Reviewed: December 13, 2007
Released: September 25, 2007
I’ve always been a fan of the show CSI since its first airdate some time ago, and when I found out that they were going to make games based off of the show I was extremely happy. There have been four CSI games made so far: three of them based off of the original show and the fourth based off of CSI: Miami. 369 Interactive held the reins for the first two Las Vegas CSI titles as well the Miami one, but in 2004 Telltale Games took over.
Telltale Games was founded back in 2004 and are the individuals behind the episodic Sam & Max: Seasons One and Two. Just last year Telltale Games and Ubisoft released their first CSI game “CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder” and changed the way players interacted with the crime scenes. Now Ubisoft and Telltale are at it again with this year’s release CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Hard Evidence for the PC.
CSI: Hard Evidence is a point and click adventure set in the world of our favorite CSI characters. You play as a new up and coming CSI rookie for each of the five episodes and are teamed up with one of the shows main characters for each one. If you have played any of the other CSI games then Hard Evidence should feel pretty much the same.
I have been playing adventure games for a long time, and spent countless hours in front of my computer screen solving them. As you can probably guess, I have played all of the CSI games to date. Among my current and past favorites is Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, Agatha Christie: Evil Under the Sun, and Myst.
CSI: Hard evidence uses the tried and true point and click interface. The onscreen HUD is very minimal consisting of only your PDA and the “Back” mouse icon. If you have played the last CSI title then Hard Evidence’s interface should be easy to pick up on.
The PDA in Hard Evidence is basically your means of using all the resources that you have at your disposal as a CSI. Here you can inspect evidence you have collected, review the case file, travel from one location to another and even adjust your game options. You have access to all the CSI locations from the show such as the Morgue, Lab and the newly added Garage. There will be several times where you get to inspect a suspect’s vehicle and I highly enjoyed this added feature. Another positive note is that the lab is much improved since the last title and much easier to navigate around. You also gain access to the Mobile Analysis Unit this time around and it appears in at least two of the cases.
You move around the Las Vegas locales by clicking on the area a green arrow is present. One of the improvements from the last CSI title was the more advanced 3D looking system. The previous title 3 Dimensions was the first to implement this feature but they have refined it this time around. This is actually a vital part of Hard Evidence as you may easily miss something if you don’t look over every area. Looking around is done by simply moving your cursor to the left or right edge of the screen. Not only can you look around your environments but you can look at specific items with greater maneuverability than before. Once zoomed in on an object you can look at the item from various angles by moving the cursor to the top, bottom, left and right edges of the screen.
Gathering evidence and clues is again pretty much the same as previous titles so nothing has really changed there for last year’s release. Although I do want to point out that important evidence or clues missed if you do not examine the evidence and even the locales more closely. Trust me there were a few times where I almost missed a piece of evidence that I luckily spotted during a second pass through that location.
One of my favorite things about CSI: Hard Evidence is the interrogations. You can pretty much ask the questions in any order if there is more than one. They do not affect gameplay in any way by asking them out of order so that is a nice bit of change of pace. Also certain questions only become available after you find new information or evidence. So you will spend a great deal of time revisiting suspects and even revisiting locations. Also another feature that I liked was that you often had to get several warrants for the same character if needed. These warrants vary from questioning, location and arrest warrants and give you a more realistic experience.
Besides the interrogations, the evidence collecting is pretty fun. You have 16 total tools to help you find and collect evidence. These tools are broken up into two categories, Detection and Collection. A few of the Detection tools featured are a flashlight, Ultraviolet Light and my personal favorite, the USB Data Drive. One the Collection side you have your trusty gloves, Swabs and even a camera. About halfway through my first case I found myself swabbing fluid from a used condom and found myself closing my eyes and just shaking my head. That was certainly not one of my most memorable moments I’ll tell you that.
There is one thing that I will mention that will add a bit of difficulty to the gameplay. Hard Evidence is defaulted to giving you a hand so to speak on solving the cases. When there is evidence to be collected at a location or more evidence on a piece of evidence, an example of this being a fingerprint on a gun, the icon whatever it may be will turn green. Also when you have completely inspected an item a green checkmark is tagged to that item. All these helpful features can be turned off as to make it a little harder for you to just skim through.
The graphics of CSI: Hard Evidence are much improved from the previously titles. They aren’t over the top by any means but they do look pretty good. While the environments were mostly static there were nice touches such as a nicely illuminated pool. I also was pleased by the different surface textures and shadowing such as the reflective surface of the morgue locker doors, various shadows being casted on objects by the sun, and even that eerie green light on the wall behind Grissom’s desk. I was also very pleased that Hard Evidence could support my 1680 x 1050 resolution monitor in true widescreen mode.
CSI: Hard Evidence not only has very cool little intro video when you start up the game, but also several cut screens as well. If you are a fan of the show then you are familiar with the panning city camera shots that are done periodically throughout episodes when they are venturing to a new location or what have you. Well they incorporated that same visual style into Hard Evidence giving you a deeper experience and they act as a temporary load screen. Alongside these little clips are reconstruction movies that often are used to theorize the events of your cases. They again serve to engross you farther into the experience and this is always one of the things I liked so much about the shows.
The sounds are probably one of my favorite things about CSI: Hard Evidence. It probably has something to do with the show’s cast doing the voiceovers. However for the second time Catherine and Sara’s voices are done by sound-alikes Edie Mirman and Kate Savage. The little sounds like the crinkling when you pick up items to the sounds used when you are taking information from a suspect’s computer are much appreciated.
The background music while it was often repetitive gave you a sense of urgency and even a few moments of pity and sorrow occasionally. I really like the little musical number in the Shock Rock case particularly. That was something that I don’t really remember seeing in any of the previous titles and think it was a nice touch.
CSI: Hard Evidence took me roughly about 10-12 hours to complete all the way through. Of course, I took my time making sure I walked away with a Master ranking in each case. This title is really a one-time through deal but you can replay each case over again if you don’t get that Master ranking the first time through.
Hard Evidence allows for several profiles to be saved so you don’t have to worry about someone erasing your file at least. There is even a special incentive for getting Master rankings on all the cases. But you’ll just have to play for yourself to find that one out for yourself. CSI: Hard Evidence retails for $30.00 dollars and I would definitely give it a try if you are a fan of the previous titles.
All in all at the end of the day I had a satisfying experience. I have always been a fan of both the show and the games and this one doesn’t disappoint. Hard Evidence is full of the show’s quirky one-liners and retains the shows visual style for a very entertaining environment. I still cannot get that condom part out of head and Shock Rock has to be my favorite case out of the five. I would definitely recommend this title to any fans of the previous games and the show. If you have never played a CSI game, then you don’t know what you’re missing.