Fans of the leading CBS crime drama join virtual versions of Gil Grissom, Catherine Willows, and the rest of the Las Vegas Crime Scene Investigation team, to apply cutting-edge forensic methods and good, old-fashioned police work toward the solution of a deviously puzzling murder case. As in earlier CSI adventures, an accessible point-and-click interface allows players to speak with other characters and examine noteworthy objects, but unlike previous games in the series, 3 Dimensions of Murder runs on a real-time 3D game engine that allows for more complete, enveloping interaction in each crime scene. CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder was developed by the veteran computer adventure crafters at Telltale Games.
Not many television shows can claim to have affected the criminal justice system, but prosecutors these days are finding it more difficult to get convictions from juries in cases where little physical evidence exists, with defense attorneys playing up a lack of DNA evidence for their clients. All because of a series of television shows called CSI (it's called the "CSI effect," in fact). Unsurprisingly, videogames based on the show continue to appear, and the latest, CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder ("CSI 3D"), puts you in the role of a new criminalist in Las Vegas to solve five new cases with the original crew.
One of the big selling points with CSI 3D is the move to a 3D environment, but it's a bit misleading to call it that. You won't be running around freely like you've come to expect with 3D games, but rather you're limited to pivoting in place at key hotspots and rotating objects. The environmental graphics are decent, but the character graphics look about four years old. People stand stiffly and they have "plastic" hair; it's even more noticeable in the recreations of the cast members.
The voice acting is as uneven as the graphics. The non-CSI characters are fine and sound like they were recorded in a proper studio. The voiceovers for the main cast, however, are the audio equivalent of a train wreck. Eric Szmanda sounds like the only one who really gave it his best effort; Gary Dourdan and George Eads are so bad, you can't help but wonder if they had just been told they were fired from the next season; and the voices for Catherine Willows and Sara Sidle (not performed by Marg Helgenberger and Jorja Fox) are like nails on a chalkboard. Even the best efforts aren't enough to salvage what sound like recordings done in a noisy garage while standing ten feet from the microphone. We've heard amateur machinima that sounds better.
Since the CSI series is the sort of concept just ready-made for adventure games, good gameplay could've salvaged this title. The mini-mystery format -- searching for and then analyzing clues, questioning suspects -- is all stuff you'd already expect in any point-and-click adventure game. In fact, CSI 3D does this well. Each of the five mysteries begins with Gil giving you a quick rundown of what your crime scene looks like. You'll visit the crime scene and question any suspects or witnesses and collect evidence. Then it's back to the lab. As you uncover more clues, new locations might become available, along with new witnesses to question.
The real downside to this is that you can't fail. You'll always uncover the real criminal, and you never have to worry about contaminating evidence using incorrect procedures. The game leads you along on rails and is more like a TV show than it should be. It would've been nice to actually be penalized for using the wrong tools and let you run the risk of actually screwing up the case. As it is, it's so easy, the game even narrows down the tools you need when you find a new clue, has your CSI overseer (one of the main characters of the show) tell you where a clue should be analyzed if you pick the wrong machine, and provides a hint feature that will give you a breakdown of what you need to proceed. While these hints are nice to keep you from being stuck for too long, it also gives you so many answers that it makes the game little more than a clickable version of the show.
We experienced a few minor bugs during our testing, such as dialogue overlapping or repeating, and a flub where a Glock 22 was referred to as a twenty-two caliber pistol, made all the more amusing by a character going to great length to mention the ultra-realism of the weapons in their game (which became doubly amusing in a video flashback showing the gun with an external hammer).
If there's a single word to describe CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder, it would be "uneven." It's a faithful recreation of the TV show, but that isn't really a positive endorsement. TV shows are passive entertainment; computer games are not. Unless you just love everything CSI-related, give this one a pass.
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