Law & Order: Criminal Intent review

The Good:
  • A fun detective game when stable enough to play it
  • Four full cases to solve
  • Larger game universe than prior titles
The Bad:
  • Did I mention the bugs? Poorly conceived save system
  • Dull main character
Our Verdict: If the numerous technical problems are fixed, this is definitely a game that would-be detectives will want to pick up. Until then, most players will want to take a pass.
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The Law & Order games have always been good, entertaining diversions. However, not one to rest on its laurels, Legacy Interactive had larger plans for its next game in the series, and I went into Criminal Intent expecting the best Law & Order game yet. Instead, I ended up with fifteen screens of saved games and a twelve-megabyte error log -- a text file that the game automatically creates and updates every time it runs into a problem. While it's true that this game sports a larger number of locations and characters and more interesting cases to solve than ever before, unfortunately in the end, "Law & Dis-order" may have been a more appropriate title for this release.

While this is the fourth Law & Order game made by Legacy, it is the first to be based on the Criminal Intent spin-off TV series. Basically, this means that the "Order" part of Law & Order has been tossed out the window. As is the case with the television show, the game only focuses on the investigation aspect of the case instead of also playing through courtroom scenes.

In this game, you take on the role of Detective Bobby Goren, and your day starts off as a busy one with three murder cases to solve -- all of which feature several red herrings and interesting stories. A nice feature to the game is that you can switch between cases at any time. So if you get particularly frustrated with a puzzle, you can always take on a different case before having to come back to it. Once all three cases have been solved, a fourth case will reveal itself that ties all of the previous cases together.

There are three levels of difficulty available -- Novice, Normal, and Expert. The puzzles in novice mode are essentially the same as those in normal, but the player will receive little audio clues to help find the right solution. While playing on expert mode, the puzzles will become a bit more complicated and will contain less obvious hints pointing you in the right direction.

Most of the puzzles are pretty basic, and veteran adventure players shouldn't have much trouble with them, although there are a few here and there that could have you stuck for a bit. Mainly though, your time playing the game will be spent investigating evidence and questioning suspects.

When questioning someone, you have the option of five different emotional approaches: empathetic, complimentary, straightforward, deceptive, and aggressive. However, it is really more of an illusion that you have a choice in how to talk to someone, since there is still only one "correct" way to get a suspect to reveal something. If you continue to use ineffective methods to question someone, a red meter will fill up, and once it has reached its peak, the suspect will refuse to speak to you any further. Really, though, all you have to do is leave that particular location and return so the suspect will begin talking to you again.

Fans of the TV show will be happy to know that Vincent D'Onofrio and Jamey Sheridan reprise their roles as Detective Goren and Captain Deakins (or at least their voices do). In terms of the voice acting, I think the supporting cast does a pretty good job, but Detective Goren comes off as very dull and monotonous the majority of the time. It's not that his voice doesn't work for the character, but that he doesn't put any tonal differences into his lines. For example, if you want to interrogate someone aggressively, the lines sound exactly the same as if he was using the empathetic tone, only more sinister in their content. It sounded to me that often times the lines were being read without really knowing what the context was for them. While D'Onofrio has a very odd and specific way of playing his character in both voice and mannerisms on the show, the problem is that in the game, unlike on television, you don't have the luxury of seeing facial expressions and detailed characteristics that would help sell his delivery more. Fans of the show will likely understand his portrayal, but non-fans will likely find it to be a poor voice performance, and the medium still doesn't fully excuse the lack of emotional expression.

The area that really separates the game from its predecessors is its interface. Criminal Intent is presented in a third-person view, with you controlling a 3D model of Det. Goren via pointing and clicking. This is something new as far as the Law & Order series is concerned, as the previous titles used a node-based, first-person perspective. This interface change lends itself well to this type of game, and I commend the developers for risking such an experiment when they could just as easily have stayed with their safe, simpler format. Unfortunately, they were less than successful with their more ambitious undertaking, as there is definitely some bad to go along with the good.

Continued on the next page...

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