CSI: Dark Motives (Nintendo DS) - Review by Chris
Having become a huge hit worldwide, the television series CSI and its many incantations have ignited interest in the world of forensic science and crime scene investigation due to the gritty portrayal it receives in the shows. As a result of the heightening popularity, extending the brand beyond the realms of the TV show such as video games always looked like a given, and for years now the various consoles and the PC have received several titles tied to the license. Being the first in the franchise to hit the DS, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Dark Motives hopes to capture fans of the franchise with gripping stories and the usual characters while introducing the franchise to newcomers. But is this one game that deserves to be free or should it be locked up?
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Dark Motives is based around the Las Vegas extension of the TV show. Containing all of the characters from this branch of the show from around 2004, the game sees you become a new member of the CSI unit and interact with the staple characters as they help you gain warrants for searches or interrogations, analyse samples or give valuable information with regards to where to find people to progress the story. Before any cases are passed your way, you are introduced to each of the staple characters, such as Grissom, Catherine and Greg the lab assistant. What's immediately apparent is how far behind the current TV show's plot the game is, with the game having taken place before more recent events which have changed the way characters interact with one another. It then feels like a strange choice of title to bring to the DS because of the dated plot area it falls into.
Putting that aside, the game presents 5 cases for you to solve, each of which will require a good amount of time to solve. The cases see you being paired up with one of the cast members as you try to solve what are, in most cases, attempted murder cases where the perpetrator hasn't quite managed to finish off their victim. Heading initially to the scene of the crime, you'll search each of the scenes for clues to gain leads as to where to head next or who you should be questioning. Finding clues isn't as simple as picking up objects; rather you'll need to use various tools to find and then retrieve clues as to characters who may be involved in the crime or characters who may hold some valuable information. You'll be able to take swab samples, make cast impressions for foot prints or wounds, and dust for finger prints before bringing the clues back to the lab where they'll largely be looked over by Greg, although you will personally get to check over some yourself. These sections of collecting and analysing clues do a great job of replicating the work carried out not only in the show but in real life.
In all cases, you'll need to make use of resources available as well as making use of your CSI unit colleagues to help gather information or give you the warrants you need to delve further into the mystery but the structure normally stays the same and little variety in the way of content makes the later cases drag. As enjoyable as doing this is, though, the game is filled with vast amounts of text, most of which you'll rarely have time to read. Your colleagues more often than not provide structure to each of the cases, and you'll feel at times that your part in the solving of the case is lessened as a result. Similarly, with so much text to read through, the game doesn't really lend itself well to the idea of pick up and play, as going off to do something else and then coming back means you'll often have to spend some time going over all of the information you've gathered before pressing on with the rest of the case
Searching the crime scenes, interrogating suspects and completing the forensic tasks all require the use of the DS' touch screen. While you can make sparing use of the A button to help with the selection of some questions when interrogating, everything else is controlled through touch, just as many other point and click titles are on the console, and it works well. Sliding the on screen cursor around and tapping on an object or area of interest allows you to get a closer look and the various tools at your disposal are all operated by either tapping or sliding the stylus across the screen. These areas are in keeping with the generally good controls but having to constantly rub the screen up and down to take samples or to take impressions does begin to annoy because it doesn't reflect the real actions necessary for carrying out these tasks.
However, as good as the controls are, there are issues. Around the edge of the screen for every scene or area you go to is a cancel area whereby accidentally moving the cursor into this area and tapping will result in you leaving a dialogue or investigation situation. It's something that doesn't ever go away through prolonged play and you'll often find yourself cancelling things because of it.
The visuals have taken a noticeable step down from the PC version, with everything now looking a bit of a mess. Locations are either presented in a panoramic view or from a single camera point but within each of these setups, the locations look muddy and blocky, often making it hard to discern vital clues for investigating. When you do get in close to certain objects or areas, though, the visuals do improve and show some nice 2D artwork, with a good colour palette used to make objects look realistic. One of the worst areas visually, though, are the videos which show before heading to locations or through reconstructions while at locations. While looking good in the PC version, here they are a mess due to pure compression resulting in a blurry mess of pixels that presents a flyby of Las Vegas. The DS isn't the best console at rendering footage or cutscenes but these are some of the worst on the console.
This improvement in the artwork continues over to the character models which, while faraway, look a mess but get closer and the detail which has been put into them is of a good standard, replicating the looks of the respective actors flawlessly. However, at no point will any of them move, with the game focusing on rendering purely static images for both characters and locations. It is slightly disappoint when you consider how other point and click titles on the console aren't restricted to this.
Audio has similarly seen a cutback so as to ensure the game fits within the constrictions of the DS' cart. Those expecting to hear the show's theme song, presented by The Who, will be disappointed to find that it has been removed entirely from the game. Similarly, all the voice work from the PC title has been removed leaving lengths of text in its wake which appear and disappear far too quickly making it difficult to keep up with some of the story behind each case. What music is here is present merely to help create an air of intrigue about the cases and to help recreate the gritty atmosphere of the show and while not quite managing this latter want, it manages to do the former.
All of the cases and the scene investigations are primarily handled through the touch screen yet the top screen is put to useful use by allowing you to move between suspect and victim information to help you decide what your next course of action should be. As such, the interconnectivity between the screens is great, making good use of what is here, and while it can be daunting at first about all the stuff present at once on both screens, you'll quickly feel comfortable multitasking between the two at the same time.
As a port of an older PC title, Dark Motives comes off far worse than it should do. But as the first attempt at bringing the CSI franchise to the DS, it works out slightly better. The gameplay is engaging for the most part, but with little variation in techniques used across the game's cases it does slowly begin to drag to more the game goes on. Fans of the TV show will still find plenty of entertainment value here, as will anyone who enjoys a point and click adventure, but it can be tough going sometimes and only diehard fans will persevere through all of what is on offer.
Pro: Forensic investigation and solving of clues is good fun, makes great use of the
Con: Presentation hasn’t dated well in the port, , doesn’t truly replicate the feel o
Final score: 5.8