CSI: New York
vicrabb's CSI: New York Review
Good morning Big Apple !
There was a time where I was just asking myself when a CSI game would be featuring Mac Taylor and Stella Bonasera. I was also wondering if a new CSI Miami would be featuring the new team (with Wolfe instead of the regretted Speedle).
Well, one day, I've heard that CSI: NY - The Game was developed and I've submitted the profile on Neo. I've also found some screenshots and I was like: "Wait a minute, they're changing everything?".
Indeed, the CSI series began with 369 Interactive, who developed the first PC game, the second one, the one in Miami without forgetting the console release on Xbox or on DS. After Miami, another team took the series in their hands: Telltale Games. With them, CSI evolved and made a presence on next gen console: Wii, PS3, PS2, 360. But they never forgot about PC.
I was kinda sad that CSY: NY wasn't in their hands and I was fearing for the series. Well, when I came back to Neo, I saw Deadly Intent developed by Telltale, so, I'm now being ready to play my new CSI game.
But being the gamer that I am, I didn't play NY before finishing the Miami walkthrough. Remember (or see my profile), I've published my review about that game recently. But in between, I've played New York. After all, Legacy Interactive was known in the casual world, so, I wasn't scared to see minigames or hidden objects in a CSI game, after all, we were already playing at "seek proofs" before but without knowing what we had to find.
I never knew how boring or how hard it could have been and how NY would just be a pain in the ass for having all the golden stars.
Playing Mac or Stella
Contrary to the old storyline where you were the rookie being supervised by the CSI team during five cases, you're playing Mac or Stella. So, finally, my wish to play one of the stars was a reality. And as usual, five cases....
This is where the hurt begins. I saw FOUR cases with a mention: CASE FIVE SOON - YOU CAN DOWNLOAD IT. As the game did the update 1.01 when I installed it, I didn't really bother myself about that. And you'll see later the cold shower I've experienced.
FOUR CASES. Not five. As if Legacy Interactive was rushed to release a game at full price without the last case. So, you know, I've been whining about more cases. And there, they made the insult to the fans to release only four stories.
So, yeah, now, I'm Mac or Stella being helped by Lindsay, Danny, Don, Sheldon, Sid or Adam. But you get only four cases for all the versions of the game.
If the storylines are good and surprising (even if I found the plot of the case 1 when I've seen the corpse in the morgue), I found the poor fifth case a little... rushed. I mean, I was expecting a little more in that last case, as in the previous games, with at least some references to the previous ones (just one during a movie though), the last story to follow was always longer, interesting and was concluding everything. I remember the first CSI game with Leda Callisto and her double murder combined with the kidnapping of Grissom, where you were forced to change your judgement about the first case, I remember the second CSI case where you had perhaps weaker references to the previous cases but the storyline took another direction, I remember CSI: Miami and dear Judge Lawford who just managed a psychological move you couldn't imagine, I remember 3 Dimensions of Murder with the return of previous suspects, I remember Hard Evidence where it was family members of the suspects in the third case that were involved.
In the fifth case, apart the fact that it was obvious that Mac would be a suspect because of his wound, nothing made me wondering about his fate but more important, nothing made the case surprising. No change of CSI (you're still Mac in it), no hard path to prove his innocence (at least, the search for Grissom was really making me wondering if I would be able to find what I needed - I was under the feeling not to have time because his life was in danger), nothing really.
I would be lying if I didn't enjoy the storylines. I've just been less impressed than before.
New way of gaming... wrong idea
I'm harsh on that point. It's true that getting minigames is a good idea, at least, it's not the usual comparison you're used to. But well, let me explain the bases... and the wrong stuff.
First of all, you have a series of things to find in the scene. It can be evidence, interesting things (but useless for the cases) or junk (I mean, things you don't need but you have to find if you want to advance). Unfortunately for me, who is used to a changing list in hidden object games, the junk is always the same. Fortunately, it's easier for taking a screenshot and to show where to find things. And as in hidden objects games, some aren't really visible.
