CSI: Hard Evidence
Crime dramas can generally be divided into two categories; pre-CSI and post-CSI. Such is the impact of Anthony E. Zuiker’s franchise that it’s now shown in 200 countries with an estimated audience of 2 billion people. CSI brought style and high production values to the genre, with fantastic cinematography and intriguing plots. With such success, it was only a matter of time before a series of games was released and since 2003, Ubisoft have published several titles with mixed results. Hard Evidence is the fifth CSI game and the first on the Xbox 360, focusing on five investigations at the Las Vegas crime lab.
You begin at the crime scene, searching for clues before heading back to the lab. Each mission plays out like the TV episodes as you gather evidence, analyse it and question suspects until justice is served. Hard Evidence uses a point and click interface, with a PDA used to switch locations, examine evidence and review case details. You’ve also got a partner who works with you on the case and is there to offer you hints along the way if you get stuck.
“The source material has had its soul sucked out”Holes immediately appear in the gameplay from the off though, with pacing so slow that it’s painful to endure. The only challenge that the game presents is staying awake while you cycle through the locations, moving your cursor around until it goes green and you can perform an action. Interrogations are very much a one dimensional affair, with the same outcome no matter which order you ask questions in. Although CSI is a very structured show, it never seems too predictable and its suspense keeps you watching. Hard Evidence, on the other hand, feels like you’re continually jumping through hoops towards a predefined end.
In fact, none of the charm and quality that makes the TV series so watchable has made it in to the game. The subtle character traits and back stories are absent, as is the occasional humour that puts a smile on your face. There are occasional video clips of Vegas, but these do little to negate the feeling that the source material has had its soul sucked out and that there’s only a bare shell left.
It doesn’t help that Hard Evidence is probably the ugliest Xbox 360 game that you’ll ever see. Quite simply, you’ll have difficulty spotting the difference between it and a mediocre PlayStation 2 game. The Las Vegas show is often the dullest one in terms of visual style, but the game adds in awful lip syncing, bland textures and sloppily mapped characters. Some of the series’ stars barely resemble their real life counterparts, especially Sara Sidle, who’s more of a generic brunette woman than any resemblance of actress Jorja Fox.
“You’ll have difficulty spotting the difference between it and a mediocre PlayStation 2 game.”Given the game’s sloppy visuals, you’d expect it to run fairly quickly, but instead it seems insistent on loading every time you move location. What it’s loading, I’m not sure, because it sure isn’t high resolution textures or complex animation libraries. Some of the graphics are unbelievably crude; bushes have been constructed by placing a couple of flat shapes at 90 degrees to one another in some pathetic attempt to appear 3D.
To add insult to injury, Hard Evidence also contains some of the most conspicuous product placement ever seen in a videogame. HP have their logo on the PDA which you use as a menu and on all of the computers in the labs, while the likes of Visa also get in on the act at crime scenes.
The game also lacks any quality in the audio department. The voice acting is average and at least two of the main characters’ voices are missing, replaced by people who sound about the same. To be honest though, I don’t blame Jorja Fox and Marg Helgenberger (Catherine Willows) for not wanting to have anything to do with this sham of a videogame. It doesn’t even have The Who’s iconic soundtrack, it’s that bad.
As for replay value, you can pretty much forget it. The five missions follow the same structure, hauling you through an hour or two of dull pointing and clicking. There’s no online play or extras to tempt you back, even if you manage to make it through to the end without falling into a coma through sheer boredom.
Finding any redeeming qualities in CSI: Hard Evidence is like searching for clues in a crime scene drenched in bleach. Being a huge fan of the series myself, I’m the type of person who, if anyone, should enjoy the game. However, its utter lack of quality in every department is bordering on criminal. Playing CSI: Hard Evidence is a chore and one that’s not even worth doing to collect some of the easiest 1000 achievement points out there. Not even the most hardcore of CSI fans will find anything in Hard Evidence worth their time or money. It’s an embarrassment to the TV show and to Ubisoft, who should frankly know better.