CSI is arguably one of the most watched television shows on the CBS network. Even if you’re a big hater, you’ve gotta give props to a T.V series that has successfully launched two hit branch shows and is still burning up the networks even to this day with 20+ million weekly viewers. Now available on store shelves is the third installment of the series, CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder.
In CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder you join up with the famous CSI team in Las Vegas to investigate five all new cases using the latest forensic science. You’ll get a chance to work alongside the entire all-star cast as you break each case down to discover the real truth behind each crime. A detective’s work is never done so you’re gonna find yourself spending some quality time at crime scenes, interviewing suspects, as well as collecting and analyzing physical evidence back at the lab before you get to the bottom of the matter. Ultimately, the main goal in each case is to establish a relationship between the suspect, the victim and the crime scene. Only then will you be able to make an arrest and put the case away in the books for good.
The series takes on a more "next-generation" look as opposed to its predecessors and bodes respectable overall. The dev team has given the game a face lift using a new 3D graphics engine. Now players will have a chance to investigate crime scenes that are more like the TV show as they move around and get a close-up look at the clues. There are a lot of cool 3D moments when players stumble upon key physical evidence at the crime scene which can trigger small re-enactments of what the CSI team thinks happened at the crime scene or those gory, but way cool, cinematic cut-scenes depicting the damage inflicted by the murder weapon. As you travel between the lab, crime scenes, and other places of residence you’ll be treated to colorfully live shots of the sprawling city of Las Vegas. All of these elements combine together to really help the game to stay true to the show and deliver a fulfilling role-play experience for those that are familiar with the series.
Audio, though it is probably taken for granted a lot, is definitely one of the strong points of the TV show and the same can be said for the game itself. The selection of hot musical beats and themes really help to set the tone of the game. Investigating crime scenes and analyzing evidence back at the lab is a lot of tedious work so a good beat is always a great way to pass time and help keep players motivated about the task at hand. The speech dialogue, though not completely made up of all the authentic voice-overs of the actual characters from the show is pulled off fairly well overall and with much clarity.
One of the first things you learn out in the field is that "every crime scene tells a story." Be it a bloody shoe, strand of hair, a key, or set of prints, it’s up to you to gather all the pieces together and find out of the real story. After a brief tutorial on the basics, CSI team member, Warrick Brown accompanies you on your first time out in the field. Warrick will help teach you all the do’s and don’ts of a crime scene and show the proper way to look for and collect physical evidence starting with an on-the-fly lesson about everything you need to know about your "toolbox."
Your toolbox is like your wallet. You never leave home without it. All of your forensic tools are stored here and you’ll want to get familiar with them fairly quickly if you’re going to make any serious impressions back at HQ. Here’s a quick run-down of all the contents of your toolbox: "Ultra-Violet Flashlight" – used to enhance evidence that would otherwise be invisible including bruising, fluids, and accelerants, "Casting Plaster and Frame" – used to collect molds of shoe prints, footprints, and tire tracks at a crime scene, "Digital Camera" – used to collect visual evidence such as blood spatter and graffiti, "Fingerprint Brush" – used with fingerprint powder to enhance prints on smooth surfaces, "Mikrosil" – a thick, puffy substance used to take molds of wounds and marks on a variety of surfaces, "LCV" – a liquid accelerant that changes color when it comes into contact with the slightest amount of blood used to positively identify blood at the crime scene, "Magnetic Brush" – used to help lift fingerprints off porous surfaces like wood, polystyrene, and painted surfaces, "Forensic Swab" – used to take samples of unidentified liquids or dried substances to be processed back at the lab, and finally a "USB Data Drive" – a device with encryptive software used to detect hidden files on a suspect’s personal computer.
Tools are categorized as either "collection" or "detection" tools. To use a tool you’ll first have to click on the category tab that contains the tool you wish to use. Once the tool is selected a tool icon appears. Simply move the icon over the object you desire to analyze to help collect trace evidence. So now that we’ve gotten familiar with our toolbox, it’s time to put some serious clockwork in.
When you peep out potential evidence at the crime scene the key is using the right tool for the job so that the evidence can be properly obtained and stored for future research. One of the first things you wanna do when you hit the scene is to snap a few shots with your camera. Things like the position of the victim and blood splatter residue can play key roles when stacking evidence against possible suspects. It’s always a good rule of thumb to swab any blood, foreign liquids, or dried substances that could directly link the crime scene to the murderer weapon or some possible article of clothing owned by the suspect later on. Fingerprint powder can enhance prints off of most smooth surfaces.