Which is why you have hints. You can get unlimited hints, providing the fact that you can take your time for searching, you don't have a time limit. But using an hint is just the "ask your partner" gameplay used previously. So, you can say bye bye to a golden star if you're pressing the hint button.
What is weird in that game is the fact that you can't see what you have to search. The blur on the shapes of the list is fading as the hint button is replenishing but you're just losing time unless you do the first thing you would have done before: looking the body. I just want to point that it's an useless feature, I still don't get the meaning of this.
Then, you have to use some objects in order to find a proof (for example, the crowbar for opening a window). And in the majority of them, you'll have a minigame. If the search for prints is easy (a bit of powder then switch to adhesive), the "take a sample of blood or anything else" is a pain in the ass. Legacy Interactive managed to kill the joy of tracing circles. Indeed, you have to follow the shape of the blood but you have to do it in one time without deviating of a millimeter. Because take just a little liberty from the shape and you'll be forced to do it again. The worse is the fact that it can make you loose points for the final evaluation. I had the same problem with the pictures to take. For example, I saw that I needed to take a picture of the tattoo in case 1. It was obvious. But it wasn't letting me do it. The game needed in reality the lens to point on a particular tattoo (I was doing it, honestly but it never took my pic). I've experienced the same problem in case 5 and I can assure you that I was raging.
You can also experience the solitude of trying to get a password for opening something, especially when it's obvious. I don't speak about the magic square, it requires a logical brain or about the lock with drawings, I'm speaking about the word lock that you can solve in thirty seconds (and I've done it in less time). That's a great moment of solitude if you can't solve it when it's obvious. No offense. Legacy Interactive didn't really search something complex.
And they're not the only minigames you can do on a crime scene. You have also the classical puzzle with a picture or a document to restore. I've nothing to say about them, they're pretty easy to solve. Perhaps one of the minigames is hard: the "put adhesive on all the cases" as it's very difficult and that I hate that kind of games. But can I say something about it when it's only appearing in the downloadable file that isn't accessible to everyone playing CSI: New York?
CSI: New York is also introducing the face modeling: choose the beard, the hairstyle, the lips, the nose, the eyes and the skin color. It's only appearing in the first case, which is kinda sad. A new feature in the series and it's tossed aside...
Contrary to the other games, you don't choose where to go. For leaving the scene, it's generally after a discussion: Flack, suspects, witnesses, etc.. This is just so un-CSI, I mean, I can't come back and speak freely with people, no, I have to follow the story LIKE IN A BASIC HIDDEN OBJECT GAME. What was a strong point of the series (the fact you could return to places you've been before without problem) is tossed aside for a linear way of playing. So, clearly, you can sense the frustration getting worse in me. And it would not be better after.
The conversation with people are, like in any CSI game, being subtitled. In NY, it's just a sort of RPG conversation that take place: you see the person without lips moving and the text just in a rectangle. I've seen that in many Japanese RPG and I've experienced it in CSI: Deadly intent on DS. Anyway, now, you can click on underlined words for getting information. Oh yeah, about that, you have two bars: a credibility one (full) and a progress one (empty). When during the talk, something interesting is said, your progress one is becoming full. If you're becoming annoying by showing useless proofs or by clicking on the wrong link (which happens for a case - fortunately, it was only one), you're just having your credibility bar decreasing. When empty, you have to start again everything. How your credibility can be affected? By showing the wrong item OR the wrong part of the item. And then, say bye bye to your golden star for your conversation skills.
Yeah, it's true that it's interesting to show proofs by dragging and dropping them on people during interrogation or conversation but it's not a new feature for CSI. It's just an old option you can enabling for being the sole master in the interrogation room (dragging and dropping evidences instead of automatic questions) in the previous games. The only thing that changed is that the option isn't one anymore. You have to work during interrogation. As you may know, I'm not a fan of showing the evidences by myself. It can be boring and frustrating and CSI having already a lot of default elsewhere, I was happy to see automatic questions without having to worry about it. Well, here, showing sometimes is a tragedy: or you're clicking on the magnifying glass without willing it and several times in a row or you're clicking a millimeter out of the right part and you're being discredited or you're trying to get a proof but it's another one that is coming. So, even if I can understand the need to involve more the player, I can't accept that the feature is frustrating when it has history elsewhere (ok, it wasn't Legacy Interactive before but still...).
