Game: CSI: Dark Motives
Developer: 369 Interactive
Publisher: Ubisoft
Year: 2004
Reviewed: 2007
Platform: PC
Genre: Adventure
Reviewer: ValkyrDeath

It’s another CSI game! Wahoo! More TV cash-in goodness! Dark Motives, the second game based on the popular CSI series, carries on in the style of the first game, but thankfully, it does improve on the formula. For one thing, it seems to have made a greater attempt to turn it into an actual game.

CSI Dark Motives Motorbike
After half an hour of careful study of the clues, I came to the conclusion that this was a motorbike.

The detective work started when I opened my triple pack of the first three CSI games and placed the CSI: Dark Motives disc into my DVD drive, only to have the CSI Miami installer start up. Using my deductive reasoning, I realised they’d put Dark Motives on the CSI Miami disc instead. Obviously, this must be a clever way to get you into the right frame of mind, and not some shoddy packaging. This trend continues when after the first case was completed, I discovered that all in-game text for the rest of the cases was written in French. I had to deduce to download the patch to correct this. After solving each case, you get access to some bonus content, consisting of concept artwork for that case, and one video of someone talking about something or other. I’ve no idea what they were talking about, since despite the people talking in English, the videos were overdubbed in Spanish. From this I deduced the people who made the CSI Triple pack are lazy gits who can’t even be bothered testing their product.

Other than this external detective work, Dark Motives has improved on the first game in almost every area, although the improvements sometimes don’t go far enough. Graphically, the game is still the same resolution, but the quality of the graphics has been improved. The animation is also slightly better. The characters no longer resemble planks of wood in stiffness levels, and actually occasionally move in a much more natural way than before.

“What about the gameplay?” I deduce you will be thinking, unless you aren’t. Well, in the main aspects it plays very much like the previous installment. Crime scenes are scoured for clues, which are clicked on and analysed or collected with one of the tools in your inventory. Unlike the first game, which seemed to do everything but take control of your mouse to make sure you choose the right thing, Dark Motives is slightly less patronising and lets you decide for yourself.

Once the evidence is collected, you take it to the lab, and drag it all over to the omniscient demigod known as Greg who played such a major role in the first part. This time however, he seems to have got fed up of doing all your work for you, so you actually get to do something for yourself. You get to compare fingerprints, tire tracks, footprints and DNA samples on the computer, as well as try to find matches for various other bits of evidence you pick up along the way. You can also use the microscope to analyse fibres or enhance photographs. The fingerprint (and DNA, etc.) comparisons have improved from the first game. Rather than telling you whether there’s a match automatically, it assumes you have an IQ greater than that of a stone and lets you match them yourself. It’s nothing complex, but it adds that little extra interaction that makes a big difference.

CSI Dark Motives Jim Brass Again!
Déjà vu! Jim Brass is actually permanently attached to the ground in this position by two foot long steel screws. He has slightly rearranged his desk in an attempt to ease the boredom of having to wait for the sequel before he was needed again.

Unfortunately, analysing photographs proves to be a missed opportunity. One of the most fun aspects of the Blade Runner computer game was using the ESPER system to analyse photographs, zooming in on anything you thought to be a clue, and genuinely feeling like it was you doing the investigating. That might prove how well this can work, but the CSI game ignores that sort of thing in favour of the simpler system of dragging a picture to the microscope and then sitting there being told what clues are in the picture. It’s a relapse into the “you’re too stupid to work this out yourself” feel of the first game.

At the end of each case, you get a short five question quiz asking about various facts from the case. It actually means you get to show you’ve bothered to look at things yourself, although it doesn’t make much difference whether you get the questions right or not. Still, it’s a nice touch if you feel you haven’t had enough involvement in the rest of the case. It might be nicer to let you do more in the case rather than give an observation test at the end though. Perhaps the game is made by a group of high school teachers who just can’t get out of the habit of setting an end of module test.

There are a few difficulty settings in the menu. Nice in theory, but not much use in practice. It consists of allowing you to turn off helpful features like the cursor changing colour when you’re over evidence. However, like the first game, every scene is cluttered with items, and only certain ones can be clicked on. Turning off the highlighting just means you’ll end up clicking on every piece of broken glass until you find the one which is inexplicably the only one you need to look at. It’s not making the game any harder except by turning it into an irritating pixel hunt.

It’s in terms of plot that Dark Motives excels from CSI’s earlier gaming incarnation. The cases are longer and much more involving than before. Things are never obvious from the start, and the cases can often take you in unexpected directions, ending up investigating a very different crime from what was expected. This aspect on its own boosts the games rating significantly, and makes the game worthwhile playing. It’s far from a classic, but it’s an enjoyable way to pass a few hours. And perhaps with CSI Miami they’ll actually manage to make the whole thing into a proper game.

Save System Review: Autosaves like the first game. Whenever I quit the game, I was still at the same point when I reloaded, so it seems to work fine.

Arbitrary Final Score: 2.5 stars

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