Review: CSI: Hard Evidence

Review: CSI: Hard Evidence
Review: CSI: Hard Evidence

It can't be easy to be given the task of making forensics fun. It's not exactly the topic that you go "Hey, let's pull apart a crime scene! It'll be fun!"

Certainly, Jerry Bruckheimer's CSI TV shows have gone a long way to show that forensic investigation, blood examination, and criminology is more fun than just the science that most people believe is behind it. While the science is more the subject as opposed to the investigation side of things that the TV shows like to present the teams with, it still can't be an easy thing to turn such a complicated process into a fun game.

Ubisoft have made a few CSI games previously and while a couple were ever so slightly fun, they were little more than point & click adventures with some randomly futile scientific bits as well as having the cast of CSI involved. You could finish them pretty quickly and it didn't exactly take much knowledge of the television show, although they were certainly targeted at people who enjoyed it more.

CSI Hard Evidence doesn't exactly change the formula and provides more forensics-based crime adventure to whet whatever palette it is that craves point & click forensics-based crime adventures. While you might commend Ubisoft for tackling such an interesting concept, it's clear that the problem of making forensic fun -- a concept I wouldn't want to be tasked with -- just hasn't been achieved.

Following along stories from the TV show, you'll grab your crime scene investigation kit and gather up evidence, run it through scientific equipment, and see what it's like to work alongside CSI investigators... or at least the characters from CSI. I can't exactly fault the game for its attempted realistic portrayal of what a crime scene investigator does since that's more the fault of what makes good TV than anything else, but I can show you what the game does wrong and sadly that's pretty much everything.

The interface was clearly designed for a PC and not an Xbox 360. That much is clear. By not changing the controls all to work with the 360 controller, Ubisoft have lessened the feel that what you're playing is anything more than a cheap cash-in job. I expect that the game might play better on the PC and possibly the Wii because of the mouse-based interface, but I don't anticipate that this would make the game all that much better as it really gets worse as you start to play through the game.

First off there's the tutorial: if there were ever a better way to introduce how good the game is going to be, the tutorial should be it.

CSI Hard Evidence completely undermines that by giving you a tutorial that if it doesn't make you turn the game off pretty quickly, you did better than I did the first time around. The interface is overly complicated and CSI's tutorial tries to make you feel that you're going to be a part of the scientific process. It's obvious early on though that the interface is little more than a guise that you can skip through and eventually pick the right selection by process of elimination. As a result, the tutorial serves no real purpose other than to bore you silly.

It's pretty obvious from then on that everything you do doesn't actually matter. There's no time issue and no real consequence for selecting something that's wrong; you just move on to the next thing that the game continues. All of this makes this CSI game exactly like its predecessors: boring and devoid of all fun.

It's almost as if the developers didn't care and were more than happy just to throw in some slightly better written cases with another ugly standard of quality and tie it up with a nice bow.

Cementing this feeling are the graphics which just don't really look good. Ever. The models are rudimentary and the textures just downright ugly. Even at 480p - a low resolution by the Xbox 360's HD standard - the textures are flat and pixelated.

If that's not enough, the game sort of takes on a patronising tone with how much product placement was given to companies. Take for instance the use of products by Hewlett Packard. You can sort of accept the HP iPaq you'll be using as your organiser. 'Sure,' you say to yourself, 'that's not all that nice a product placement to be constantly needing to look at' but you can deal with it. But when you go to your lab and find a computer tower with a HP logo, a monitor with a HP logo, and even a mouse pad with the most poorly textured HP logo to ever be bled from existence, you know that Ubisoft have well and truly sold their souls for this release.

Even with all that money companies like HP, Visa, and Chrysler must have given them, they didn't bother to license The Who's title, instead opting for a lazy synthy opening theme that Pete Townsend wouldn't be seen dead listening to.

Voice wise, most of the cast is there. I say most because the female characters voiced by Marg Helgenberger and Jorja Fox don't get included and instead are replaced by people who probably yell out the "Bargains! Bargains! Bargains!" at your local cheap-crap store. Even so, the dialog by the main cast is equally as flat and while you can see them having fun when they act in the show, it more feels like they cared about this as little as the developers did when making this game.

Now I should say that I happen to love forensics. I always have. People that know me know that my book shelf is filled with books on forensics, trace evidence and criminal psychology. But I couldn't get into this game because really... it just wasn't fun. If I wanted to get into forensics, I'd take up the relevant courses at university, get the degree, apply for the jobs, and have fun doing the job I want. But working your way around the pointless irritating interface and dealing with cases that are about as hard to figure out as putting a band-aid on a paper cut just isn't an interesting prospect.

CSI: Hard Evidence really does, in the end, become one of those games that only true fans of CSI can and will appreciate.

Should you buy it?: No. Just... no.

Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Ubisoft
Classification: M
Formats: Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, PC
URL: CSI: Hard Evidence

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark

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