Law & Order: Dead on the Money

Law & Order: Dead on the Money

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 3/21/2003 for PC  

I admit it, I’m a huge fan of the Law & Order television series. I can name every single district attorney, assistant district attorney and police officer to have ever appeared on the show. I’ve actually gotten into a two-hour argument with one of my friends over why Jack McCoy is twice the man that Ben Stone was. Knowing all of this, you’d expect me to eat up Law & Order: Dead on the Money, Legacy Interactive’s video game take on the show.

You thought wrong.

This is especially painful because the game has so much going for it. It features the likenesses and voices of cast members, Jerry Orbach, S Epatha Merkerson and Elizabeth Rohm, the story was written by a freelance writer who worked on the show so it promises to stay true to the TV show. But as an avid gamer, this game has little to no appeal to me. In order to fully enjoy this game I had to shutoff my brain, toss out everything I knew about video games and tackle it from a casual fan’s perspective. You know something? Maybe this game really isn’t that bad after all.

The game essentially plays like one big Quicktime VR production. It’s like Myst but instead of being on some strange deserted island you’re in the middle of downtown Manhattan. Before you begin you will be able to choose two aids to help you such as a magnifying class that highlights clues. As you may have guessed by now, the game runs entirely on a point-and-click interface.

The game basically boils down into one big Easter egg hunt except you’re looking for clues as opposed to eggs. It’s not like your traditional adventure game in that clues that are picked up may not be relative to the case at hand. In fact, I’d say that about 90% of the items you can pick up aren’t related to the case at all and will just yield false leads.

If you’ve seen Law & Order on television you will already know the basic layout of the game. Tight shot of some guy working on the park, he gives an exaggerated expression, camera pans out and you see the dead body. To further solidify the cliché associated with the series the body is found (where else?) in Central Park. That’s when you arrive on the scene alongside everyone’s favorite Detective, Lenny Briscoe. Working with Briscoe you’ll have to search for evidence, process it in the lab and then build up a case against a suspect.

After you’ve found your suspect and issued the proper arrest warrant you’ll assume the role of an ADA working alongside Serena Sutherland. While the detective portion of the game is pretty interesting (mainly because it keeps you guessing) I found the court-based portions to be the more entertaining of the two halves.
This game is appealing because the plot manages to keep you hooked and guessing for quite some time. Nearly every Law & Order element is present here, from the black screen showing the time and location to the seemingly guilty suspect that’s revealed just a tad bit too early to be the mastermind behind the crime. Everything, even that bass-filled music that plays when the suspect admits his guilt, is here in full force, and it leads to a pretty endearing atmosphere for fans of the series.

As you may or may not have heard, three of the show’s actors lend their voices to this game’s characters. First you’ll have Jerry Orbach as Lenny Briscoe, S. Epatha Merkerson as the voice of the Lt. and Elizabeth Rohm as ADA Serena Sutherland. The voices of the secondary actors are pretty well versed and sound truly professional, almost as if the actors were lifted right from the show.

Since the game seems to utilize some type of Quicktime VR technology, the game is essentially one big interactive movie. Because of this the game looks pretty good, considering the circumstances. Some scenes feature exquisite detail in their architecture, especially some of the interior scenes of the houses. There is a lot of fine detail and refinement in the construct of the court scene as well. The entire game runs in what looks like 640x480 so there are a ton of artifact and compression problems in the game’s movies. This probably won’t be too much of a problem unless you’re an absolutely DVD freak who is easily bothered by these problems.

The characters’ faces all look pretty good although some could use a bit of work. The faces are given life thanks to some truly lifelike eyes. Instead of going for that flat cardboard look, the designers opted to for a 3D, sort of glassy-eyed look and it works pretty well here. I liked the skeletal structure that the art designers used for the game as it allowed for a good amount of gesturing and posture. With that said, the actual bodies themselves could use a bit of work. They seem to be a bit too wiry and stringy for their own good. They need to be fleshed out a little further.

The problem with L&ODOM is that it’s just too difficult. It utilizes a painfully agonizing point and click interface that turns every scene into a pixel-hunting fest that starts from the opening scene and doesn’t let up until the end. The game incorporates a baffling time-based system that punishes you for making incorrect decisions. What makes this most frustrating is that when you hit a dead-end, you’re basically dead meat. My advice? Save your game and save it often.

There are also a few stability issues that really plague the gameplay. Sometimes it would crash for no reason and other times the game would just stop responding entirely. This was especially frustrating after realizing that I would have to sit through 20 minutes of testimony all over again. Again, make sure to save your game often.

In the end you have what is essentially a Law & Order fanatic’s dream come true. If you’re a fan of the show then you definitely owe it to yourself to at least pick this up and try it. Even casual fans should give this one a go, they just might find themselves falling in love with the franchise.
The game plays very much like the TV Series. You’ll find the murdered, make wise cracks with Jerry Orbach and then corroborate, corroborate and corroborate till your heart’s content.

Rating: 7.7 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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