by TellTale Games; Ubisoft
Jud’s Game Rating:
Graphics: ***** Player participation (PP) **** Satisfaction Factor (SF) *****
Frustration Factor (FF) *
At last – fantastic Graphic Clarity!! And fantastic colourful graphics altogether. Highest SF for that alone. But it is also earned by the Game play, the storylines, the characters and their voices, the locations, and the overall integrity of the Game. This is a significant step up again from CSI:HARD EVIDENCE in many ways – a refinement if you like – but there is a negative to that as well, that stops me saying “This is my fave Game!”.
The Game Refinements should cover everything except Player Participation. But the PP has been eroded in the ‘collection of evidence’ area. It has been modified and increased a little in the Crime Lab, but out in the field, and when collecting Trace from collected Items, much of the collection is done automatically. This is a mistake! One of the key factors for the selection of Games to buy, is the degree of Player Participation – it is the name of the game. Players do not want their opportunities to participate to be diminished – rather they want MORE participation. As I go through the various parameters of the Game I will indicate more specifically where this problem lies.
This Game opens perfectly in Windows 7, from the Hard Drive via the Short Cut Icon on the Desktop. There are no Patches to be downloaded, as this is done automatically – Autopatch – by Ubisoft as you open the Game.
The Tutorial is in Main Menu, Options (check out all the settings there before you start) under Game Settings, for first-timers who wish to learn how to play the Game, or for those who need a refresher course. This is great as it doesn’t intrude into the Game play – once started you don’t want any interruptions – except for nourishment and libations!!
The Cursor Arrow is slightly smaller than in HARD EVIDENCE, and turns Blue not Green when it moves over a Hotspot – as is, and does, the Tool Box. Being smaller is not necessarily a good thing – it means that the surface area used to search the evidence or the scene is less and you can more easily miss the Hotspot. FF
To Access the Main Menu, Options, Quit etc during play, you go to Options on your PDA which is also once again the access to Locations, Evidence, and Case Files. The PDA is less in your face than in HARD EVIDENCE but is still covering a section of the scene, as is the Mouse-shaped RIGHT CLICK/BACK box – used to back out of locations, equipment, and close-ups, but not dialogue – on the other side, bottom left and right. This makes it a little difficult to access all the scene for evidence collection, despite the panning action. However you will find that any part of the scene that you really can’t access, thankfully contains no evidence!
In the PDA, all Evidence goes into the one file – not split up into Trace, Documents and Items as in earlier Games. Rather they go in as you collect them, mixed up but in chronological order, with green tags when completed. But they are very easy to see, and to access, and it saves a lot of time and messing around. It was a little inefficient and time-consuming before, having to go to Evidence, then back to Tools select the right Detection Tool then go back to the Evidence to use it on it, then back to Tools to get the Collections Tool then back again – you get the picture! So the FF is decreased by this new method.
In the PDA, the LOCATIONS are: Crime Scene/s, Lab, Brass’s Office, Interrogation Room, Morgue, Crime Lab Garage. These are well-depicted, with good realism and attention to details, whether fancy, cluttered, plain, or grungy. In CASE FILES there are: Victim, Suspects, Stats, Reconstructions, and Email. In this last one, you receive regular ‘suggestions’ emails from Catherine Willows which you can either ignore if you are going okay, or read if you are stuck!
The Crime Lab is now divided into two locations – the MATERIALS LAB: Assembly Table, Comparison Microscope/Document Analyser, DNA/Chemical Analyser; and the DATA LAB: Fingerprint/Medical Records Data Based Computer, and the Audio/Video Computer. Tip: When using the Comparison Microscope you need to show the identical part of the evidence in each scope – for example, the same segment of a key – rather than overlapping them to form one image. This piece of info will save you much FF – as the natural tendency is to try to show it’s a match by joining the item-image together. Tip: The glass shards of the Ashtray need to be assembled on the Assembly Table in the Lab. Only then can you brush it for FINGERPRINTS.
