Law and Order: Criminal Intent
The past few years have played witness to a deluge of CSI games, which
turned out to be moderately entertaining point-and-click affairs. The Law and Order TV series has inevitably dished up some competition, by commissioning Legacy Interactive to make the accompanying games. Criminal Intent is the fourth installment, and has the most content so far. I was honestly expecting a cookie-cutter “who done it” clone, but Criminal Intent holds some pleasant surprises and satisfying murder mystery gameplay.
What really caught my attention were the impressive production values.
Vincent D’Onfrio, the star of the show, is the title playable
character, so his voice and personality are totally authentic. The
gameplay is traditional point-and-click, but the puzzles along the way
add variety and there are two distinct elements that make Law and Order unique among forensic games.
The first surprise is how you questions witnesses and suspects. Rather
than choosing from a list of scripted questions and responses, you pick
the topic of conversation (the victim’s personal life, job, car etc.)
and then choose how to ask the questions. Depending on the person, you
can approach them with honesty, deception, flattery or even
If you say the wrong thing a red bar fills up, and if you hack off the
suspect too much they’ll stop talking to you. Conversely, asking the
right questions in the proper tone fills a green bar, prompting the
suspect to provide you with crucial information like phone numbers. At
one point I was able to corner a suspect with logic, and they had no
alternative but to confess to the murder. This kind of conversational
dueling is quite satisfying when you handle yourself like a hardened
The game isn’t all talk, thankfully. While you’ll spend plenty of time
grilling witnesses, you’ll do an equal amount of snooping. Gathering
evidence from crime scenes takes a strong eye and keen mind, and some
of the juicier bits are blocked by puzzles. Once you gain enough
evidence, be it documents, personal possessions or photographs, you can
enter all your data into a specialized computer program. This program
builds a profile of the criminal, giving you hints to the personality
and capabilities of the killer. It’s a big help, and keeps you from
running in the infamous logic circle that plagues so many mystery games.
gameplay is a healthy mix of interrogation and investigation, and feels
nicely balanced against the visual style of the game. The perspective
is third person; Detective Goren (played by D’Onfrio) and the NPC’s are
all rendered in-game, while the backgrounds, environments and brief
cutscenes are pre-rendered. Thus, most of the objects and scenes have a
smooth, static appearance, although there was a river location that
displayed impressive water effects.
Most of the game’s sound
is subdued and at times bland, but D’Onfrio does an admirable job
voicing Goren. The detective is suitably deadpan but alters his voice
to appeal to (or threaten) suspects. Goren’s subtle, grim sense of
humor shines through as well, often when he’s commenting to himself
about evidence or suspects. Music is atmospheric and changes according
to location, but repeats a little too much.
The only noticeable flaw in Criminal Intent
is its rather numerous bugs. It tends to skip and stutter at times,
which is perplexing considering how many pre-rendered elements there
are in the game. Also, on more than once occasion, Goren got stuck on a
wall or object in the world, and there was no way to remedy the problem
short of rebooting the game. These problems are not terribly common,
but are enough of an irritation to hamper the overall experience.
Despite these downfalls, however, Law and Order: Criminal Intent
shapes up as a competent crime investigation simulator. Goren gets
three cases to crack as well as final fourth murder, so this one will
keep you playing for at least ten hours. Fans of the show will find a
lot to like here, and casual gumshoes might get a charge out of it too.
Detective Goren hits the mean streets of New York in Law and Order: Criminal Intent. The game has its fair share of aggravating glitches, but manages to simulate the feel of the show and offer up a substantial crime scene experience at the same time.
Rating: 8 Good
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Sean Colleli has been gaming off and on since he was about two, although there have been considerable gaps in the time since. He cut his gaming teeth on the “one stick, one button” pad of the Atari 800, taking it to the pirates in Star Raiders before space shooter games were cool. Sean’s Doom addiction came around the same time as fourth grade, but scared him too much to become a serious player until at least sixth grade. It was then that GoldenEye 007 and the N64 swept him off his feet, and he’s been hardcore ever since.
Currently Sean enjoys a good shooter, but is far more interested in solid adventure titles like The Legend of Zelda or the beautiful Prince of Persia trilogy, and he holds the Metroid series as a personal favorite. Sean prefers deep, profound characters like Deus Ex’s JC Denton, or ones that break clichés like Samus Aran, over one dimensional heroes such as the vacuous Master Chief. Sean will game on any platform but he has a fondness for Nintendo, Sega and their franchises. He has also become a portable buff in recent years. Sean’s other hobbies include classic science fiction such as Asimov and P.K. Dick, and Sean regularly writes down his own fiction and aimless ramblings. He practices Aikido and has a BA in English from the Ohio State University. He is in his mid twenties. View Profile