Law & Order: Justice is Served

Law & Order: Justice is Served

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 11/23/2004 for PC  

My name is Charlie and I am a Law & Order fanatic. I admit it; I'm hooked on everything that comes from the brilliant mind of Dick Wolf. My girlfriend and I schedule our plans around all fifteen Law & Order shows and I've seen that horrible movie starring Chris Noth. I'm a certified fanatic and for me, the Legacy Interactive-developed adventure games have been another addictive entry in this long-running franchise. The previous two entries have been excellent entries and the third one looks to up the ante by adding in new gameplay elements and beefing up the graphics. In the end the game is a worthy addition to any adventure fan's library, even if they're not a fan of the television show.

Legacy's franchise goes out of its way to try to stay true to the formula set forth by the television show. It starts with the setup to a murder (why do trashmen always find dead bodies?) and asks the gamer to solve the mystery. Not all is as it seems and everyone you come in contact with is a suspect. I've enjoyed the storylines of the previous two L&O games but I felt that this third one was a bit lacking. The writer takes a stab at the high-stakes world of women's tennis and the ways that the undeserving players earn endorsements on the basis of their looks as opposed to their athletic ability. At the onset of the game, a Russian tennis player who bares a striking resemblance to Anna Kournikova is found dead in a locker room. As the story unfolds you'll learn a number of things about the victim including her overbearing mother, her relationship with a stalker who just happened to be present at the time of her murder and the fallout between herself and her former coach. Overall it has the makings of an excellent episode but it never quite pulls them together in a way where it keeps you guessing to the end.

It had a lot of traditional L&O elements in it, but it was also lacking most of the elements that make the television show so compelling. I lost interest about halfway through the game and the expected twist never occurred. Actually, the game plays out kind of like an episode of L&O: Criminal Intent in which you'll find your suspect and then spend the majority of the game figuring out how he committed the murder, not who committed the murder. While the game continues to build upon the motive up until the end, you already have enough to convict your perp within the first few hours of play. The other peripheral motives that you encounter as the game progresses will solidify your case, but aren’t crucial in leading to a conviction. They sort of feel thrown in, especially when the writers could have been focusing more on the mystery surrounding the murder and not the motive.

Law & Order is a franchise that prides itself on giving its viewers an accurate perspective on the life and trials of New York's finest peacekeepers. So it's a wonder that the game decided to take some liberties with the detective's investigative techniques. In more than one occasion you'll be required to utilize a piece of evidence in order to pursue your investigation. As an example there's a puzzle where the game will tell you that something is visible in the fireplace but you can't quite tell what it is. To solve it you'll need to use a mirror that you found at a suspect's apartment in order to get a better vantage point. Not only is this illogical (you could easily reach around or peer up the chimney) but it's also illegal. Detectives would never mishandle a piece of evidence because it could easily lead to a mistrial on the basis of evidence tampering. There are a couple of other unscrupulous incidents in the game like this that really ruin the experience.

As is the case with the past two games, Justice is Served is a point and click adventure game in the same vein as the Adventure Company games. Save for a few sequences, the game is always played from a static first person perspective of which you click on objects to examine them. It's not of the moving postcard variety like the original Myst though, there's always plenty to do and the world isn't as lifeless and empty. A 2D adventure game in the same fashion of The Longest Journey probably would have worked better, but since the aim is to place the gamer in the game, it works out well in the end.To add some variety to the point and click system the game implements a few new puzzle types into the fray. There's one where you have to move boxes in order to get to a battery in a suspect's apartment. Your path is blocked so you'll have to move the boxes in such a way that you'll clear a path from one end of the room to another. The puzzle works like one of those little handheld puzzles where the picture is scrambled and you have to arrange the object one piece at a time in order to assemble it. I like the new puzzles, but they're pretty nonsensical and have very little relevance to the plot. At one point you'll encounter three shelves full of dolls. You'll have to figure out how to solve the puzzle but nothing in the game really clues you in on exactly what you're trying to do. Everything operates on triggers too, so even if you know the solution to a puzzle, you won't be able to solve it until you activate the trigger. This causes you to wander around aimlessly, wasting precious time while the killer roams freely.

If you’ve played one of the two previous L&O entries you might be shocked at just how much better this game looks. This is due in large part to the fact that all of the characters have been beefed up and feature more than 40,000 polys as opposed to the 12,000 poly models that appeared in the older games. All of the stilted and puppet-like movements from before are gone and in their place are realistic looking models that animate and behave more fluidly. Briscoe definitely looks the best but some of the NPCs look great as well, especially the first one you’ll encounter. It’s surprisingly that the other two top-billed actors in the game look so bad in comparison. They look very little like their real-life counterparts but they suffice. The environments look pretty much the same and have that pre-rendered look to them. Overall the game looks decent but it won’t be pushing the limits of your graphics card anytime soon.

One of the real treats for fans of the franchise is the fact that the game employs the actors in the show to reprise their roles in the game. The case is the same for the third entry, with one major exception; S. Epatha Merkerson is out and Jesse L. Martin is in. You'll still spend the majority of your case with Jerry Orbach's Lenny Briscoe, but Detective Green will poke his head in from time-to-time to assist you in the investigation. As before, Elisabeth Rohm reprises her role in the courtroom and she's about as good here as she is in the television show. Whether it's a good thing or a bad thing is entirely up to you. Personally I would have preferred Sam Waterston but apparently he's too busy filming T.D. Waterhouse commercials. As for the dialogue, the level of writing is about on par with what you’ve seen in the television show; so you can depend on the witty insight of Briscoe and the horrid overacting of ADA Sutherlyn.

Overall it’ll take you anywhere from six-to-ten hours to complete the game, depending on how long it takes you to solve the puzzles. I consulted a walk-through for some portions of the game and it still took me about seven hours to play through the entire game. After beating the game you’ll be given a password that can be used at the Law & Order Web site to unlock special features starring the cast members of the game. They’re a series of short videos discussing some of the features of the game, how it was to make it, that sort of thing. It’s odd that the designers decided to put it online instead of in the actual game though; you’ll need some good bandwidth in order to access them. To top things off the game comes with the complete version of Law & Order II: Double or Nothing. This is a great throw-in and it allows those who are new to the franchise to become familiar with the universe.

If you can turn your mind off for a couple of hours you'll have a great time with the third Law & Order installment. It breaks a few of the rules set forth by the show, but it still has enough going for it to appease adventure fans and fans of the show. In the end, any true adventure fan will want to pick this one up. It'll tide you over for awhile, and while the story isn't the greatest one out there, TV's most lovable detectives will be right there to pick you back up.
It has the weakest storyline in the franchise thus far, but the game makes up for it by staying true (for the most part) to the Law & Order universe. The beefed up graphics and the streamlined interface makes this the best entry yet. That Double or Nothing throw-in was a great idea as well.

Rating: 8 Good

* 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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