Occasionally, Jim Brass will pass on messages to you by cell phone – for example inform you when someone is available for interview, or provide info you may have asked him to check. Pop-ups also tell you when a Warrant is available from Brass; or when a location has been fully searched. This saves you from continuing to look for evidence, when you already have it all. You can double check that as you move to another location by noticing that the locations that are complete have been green tagged.
In these Games, you no longer have to collect Bugs for Grissom – he has retired from CSI. In his place is Dr Raymond Langston. However, in each Case you are asked to check some evidence, for a Colleague, or another Police Officer, using a different piece of Lab Equipment for each Item.
The way of using Brass’s Office is different now. You are not given a choice of texts, but circled images representing the Suspects you may want to interview, or Locations or Items you want checked. Then you have to back it up with the Evidence – displayed in a pop-up row from which you can choose one – to justify your request. If it is enough to obtain a Warrant to search premises, or bring in someone for questioning, then Brass lets you proceed.
In the Interrogation Room – in fact in any of the Dialogues with any of the characters at all locations – this is also the visual method used. You choose from a row of circled images the question you want to ask. Some are straightforward and gain replies. It is only when proof is required of the reason for your question, that you must then choose from a piece of evidence to back it up. Tip: Click on the glass shard when talking with the Victim’s best friend in the Interrogation Room, even though you know you don’t have all of it yet, as this will allow you to move on and collect the last piece of glass. You can also access the last person questioned, by going directly to the Interrogation Room – though sometimes they have left the room and must be recontacted via Brass’s Office.
In this Game, even though you may know where the line of investigation is going, you cannot bypass steps and go straight to it. You may think you have done it all, but if the Game is not allowing you to move forward, go back to the old faithful mantra – CHECK,CHECK, AND THRICE CHECK! Sometimes it is just a matter of going back and forth between Brass and locations, or evidence checks, a few times, to pick up the odd piece of Dialogue, before proceeding.
NB: This can cause FF, and could be made a little easier to negotiate given some thought by the Game Programmers. Those that have worked it out should be able to bypass the trivia and cut to the chase, while those who haven’t can access the slower route.
NB: It would be good if the PDA and MOUSE/BACK box could be made to ghost perhaps, so the scene could still be seen through them. It could then become fully visible when clicked. Besides, the MOUSE/BACK box is hardly needed. It indicates to the Player that it is necessary to Right Click, something I think they can all grasp. But if it is necessary as a constant reminder, for some obscure reason that I am struggling to find, then at least it could be barely visible. Ghost it – please!
NB: There is a small FF problem with collecting Trace Evidence from some of the Items in the Evidence file. The Tool Box Cursor won’t respond to the Left Click when the Hotspot is found, or disappears before you can click! Eventually, you are able to overcome this, but it is very frustrating as it won’t allow you to proceed till you have collected and processed the evidence, which you know is there, and some cases can quite easily see, but to which the Cursor will not react.
The Tool Box changes colour to blue, then when clicked pops open, on the located Hotspot, whether out on location or when checking evidence for Trace within the Evidence File. The number of tools available are drastically reduced however, in the long rectangular window, and are arranged in 4 mini boxes – COLLECTION: Swab, and Adhesive Specimen Mount; FLUIDS: LCV and Luminol; FINGERPRINTS: brush, magnetic powder, and Ninhydrin; and CASTING: Mikrosil, and Casting Plaster. The possible choices are highlighted in each box – so you still have to make the right choice, but they have reduced the odds for you. Unnecessary! Also the amount of collection has been reduced – e.g in Case 2 there is only one use of Luminol on the Katana blade in Evidence, and two uses of the Swab for blood collection. These reductions diminish the PP.
