November 23, 2010
When a game spawns a sequel, it’s usually a sign of high quality and/or impressive sales. It’s hard to imagine that either of these things hold true for the CSI games, which have been a poor man’s point and click adventure since their inception on the Xbox 360, replete with dodgy storylines, dated graphics and only a semblance of interactivity. Despite all of that though, we’re now presented with the third game in the series and a vague hope that someone, somewhere, has done a bit of detective work on how to make the game fun to play. Watch out detective, there’s a conspiracy afoot... a Fatal Conspiracy. Baddumtish.
Despite the struggles the game seemingly has, it’s fair to say that the CSI TV series is amazingly popular, spawning a plethora of spin-off shows like there’s no tomorrow; shows which are basically more of the same but in a different city. That’s kind of how this game feels as well – just more of the same but with a different plot. Once again, you’re tasked with solving five varied cases, all the while utilising the various crime scene tools at your disposal to uncover the killer. While this in theory sounds intriguing, in practice, it never quite reaches the level of an interactive episode that fans probably wish it would do.
Part of the issue with CSI: Fatal Conspiracy is the poor pacing of each case, and the dubious dialogue that accompanies it. Most of the voice-work seems to have been phoned in as well, as none of the characters ever seem that emotional, even when confronted by a guilty suspect or making a key breakthrough. You’d think that if someone was being accused of murder, that they’d raise their voice above a mere monotone, right?
The plots are as ridiculous as you would expect too, with a woman being killed in a mud bath, a man leaping off an unfinished casino and a burn victim being killed off; making up three of the game’s five cases. Each case has a few suspects along the way, and you’ll be helped in your endeavours by one of the series regulars along with the ever present, Brass, who’s in charge of waffling and signing warrants. The problem is that none of the characters seemed fleshed out enough and it’s only when you finally find the killer that some kind of convoluted motivation comes tumbling out. With a bit more time and some better scripts, this could have been far more engaging.
Even playing the game is a lesson in frustration. Each case has a variety of fairly static locations, where you can question suspects, search for evidence and generally get to the bottom of things. As you uncover new evidence you get the chance to interrogate suspects and hopefully open up new avenues of investigation. The problem comes in the fact that some evidence can be a touch on the small side, so you literally have to scour every inch of a crime-scene to make sure you didn’t miss anything. A process that soon gets old.
Once you find evidence, you get to use one of four types of tools to collect it; although the process is generally obvious, if all else fails, it can easily just become a case of trial and error. Then the busy work starts, as you get to head back to the lab and use one of the various pieces of equipment to match up blood, fingerprints, marks and such, in order to find that killer bit of evidence. This is all well and good, but none of the machines provide much entertainment – be it matching up colour coded DNA or fiddling with a microscope to see if a certain bit of wire matches a laceration mark. You’ll end up repeating the same few steps throughout each case as well, and no new mechanics are ever really introduced to mix things up. By the time you finish the last case, it’ll be more likely you feel relief that the game is over rather than any kind of satisfaction.
Once again though, you can look forward to another one thousand Gamerscore with the bare minimum of effort. The list is basically the same as the last game in the series, with points on offer for completing each case, as well as undertaking a specific task in each; usually something that requires you to do a bit more investigating than you would normally need to. All of the other points are for getting high scores in terms of thoroughness, cunning and skill – although this is amazingly easy and you can get all of them on the very first case should you so desire. Again, not really a lot of imagination on show here, though even casual gamers will probably get pretty much everything done.
With three games down now, CSI: Fatal Conspiracy just goes to prove that no lessons have been learned from the previous outings, as this is still a rushed and haphazard experience. The game is still unbelievably shallow and does nothing to keep you engrossed in each case, plus the graphics are often laughable at the best of times. If you were to play this side by side with either of the other games in the series, you’d struggle to tell them apart. That right there is the real disappointment, as in order for a series to grow, there has to be a constant re-evaluation of the game rather than just shovelling out the same old thing time after time. Maybe fans will have some fun, but for the rest of us, this is something to avoid. Like the plague.
Dubious dialogue but decent voice-work, however, everyone seems to be phoning it in, so the overall effect is that no-one really cares – an odd feeling when you are supposedly confronting a murderer.
Dull, static backdrops and woeful character animations do not make for pleasant viewing. The reconstructions are laughable rather than engrossing too.
Click on objects, then take them to the lab to click on them some more. That’s pretty much it and there’s more entertainment in actually watching the show.
The game does try to stay faithful to the show, but the poor stories, bad graphics and dull mechanics all drag things back down.
Any list that lets you snag most of the points after the first case is very poorly balanced. There’s no real imagination here and the list is far too similar to the last game.
CSI: Fatal Conspiracy is a game for fans and sadists only, and even then they’ll be bitterly disappointed that after three games, there’s been zero progression in terms of gameplay or quality. Stick to watching the show as this particular brand of entertainment is sorely lacking.