There are more murderous mysteries to solve, once again requiring the high-tech know-how and common sense conjecture of Las Vegas' Crime Scene Investigation team. As did the original CSI PC adventure, this Dark Motives follow-up places players in the role of the team's newest member, allowing them to interact with all the main characters from CBS' popular crime drama. Favorites such as Gil Grissom, Sara Sidle, and Warrick Brow all join players on the virtual cases, with voices supplied by the actors who portray them on television.
CSI: Dark Motives features five mysteries to be solved. Players will be challenged by cases involving an (allegedly) accidental death on a reality TV show, strange discoveries about the corpse of a homeless person, a possible Native American burial ground discovered in the construction of a new casino, an actress who is shot in the middle of her onstage performance, and an exotic animal that goes missing from a popular show. In each case, players must consult with their teammates and conduct thorough, point-and-click investigations of each crime scene.
In case you're unfamiliar with the TV series, CSI deals with the fictional experiences of a squad of criminalists attached to the Las Vegas police force. Using the latest equipment, and considerable diligence coupled with brainpower, they work to solve complex crimes that would leave lesser mortals completely baffled.
There's only some carryover related to the lives of the characters, and each episode (case) is self-contained. So, too, with the game. CSI 2 presents us with five distinct and varied cases. As with the show, each episode starts with the crime scene. Using a range of investigative techniques, and a little help from your friends, you proceed to the resolution, and even a final evaluation from Grissom. CSI 2 is rated "M" for mature, and appropriately so. If you won't let your child watch the TV show, then it's also not fitting for her/him to play the game.
Resolution has improved from last year's game, now at 800×600. Of course, by standards of today's cutting-edge action titles, this isn't very impressive. But for us adventure gamers used to more moderate expectations, this resolution is a nice step up and quite satisfactory.
Voice acting is outstanding, using cast members from the TV show, as is the script, obviously done by seasoned writers. Background sounds and music are soft and appropriate, not at all dominating or taking anything away from the flow of the game.
A number of initial options are available, not only the expected audio/visual selections, but also the choice of subtitles, more frequent auto saves, and an interesting range of difficulty choices. You may choose to have hotspots turn green when approaching a clue, or not; evidence tagged with a yellow flag to suggest going further, or not; automatic evidence questioning with suspects, or not; and a roaming tutorial in the initial case, or not. Although this may suggest the possibility of replay, unfortunately, since you already know the case disposition and perpetrator, there doesn't seem much point, except to increase your score. In that regard, Grissom puts you through a final evaluation, with trivia-type questions.
Although you will have interaction with suspects, your primary activity is to go pixel hunting. Reason and logic play a major role in your selection of where to hunt. Obviously, for example, you want to look around the precise location of the wrecked stunt motorcycle, rather than other places in the vicinity. However, some selections are less clear and require a good deal of thought, concentration, real immersion in the ebb and flow of the case. Although there's an overall linearity, you still have some options to return to certain locations, and you certainly have to pick up some clues before other successive options become opened.
Movement within a scene is limited to a 360-degree horizontal rotation, coupled with forward movement to portions that may hold clues or be of other interest. In other words, you are fairly directed where to go and can't aimlessly wander off the track too far. I found this feature more limiting than helpful.
The lower portion of the screen features a very efficient toolbar, showing locations you may visit, victim and suspect files, evidence collected and analyzed. You'll have eight tools for collection, ranging from swabs and gloves to electrostatic dust print lifter and adhesive specimen mount. Your seven detection tools range from a magnifying scope and UV light to luminol and nynhidrin. This may sound like science class and, to a large extent, it is.
When stumped or needing guidance, your associate on the case can be approached for advice. However, this counts against you in the final grading from Grissom! Yet I somehow found myself wanting to ask Catherine (voiced by Marg Helgenberg) a lot of questions - not so with the other helpers. I don't know why that was.
You'll also need to visit Greg at the lab to have evidence analyses completed, use some of the equipment yourself, and even see Doc Robbins on occasion for his appraisals. Finally, you'll work up to Captain Brass to see if you have enough for a warrant. He'll often send you packing. More work may be needed on the Evidence Trinity - an interesting guide to measuring progress among victim, suspects, and crime scene.
Comparisons may well be drawn between the two major detective series: CSI and Law & Order. My personal preference is for the Law & Order games. They feature a greater degree of personal interaction with suspects and seem to have more life and character - rather like the TV series. And, of course, the games are topped off with the courtroom component. CSI, like its spawning series, is dry, pedantic, almost classroom-like. It's also darker, both literally and figuratively. Playing CSI is a bit like doing a difficult crossword puzzle. You have to be in the right frame of mind, in a quiet place with no interruptions. Also, with CSI you have five cases, as compared to only the one in Law & Order. They're both fun, both very well done, but with different emphases. In that sense, both games represent their respective shows very nicely.
CSI 2 is an excellent sequel - with better graphics, twice the length, a greater degree of difficulty. If you like the show, detective adventure games, or complex and detailed thinking exercises, I'm sure you'll enjoy this series of cases with Gil Grissom and his CSI team.
People who downloaded CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Dark Motives have also downloaded:
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - 3 Dimensions of Murder, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Black Mirror, The, Law & Order: Justice is Served, Destination: Treasure Island, Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express
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