Auto Collection is a problem. All evidence is Auto Photographed before it is collected, instead of being able to click on the camera and then on the scene – not a lot I know, but a degree of participation. If clicked on, Items are Auto-collected by a gloved hand. After you dust for them, either with the brushes or with Ninhydrin, Fingerprints are automatically lifted/collected for you – photos of them being taken as well. Although you can swab blood or other liquids at a crime scene yourself, if you need to spray Luminol or LCV on the sample, then it is auto-collected for you. If you ask Al Robbins at the Morgue, or ask a Suspect for a DNA Swab, or Fingerprints sample, then it is auto-collected and presented to you. There are no Flashlights and Magnifiers, so when you click on a hair the Game automatically zooms in and collects it with tweezers for you. These all contribute to lack of PP and consequently to additional FF. It takes the Fun out of it, and should drop the SF as a consequence. All evidence goes automatically into the Evidence file of course.
However, I just love the way the Fingerprints are processed – selecting 5 points then searching, then using drag and drop to place the print over the samples, or over prints of other suspects in your file. I also love the way the DNA is done in this Game – placing bits of DNA over empty bars of found samples or other suspects’ DNA. Then there is the Chemical Analysis – also very interactive, and fun – selecting bars of chemicals to match the bars in the evidence. Huge SF!
The SpaceBar is used (double tap)to fast forward through each Dialogue – especially when it keeps repeating the same replies when you recheck a scene, or think the character has more to add. Or if they are taking too long, or are downright annoying! But once again I suggest you use it with caution. I am not sure if this Game will freeze from overuse of the Space Bar, but earlier Games certainly did.
The Storylines, as I said at the beginning, are great. Once again they are longer and more complex, with twists and turns, making the player use their ‘little grey cells’ to work things out. The Characters have individual traits – the Motel Manager in Case 5, is on edge, nervous, twitchy, and stutters his dialogue. He also sniffs and scratches indicating to the player that he snorts drugs. This kind of character portrayal is typical throughout the Game, in all the Cases. Some are perhaps stereotypes, but you are left in no doubt who you are dealing with.
The Location, Costume and Scenic Graphics are detailed and delightful. Once again the outdoor locations display great panning Diaramas, that you can take for granted or admire as you go. The animation of the characters is also extremely well done – they move smoothly, lip-sync well, have credible facial expressions, and are voice-dubbed authentically. Huge SF!
Case 1: BROKEN HEARTED
Still wearing her wedding gown, a bride is found in the Cupid Suite of Aurelia’s Fantasy Suites, sprawled in a pool of blood, with a shard from a broken heart ashtray protruding from her neck. The groom is missing, and there is no form of identification anywhere in the room. A distressed Hotel Manager stands nearby. But all is not what it seems!
Case 2: COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER
A Referee for the Supreme Force Fighting League lies, battered and strangled with the microphone cord, Centre Ring after a controversial Championship Title Bout. The loser, disqualified for a Technical Foul, ranting and raging in the locker room, is the most likely suspect.
Case 3: LAST GASP
The Celebrity Host of ‘Roomers’ Live from the Showroom of the Silver Skies Casino, is found drowned in the spa at Twilight Palms Rehabilitation Centre. There to sober up from a drinking problem, it seems that she was not only drinking in the spa, but her drink had been spiked. Did she do it to herself; was it an accident; or was she held under?
Case 4: EXTINGUISHED
A fire-breather has died at his rehearsal space, beside a running generator, from what looks like carbon monoxide poisoning. A local celebrity in remission from cancer of the throat, with a new baby in the family to live for, has he snuffed himself out?
Case 5: CRIME SCENE IMPERSONATOR
A female impersonator, Marcelle, lies in what looks like a drunken stupor, on her back staring up at the lights on the stage of her night club – Marcelle’s Club. On the floor nearby is an empty bottle of whisky. There are no signs of a robbery, but she has ligature marks on her wrists and ankles. And she is dead! This investigation brings back a retired police officer seen very briefly in Case 3, and opens up a Cold Case.
This Game is highly enjoyable – SF to the Max – and providing you keep the FF at bay by checking everything carefully, should provide hours of fun.
For Walkthroughs of this Game go to UHS Hints at: www.uhs-hints.com/
(C) Copyright Jud House 29/05/2011 – Updated 17/09/2012
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