I just finished playing the game “CSI”, from Ubisoft, ported to the Mac by Aspyr. It lets players jump in the car with the characters from the show and investigate all-new crimes yourself, using the tools they use to solve the mysteries, interrogate people, and match up evidence.
If you like the TV show, and are familiar with everything about it, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, it will make it a little bit easier, as you’ll know which fancy UV-flash-lighty thing to use in various situations. You’re given a number of the tools that are familiar from the show – for things like dusting for prints, tweezers, gloves, and even a “sniffer” to pick up smells and trace elements in the air.
This game isn’t entirely like the TV show – you’re obviously not just sitting and watching this thing unfold. You play the part of an unnamed new intern who is thrown right into the case on the first night. After working with Grissom for a bit, you’ll work with various other members of the team on other cases. Each case is another “level” of the game, and you solve them one at a time. You’re not allowed to advance until someone is locked away.
If you’re not familiar with the TV show, you’ll still be able to play – the characters will give you plenty of help along the way. Whether or not you know the show, you’ll start the game off in the first level with a bit of training. The narrator tells you how to use the buttons on the bottom of the screen to pick up and examine items. Once you’ve finished examining the scene, they show you how to take evidence back to everyone’s favorite character – Greg, or you can get warrants and information from Detective Brass, or – if there’s a body – you can visit the morgue, for info about the body from the medical examiner.
At the beginning, the introduction can be a little tedious – they take you through everything, and they make sure that you know your way around. But even after the narrator stops talking, and you continue on in the game, the team member assigned with you on each case will be sure that you miss nothing, and will give you fairly obvious hints on what to do. Even though you might hit a dead end once in a while, when they say something, it’s usually almost too easy to figure out the next step. Sometimes, I felt as though I was being handed the answer to the problem. A Rubik’s cube isn’t any fun if someone solves it for you, is it? From what I can tell, there’s no difficulty setting in this game, so it may be too easy for some people.
The graphics of CSI are meant to give the player a sense that they’re standing within the setting of the show, and they do pretty well. The game’s engine uses some sort of Quicktime VR or equivalent to give the player a way to “spin” around and look at all parts of the room. Clicking on items in the room lets you go into other areas or zoom in on the area that’s clicked on. You’ll also see your partners and characters/victims/suspects animated in the scene. If you’re looking at an area, and want a closer view, keep in mind your tool belt has a magnifier tool.
The animated characters will talk to you, answering questions, and giving you clues. Sometimes the characters seemed a bit stiff, and some were even a bit comical (one guy slammed his fists on the table, paused for a second, and then shouted his protest – a bit awkward, if you ask me). The lip syncing was close to the voice, but didn’t quite match. The artists make a good effort of creating immersion, but there’s nothing remarkable or revolutionary about the graphics and animation in the game.
To further associate the game with the television series, they used the trademark “zoom in” shots that illustrate the crime in action – also referred to as “Reconstruction” shots in the game. They’re pretty impressive, and add a bit of realism. The Reconstructions are saved for you, and you can go back and review them again during the case at any time.
The sound and music were good, helped to enhance the feel of the game, and made it seem like the show that much more. At times, I had trouble hearing the dialogue, due to the almost overbearing music, even though I had turned it down in the options. If you have trouble in other games with the music getting in the way, there are closed captions that you can turn on, which I used. In a game, music should be ambient, and taking a back seat. But in “CSI”, it seemed to try to take over.
So, overall, I would give the game a “B”. It’s pretty cool to be next to Grissom and friends, cracking the case, but it tends to be too easy sometimes to crack these cases.
Breaking the score down: for gameplay, it’s an A, since it’s easy to figure out how to play; for graphics, it’s an B, because of the stiff animation, but still good realism; sound needed some work, so it gets a B. The originality of the cases in the game would get an A.
If you like the show, you’ll like this game. Its cases are good, original, and will remind you of the first couple seasons, but some may find it almost too easy at times. Keep in mind that it has an “M” rating, so you may want to keep your little ones away from it.
You can find more info about the Mac port of this game on Aspyr’s site, and can purchase it online for $30. Make sure you check your system meets the requirements: it requires almost 3 GB of space, in order to copy the contents of its 4 CDs to your computer, including the videos. There is no other option available in the installer. If you want to see how it will run on your Mac, you can use Aspyr’s new free GameAgent program.