C.S.I. Dark Motives

Review

posted 4/29/2004 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
One Page Platforms: PC
Jerry Bruckheimer’s television opus, CSI, is an unstoppable ratings powerhouse. The number one show in America clocks in more weekly viewers than the population of Switzerland, Singapore, and Libya combined. Aside from the original Las Vegas setting, The Magic City of Miami backdrops another immensely successful spinoff, and CSI has further plans to worm its way into the Big Apple. There are comic books, graphic novels, and also last year’s top-selling adventure game, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Despite lukewarm reception from gaming sites and publications, Ubi Soft garnered sufficient sales to warrant a second release. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Dark Motives is again voiced by the original cast and scripted by Max Allan Collins (who has, aside from his CSI credits, Road to Perdition and Dick Tracy fattening his writing resume.) All of which is convincing evidence for an authentic conversion from the television to the computer screen.

As the newest intern for the Las Vegas Crime Lab you’re immediately introduced to Gil Grissom, Head of the CSI Department. Grissom commends you on your fantastic grades, interjects some obscure Italian movie director reference, then gives you quick and dirty biographies on the rest of the team. Catherine Willows, his blood-splatter specialist, will partner up with you on the opening case, “Daredevil Disaster.”

Selecting beginner, advanced, or expert determines the level of difficulty you require to challenge your puzzle-solving strategy. The tutorial gives a limited overview regarding the range of actions you can undertake, though solving your first case is going to require a healthy dosage of trial-and-error. All the tools of the trade are at your disposal: cotton swabs, tweezers, electrostatic dust print lifters, fingerprint powder, as well as more exotic collection/detection tools. By your second mission you will be more confident in their implementation, but patience will be your greatest asset initially, not Mikrosil and Luminol.

You may turn to your partner for hints about suspects and evidence, but this will knock points off your final evaluation from Grissom once the case is closed. The questions available for you to ask your partner will appear onscreen (i.e., “What is there to learn from the beta tape images?”) However, the questions themselves are typically enough of a hint. Your partner isn’t going to hold your hand every step of the way, granted, but their advice often falls short of revealing anything too useful. This puts the mission’s success more into your own pocket rather than having a member of the cast blow the case wide open.

This is where a thin line between love and hate festers. Fans of the show are readily familiar with frequent dead ends and multiple misleads that can occur during an episode. There are likewise times when an entire case hinges on a single piece of evidence. Let it be no surprise then, such principles adhere in Dark Motives as well. Even an experienced puzzle gamer may hit a brick wall if a singular piece of evidence is overlooked or not fully processed. While not frequent even for a novice, such painful setbacks in the story’s momentum are still discouraging.

The scene of the crime will be presented in a 360-degree panoramic shot, although more locations will inevitably open as the case unfolds. Your mouse pointer will turn green as you scroll over an evidence hotspot. Zooming in and utilizing the right tool for the right job is critical. Employing tweezers when adhesive tape is required will have your partner quip in with vaguely helpful remarks like “We can’t use that here,” or “Try using a similar tool.”

A good chunk of the traces, prints, documents, and other general items you collect will be run past Greg Sanders in the lab for further processing. Although it looks like he got his hairdo from a drivethru at Supercuts, he is definitely your man when it comes to piecing together the evidence. His offbeat sense of humor complements the dry witticisms that pervade the majority of a CSI script. In the lab you’ll have access to a computer and a microscope image analyzer to accomplish some of the analytical grunt work yourself. Visually matching up fingerprint and DNA readouts are a couple of the undertakings that were conspicuously missing from last year’s CSI game.
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