Adventure Gamers Awards
Where improvements have been made, they're welcome, if hardly radical. There are new DNA and fingerprinting mini-puzzles, and even if they are incredibly easy, they almost make you feel like your efforts are necessary. The DNA comparison now involves a glorified jigsaw puzzle, matching coloured bases to try fitting two samples together. Fingerprint searches now require you to select points of comparison, but as this counts as any break in a ridge or whorl, the exercise constitutes nothing more than a bit of half-hearted clicking. The three most used pieces of equipment are the DNA, fingerprint, and chemical analysis machine. Unfortunately, this means some of the more interesting activities, like piecing together jigsaw puzzles on the workbench, or using different colours of light to read altered documents, don't crop up too much. There are still no actual “puzzles” in the game as such, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I doubt the CSI atmosphere would really suit inventory combinations or secret codes.
The one mechanic that is a real step forward occurs during suspect interviews. When a suspect makes a controversial statement, you can click on an icon and bring out one of up to five pieces of collected evidence to prove they've been lying. There's no real penalty for picking the wrong one, but it might affect your performance statistics (thoroughness, skill and cunning) which pop up at the end of the case. More importantly, choose wrong twice and your CSI partner will take you out into the corridor for a dressing down. It's a small step, but it does incentivise you to think about the case a bit. There's no proper spoken evaluation cutscene from the supervisor at the end, however, just a scrolling credits-style sequence which also shows a list of "awards" you received for challenges like achieving a certain percentage score in a case or performing a given action. There are optional "sidequest" bits of evidence to process for other CSIs, one extra item per case. These help unlock some of the achievem- sorry, "awards".
Another neat improvement is the increasingly complex and customisable help system. As well as still being able to ask your partner for hints and toggle on-off help options like evidence tagging (an indicator to show when evidence is fully processed), you also now receive periodic emails from another CSI nudging you in the right direction. If you're not stuck, there's no onus to consult them, but if you’re ever left without a clue, they're a nice option. However, the game is pretty easy, and can be completed in about four to six hours if you skip through the lengthier dialogues by reading the subtitles. The game autosaves assiduously, and there are manual save slots to boot, but other elements are a little too helpful, like the tutorial pages that pop up the first time you use a piece of lab equipment in each case. This happens even if you turn the tutorial option off and have already used the same machine to play through the previous cases. Sounds like a small gripe, but it happens with such frequency that it becomes rather infuriating.
In terms of controls, the game works as it always has – simple point-and-click panning around crime scenes, clicking to zoom into different camera angles, and selecting tools to process evidence. Here, however, the limitations of this system become even more apparent than in previous entries, with the camera gliding awkwardly to fixed spots. For example, at one point you search a suburban home. You can move through four different rooms, all with this nested zooming technique of click, pan in, click, pan in. In a single room, the system works, but moving through whole corridors or up steps is a little strange, and all it really does is emphasize the lack of free movement the game really deserves.
A few other minor changes have been implemented: the lab layout and some of the machines you use have been shuffled around, the toolbox (tweezers, powders, sprays and the like) looks different, and the dialogue system is icon-based instead of selecting exact lines of dialogue. These superficial changes don't make any difference to the core gameplay, as there is no change to the formula carried over from earlier games.
In summary, CSI: Deadly Intent is an entirely lacklustre game. The return to traditional form will please those put off by the casual surprise of last year, but even that enthusiasm won’t last for long. It’s becoming clear that the publisher, Ubisoft, just isn't willing to invest enough in this series to move beyond the status quo, and this latest installment can’t even trade blows with the highlights of earlier games. Both the originality of the cases and the production values have actively declined from previous entries, none of which have exactly been classics, even at their best. If you are a real CSI obsessive, particularly enjoy the game series, or are looking for some very slight detective work, you might eke some enjoyment from this title. Anyone wanting meatier stories and challenges will find this game less Deadly Intent, more deadly boring.