Where was I? Oh yeah, the collecting and the interrogation are covered. What about Don's office for... I forgot, now, as it's linear, you don't need to see Don for a warrant... It was so fun to go search warrant, only for seeing some Brass or Yelina's quotes... Uhm, well, we still have the morgue and the lab.
For the morgue, Sid is still giving information (if not, it would be really sad) and you can still observe the body... well, if there is a need to do it. Because if not, you're not allowed to see it. So, when you can see it, it's for a "search of anomalies" game with the magnifying glass or the UV light. Apart that, you can still click on screens for a "spot the differences". Those games in the morgue are harder than in the lab: search differences on radios, between two hearts, two kidneys... the easier one was in the last case and it was about two pictures... So, yeah, that passage in the morgue isn't as great as before. It's just a consequence of being linear. Sid is giving nearly all interesting stuff to the lab, so, apart for the storyline, the morgue is useless.
And the lab? Well, remember the freedom of doing the DNA, print or anything else without a lab technician or without having proofs appearing suddenly. Is it done? Forget about it now. Generally, Adam or Lindsay had searched links for you, they're suddenly giving you proofs that you never took yourself and the lab is more a minigame room than anything else. If I have to point three types of games, I would say it like that: a molecular triage, a print/graphic/hair reconstitution and a word search.
I would have added the "find the pair" but if the real game is only appearing twice, you have an alternate version where you have to link two things. And guess what you need to do? A line. A line in one time and without touching anything. This is an hurtful game, because I saw many times the arrival and then suddenly, I had to restart WITHOUT touching something. You have also the decoding message by eliminating three letters in each word but it's only happening during the fourth case and if I may say something, it's pretty frustrating. You're clicking on a letter and it's its neighbour that is highlighted, which means that Legacy Interactive wants you to be accurate but not only, they want a high accuracy. As I've already said, a millimeter out and it's over for you. When you know that doing an error in the lab is just the best way to say bye to the gold star for the lab analysis...
Anyway, look into the three main games. The word search is probably the easier one, as you just have to recognize the shapes and to click on the corresponding words. Generally, it's in a text on Internet, so, you have to change pages when needed. The print analysis is the varied one: from fingerprints to tireprints without forgetting hairs, graphics or bullets. If the fingerprint is easy to solve, I can't say the same for the others. It's only a matter of having a good sight.... apart for the tireprints, at least, in the fourth case. Because I was clicking like a mad woman and the print wasn't coming with my cursor. Yeah, what was easy to do became a real fight between me and the game. Finally, the boring one is the molecular triage. You have to clear your sample of the identical shapes. You're doing DNA analysis like that. And some shapes have the same colors but placed differently. If you're not paying attention, you can drag a molecule in the wrong square.
I will say that you have another frequent game, especially appearing at the end. It's the microscope game. You have a clean picture at your left and a blur at your right. You have to turn buttons for making the blur to fade and for having a identical picture. It's very hard, I know that people were having difficulties to understand the game or for even find the right place for the circles (because the picture was divided in circles). I remember that in the fifth case, one of them was particularly hard as it was in black and white.
You know understand why I'm missing my old gameplay. If I can resume it, you have a list of objects to find, among them, some can be used in the scene for unlocking something or minigames. They're varied but some are frustrating because of the poor movement freedom, like the picture one or the shape one. You're not even being allowed to use your tools, the game is giving you the right one, which is so weird compared to the old tradition in CSI games. You're following a linear path, you're not coming back in a location for speaking or searching something, so, you're forced to follow what the game is giving you. If you don't need to pass by Don for a warrant, your acquired freedom in the CSI series is tossed aside (I think I fell in love with the expression for this review) for a morgue where you can't even see the corpse if it's not written in the scenario and for a lab with games that are varied but with a high level of frustration or boreness. During interrogation, you can drag and drop evidence for a suspect that is lying (or not) and click on underlined words. But you have to be careful about your credibility when progressing in the conversation.