Once you’ve enhanced them fully then you can easily take the prints up with "adhesive lift tape." LCV is crucial at any crime scene. CSI agents use it all the time on the show. It’s the liquid accelerant that turns blue on the end of a swab containing positive trace amounts of blood. Collecting evidence is arguably one of the coolest perks of the game and a lot of fun once you become really familiar with all the supplies in your toolbox. Once you’ve skewered the crime scene for as many clues as possible it’s time to head back to the lab and analyze your findings.
First stop is usually the morgue. Here you get a chance to work alongside Dr. Al Robbins who performs autopsies and helps you with victim analysis. Dr. Al usually throws out hints like he does in the TV show about how he believes the victim was murdered, any foreign substances located on the body, and more importantly the kind of murder weapon that might have been used during the crime.
After working out in the morgue, it’s off to the laboratory where you’ll be spending most of your time back at HQ. The lab is awesome, filled with every piece of equipment you might need for any crime solving situation. There are five lab stations here to analyze data: the Comparison Microscope, Trace Analysis Computer, DNA Analyzer, Chemical Analyzer, and the Assembly Table.
The Comparison Microscope station can be used to examine evidence in closer detail. The station is equipped with two view finders. You’ll want to make use of it when you believe there is significant similarity between two samples. The Trace Analysis Computer, probably the most popular piece of equipment on the show, takes evidence submitted from the crime scene such as fingerprints, shoe prints, tire tracks, and photographs and then compares them with a convicted offender database. Next up is the DNA Analyzer station which takes evidence such as strands of hair, blood, and the sorts are submitted and compared in the convicted offender database. When you want a chemical analysis of an unknown substance you can use the Chemical Analyzer station to get the job done. The Chemical Analyzer will automatically provide matching information if two similar items have been analyzed. Finally you have the Assembly Table which basically speaks for itself. Here you work tediously to put together or dismantle specific pieces of evidence for instances where further examination could provide more evidence.
The ultimate goal in each case is too build an "evidence trinity" which does effectively three things: #1 Directly or indirectly associates the victim with the suspect, #2 Links the victim with the crime scene confirming the location where the crime took place, and #3 Links the suspect to the crime scene showing that the suspect has some connection to the location of the crime. The evidence trinity will grow and develop as players begin to stack more implicating evidence against the suspects.
Once you’ve established either significant or concrete evidence against a suspect then the man you’ll want to speak to next is Captain Jim Brass. He can be a hardball sometimes but when you need search or arrest warrants, want to bring suspects in for questioning, or even just a little legal help Jim is your man. When you’ve built a significant evidence trinity Captain Brass will help you put the final nails in the coffin and put the case away for good.
Despite the fact that the game very accurately depicts the T.V show, is a lot of fun, and provides a fulfilling role play experience for fans of the show, it surprisingly still hasn’t met with all the approval of the gaming community. One of the more controversial issues with the game is definitely related to field exploration. Players are not able to move around freely at the crime scenes. Instead, with the guidance of your mouse, you can move only to preset locations around the immediate area.
Now while you can still investigate your surroundings fairly thoroughly the fact could be argued that using this "camera-on-a-rail" navigational system sort of nerfs the difficulty of the game because players are pretty much spoon-fed key locations around a crime scene. If free exploration was in place then the challenge of the game might rise a bit and players might find a greater since of accomplishment when discovering key evidence at a crime scene. After all, in actual reality, a real life detective would scour every inch of the scene of the crime for clues.
However, on the other hand, while the game seems to spoon-feed key locations to players the real beauty of the gameplay is that there is always more than meets the eye at a crime scene. Having to navigate around to only fixed locations around the environment seems to, with time, mentally train players to break each crime scene down into snapshots. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I think that in this line of work that statement couldn’t be truer. The game literally provokes players to focus and look past what it is immediately obvious to the eye at first and then discover underlying clues and findings to help expose the real truth. As you learn to look at the big picture and pay attention to the smallest of details the game becomes more and more intriguing and so this non-conventional navigation system seems to work pretty well here in the end.
It’s also been argued that the cases are not that challenging. I do somewhat agree with this statement. However I think that the difficulty of the puzzle solving, once again, more accurately depicts the show. After all, the show depicts the CSI team as some of the most diverse and intellectually skilled detectives around. It seems that the team quickly and almost effortlessly solves extremely complex cases in a timely fashion on a daily basis. That’s one of the many things that make the show appealing to its viewers so why then should the game be any different?
The bottom line? CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder is a worth the dollars for any true fans of the series. It is the total "CSI" role-playing experience. The game respectably looks good, the audio is killer, and the game play aspect is very fulfilling. Once you’ve played through the game it really helps to put the show into a whole other perspective. I recommend this game to any hardcore fan of the show and even those that looking for a fairly challenging puzzle-solving title. With the evidence stacked in its favor, I’m closing this case on this one with 4 solid GiN games.