselves and in the courtroom as well. Both cases have a trailer at the end with more pieces to the over-arching case attached, adding more needed information. Briscoe, Benson, and Cutter really shine in these two cases, really filling the shoes of their tv show counterparts in a good way.
Visually, Telltale has gone for an almost cartoon style, but without any outer lines. The characters all look like their show counterparts, and the look gives the game that gritty feel the show had. There are a few issues with some weird facial animations and the ever-present mouth not moving along with the dialogue that seems to be plaguing so many games these past few months. For the most part things play out with a fixed camera focusing on who’s talking. When you investigate a scene, you get to move through it looking for clues. This is really the only time the game feels like a 3D game as opposed to a 2D one, and the crime scenes are usually pretty detailed and make you work for your clues. Other than some of the weird facial animations and the mouth sync issues, I didn’t have any other problems. It’s pretty solid in this area.
Audibly there’s a little bit of a disconnect for me. Not one member of any of the Law & Order TV cast does their own voiceovers in the game. Not one. If you’ve never watched a single episode of Law & Order or its spin-offs that might not be a big deal, but I’d question why you haven’t. Now, obviously, they can’t get Jerry Orbach to come in and do a reading, but it would have been nice to have a few of them here. The voice actors that they did get do a passable job. They don’t go so far as to mimic the actual show’s voices, but still try to make the characters play out like they might on the show itself. Some of the scenes and dialogue come off a little flat, especially the “Ëœred herring’ moments that pop up here and there. More importantly, though, the main theme from the show written by Mark Post is here to start off the game as well as “Ëœthe sound’ that pops up whenever a scene card appears on the screen. You know “Ëœthe sound’. You’re hearing it right now in your head. It’s become iconic and every iteration of the show has used it, and I was glad they didn’t skimp on it or the theme like a few other adventure games based off cop shows have done. I’m looking at you CSI: NY.
Controls in the game are pretty simple. Your mouse is going to be doing the work. You use it to scroll in crime scenes, to circle objects you think are clues, to select menu options, and, well, that’s about it. Like I said, simple. The gameplay features an interesting mix. Like the show, the game is divided into two separate but equally supporting sections, the police who investigate crime, and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. The detective portion is a mix of interviewing witnesses and investigating crime scenes. When interviewing, you have a series of options, usually with a red herring question thrown in there that has no real bearing on the case, but you get a cute pop-up telling you that you found the herring. As you ask questions and get deeper into the interview or interrogation, it’ll start asking you if you believe the person you’re talking to. If you answer incorrectly it’s a strike against you. The game keeps track of your conversations, like a detective’s notebook, and you can open it to go back and see what people have said to you and verify it before you answer. It will then ask you why you don’t believe or do believe them. You have to get so many of these right per interview or interrogation to continue, but there are plenty of responses to get right if you don’t muck it up too badly. If you completely fail out of a conversation you can replay it over again to get a better score. Investigating the scene puts you into a 3D view where you can move the camera back and forth along a rail-style system. You can’t look just anywhere, but you can zoom in and out a bit and move through the crime scene. To pick out a clue you simply circle it with your mouse. You are only given a few of these, though, so if you get it wrong while you’re investigating you can screw things up even more.
After a few screw-ups I decided I wasn’t cut out to be a detective as I kept forgetting details and didn’t check my notebook first, but I do make a good prosecutor. With 5 cases under my belt now, I am finally getting a little better at playing the detective. The trial plays out a bit similarly to the detective section as far as conversations go while you’re doing the examining on the stand. Going after the right questions and the witness for the right reasons wins you points with the jury. When the defendant’s attorney is active you have another system in place: Objections! In almost any Law & Order series, the attorneys representing the defendant’s are almost always over-reaching or trying to pull underhanded tricks, and they’ve put that into this section of the game. After they ask questions, the game asks you if you want to object to something and why you’re objecting. If you’re objecting to something factual you lose points, if you’re objecting but got the reasoning wrong and you should have objected you don’t really gain or lose, and if you object with the right reason you gain more points with the jury. If you’re doing terrible in the case, you can try to plea bargain it out, but you’re going to have issues getting real justice. If you’re slaughtering them in the courtroom you can reach a plea deal with all the cards in your favor, or you could let the jury decide. I thought this whole mechanic was brilliant, and depending on how bad you did investigating and how bad you did in the courtroom it can really end badly for you, or you could salvage it with your prosecution. I was actually more on edge in the courtroom scenes than I was during the detective portion and I loved every minute of it.
You do get scored as you go along, so if you’re not very good, there’s always room for improvement, or if you’d totally blown the case you can go back in and redo it to try and get the “Ëœgood’ ending. This is probably one of the first TellTale Games where I’d go back and replay it expecting to get a different result. In Puzzle Agent 2 you could replay the puzzles, but the other games all had the same result; here you can get varying results as you play, which is great, as it reflects the show. McCoy never won all the cases and the detectives didn’t always manage to find all the evidence.
The notebook can feel a little like cheating, so if you want more of a challenge, you could try going off memory like I did at first, then go back to the notebook when you’ve completely forgotten most of the little details. Being able to redo interviews and interrogations can kind of kill the challenge a bit, but again, that’s more player choice and how easy or hard you want to make the game for yourself. For a fan of the show who doesn’t play games all that much, the difficulty level is perfect. Having gotten 5 out of the seven cases so far, and really enjoying what we have gotten, I’d say the $20 for the season pass is more than perfect, it’s almost bargain basement for what you’re getting here. I still hold that if they’d charged just a little more and brought in the actual actors for voiceovers I’d have loved it even more, but for what we’re getting the price is perfect.
While I don’t remember every case they’ve ever done on the shows, these don’t feel like rehashes of episodes at all. From the info they have out there the seven cases should all be tied in together in some way as well, which you didn’t get much of in the shows. Sure you had a few crossover cases, maybe some recurring “Ëœvillains’ on a few seasons, but never 7 cases that were all linked somehow. The mixing of the cast hasn’t been done quite like this either. While Benson has popped over for a guest shot before, as well as Briscoe and Logan, they’d almost always been a quick in and out, and never for a whole case. So they’ve mixed things up a bit while still keeping to the show’s feel. The courtroom mechanics are interesting as well and a lot of fun to play through.
It’s very easy to get caught up in these cases, just like it is to get entrapped by the show by just catching the teaser at the front end of the show. The time flew while I was playing through these cases. It was very easy to lose track of time and then come up for air wondering where the three hours went. It was a fun and quick diversion and I couldn’t stop playing it. I think the price tag will help this series as well as having so many different members from the various Law & Order shows represented here. Lots of fans will like being able to revisit with Briscoe in a new case and actually getting involved in the cases as well. The game is simple enough that anyone can play it, so its easily accessible that way, but there’s also enough going on that people looking for a bit of a challenge can give themselves one as well. That and it runs smoothly. I didn’t have any issues with the mouse and aside from the weird animations the game was fantastic to play.
Graphics: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Good
Originality: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Good
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
My nitpicks the first go around still stand over the voice acting, but I do love the mechanics of bringing the crime scene and the courtroom to life that give Law & Order Legacies a definite gritty cop show feel. It still feels like an episode of the show as you play and rewards you for showing attention to detail, something crucial on a case. You can still replay sections if you completely screw them up, lending it that video game feel that you wouldn’t have outside of this medium. This is a solid showing from TellTale and if you’re a Law & Order fan, a courtroom or investigative fan or even just an adventure fan, worth a look.
Tags: Law & Order, Law & Order Legacies, telltale games