So my conclusion on that long passage is the following: good idea to introduce minigames or new ways to play but the repetitive movements to do, the frustration because you're not allowed to make small errors and the under exploitation of real new features, everything is making you crave for your old gameplay.
Colorful, cartoon and a lot of blue
Legacy Interactive isn't Telltale. They decided to adopt a new graphic style (which is similar to some hidden object games), a cartoon one, colorful and the return of the HUD that I despised. But good news for me, it's perhaps there but it's blue, in a blue I love, so, well, uhm... the HUD is accepted perhaps more than it was before... or the real reason is the fact that I see CSI: NY differently than the rest of the series.
But I can say that they are some problem between the scenes, the characters and the animated sequences which you can't even skip. Some characters aren't just the same in the animated part and in the scene. Color hair, proportions and shapes of the visage... well, it's disturbing. Some animations are also rushed. Some can be good, I admit it, but the one with Vince Martinelli burying a corpse is just weird in the head movement, the arm one, etc..
If the characters are well drawn when it comes to the conversation part, in the opening credits, I was just having an hard time to recognize Stella, Lindsay and Don in it. They were so different...
Oh yeah, each case begins with an opening credit, like a TV series. If you can skip that part, you can't skip anything else. You have to see the sequences each time you're replaying a game and you can't do anything about it.
I don't mind the new style, honestly, I enjoyed it, probably because I'm used to it with my experience in the casual world. I'm just disappointed in the error or differences made from a sequence to another.
Good soundtrack and good voice acting
The voice acting isn't a surprise, the real cast of CSI: NY was behind it, so, there is no difference between Mac in the TV series and Mac in the game. Even the new characters (suspects and witnesses) are well-voiced and I couldn't tell it was the same actor for different people.
If the soundtrack is being repetitive, it's sticking to the ambiance, I've particularly enjoyed the menu music and the DNA search one. I would be lying if I was expecting perhaps more tracks though. But, hey, it's CSI, not Painkiller or Half-Life 2.
Replay and lifetime
How can I judge a lifetime when a fifth case isn't available? Uhm, well, I can say that a case can take a hour if you're not stuck at any part and I would say that you can finish the game in four or five hours (in my case, it was longer, as I was taking notes) without the fifth case. The fifth case, contrary to what I was expecting, isn't longer than the rest, so I can say that the best of you can take four hours to finish all the cases (with finding all the items quickly and achieve games without error and at first try) and that the average player will take maximum 8 hours to finish it if he wants to do all by himself or if he wants to play without hint. Why I'm saying that? Because you can skip two games per episode. I don't know if it's affecting your resulting star but I was afraid not to have the golden stars everywhere (and I still don't have them), so I've never skipped a game, only the first picture taking by rage (and starting again the case without going anywhere further with that first try).
As for the replay value, it's only justified by the final evaluation with the four fields: Interrogation, Analysis – Lab, Analysis – Scenes, Collecting. If in Collecting, the golden star is nearly always there, for the others, everything will depend of your credibility bar and your dexterity in the minigames... But a replay value by itself? No. Certainly not. You don't have bonuses, contrary to the old tradition in CSI games and well, it's really a pain in the ass to do some hard minigames again.
I want also to put a passage about something. As I've said, I can't judge the lifetime correctly because I'm a lucky player. Indeed, it's shorter for some of you. Why? Because the fifth case is only available for those of you having the retailed (boxed) version of the game. If you've downloaded it through any other platform (I don't know for Steam though), you're just being tossed aside. No fifth case for you. Which is scandalous, I admit it.
And finally, if you're really someone wanting to play that fifth case and having the right version of the game, you can encounter problems with the installation of it. Why? Well, as I've said, my game did an update by itself. I didn't shut down then switch on my computer. So, as a result, when I downloaded the case, not only I've had to remember if I was a member of Ubisoft Community or not (or else, no case for you unless you're becoming a member) but also, my version wasn't compatible with the patch 1.02. Yeah, you read well.
I've searched some answers and you know what I had to do? To uninstall the game, including profiles and saved games, to reinstall it, to do the update to 1.01 again, to shut down the computer, to make it work again, to enter the game (oh miracle the fifth case now is installed) and to download the patch 1.02 (who was a less heavier file than before). As you can see, because it's not really well explained and as a lot of players, I've had to go through all the four cases (and I still don't get my golden stars) for finally playing the fifth case. All that for that.
Add to the fact that as it's translated in French, they managed to invert two lines, to modify a "spot the difference" game because of the English grammar or some graphics in minigames (meaning that you can't follow an English walkthrough if needed).
My only scream: GIVE ME BACK MY OLD CSI!
Storyline - 6.5/10: I can tell what I want, the fifth case isn't perhaps so exciting but still, the five investigations are surprising in the result and full of surprise and perhaps the more important is that you're Mac or Stella and not an anonymous rookie. My biggest regret is the poor references to previous cases and the fact that the version 1.00 was released with four and not five cases as claimed by the pub.
Graphics - 7/10: I've enjoyed them, even the HUD and the line (because I was seeing CSI: NY as an hidden object game, meaning that kind of HUD is frequent and necessary for the gameplay). It could have been better if it wasn't full of errors like the differences in shape or color or weird animation. Just a bad point: you can't skip the movies apart the opening credits.
Soundtrack - 9/10: A deserved note for an enjoyable music and a good performance from the actors themselves.
Gameplay - 4/10: Harsh? I would find it well-payed. If introducing minigames or changing the way of interrogation was a good idea, I'm just having a problem with a lot of things being tossed aside and the hardness of some games. Drawing a line in one time, it's ok for me. But at least, don't make me forced to do it again because I've deviated for a millimeter. Also, I'm just frustrated about some mechanics not working the first time, making you loose time and your golden stars. And what about the feeling of freedom? No, like in a basic hidden object game, you're just spectator of your own investigation: just click where the game wants you to do it and you'll get the story. No freedom of move, no freedom in the lab, no freedom in the morgue. In other words, everything that was acquired with 369 Interactive and Telltale games was completely ignored by Legacy Interactive. I can understand the need for novelty. But if the novelty is worse than the old way of gaming... Finally, CSI: NY should have stayed in Telltale's hands, it would have been better for everyone.
Replay value/lifetime - 3/10: I'm perhaps harsh here because it's true that you have some replay value with the fifth case and the stars to collect. But with the hardness of some games, the poverty of options (reduced to what hidden objects are proposing - volume of sound and music, screen in window or in full) and perhaps more importantly, the fact that only the owners of a boxed version can access the last case, well, you don't want to play the game again. Not only the lifetime is cut short with the release of the game but you're not coming back again unless you love hurt.
Final note: 5/10 - I can't really say that New York was a great CSI game. I was expecting more and in the end, I was frustrated with a game with boring and hard minigames, with no freedom of move, etc. (you already know my whining). I was curious to see how the hidden object would take part in the game and I've been concluding one thing: CSI: New York isn't a CSI game anymore, it's been reduced to an average hidden object game. No wonder that Big Fish Games got the right to propose it on its site. CSI: New York is no more an adventure games, it's just a casual game. And while I love these kind of games, when I put money in a game, I expect it to be more developed. After all, casual games are cheaper and when I see the price of NY, it's the price of a normal game. Give me my old CSI gameplay.
It's true that some problems weren't appearing when the game was released. But I couldn't put under silence what the case five brought as reaction, whether it was out or just announced.
If you're a casual game lover, I don't know if you should buy it but I would say yes. If you're new to CSI, don't try it as first game. If you're a fan, don't buy it unless you really want to play all the CSI games. And finally, if you're just curious, buy it but don't come back and cry that you've spent money for a mediocre game. Curiosity killed the cat, here, Legacy Interactive killed Mac Taylor and Stella Bonasera. Who will investigate this murder?